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The chief troupier: the follies of Mr Monckton

Christopher Monckton deliberately misleads the public on climate change. AAP

CLEARING UP THE CLIMATE DEBATE: Associate Professor John Abraham puts Christopher Monckton’s climate claims to the test.

This summer, the people of Australia will yet again be treated to a circus tour. It will make light of one of the most pressing problems facing this planet.

That problem, climate change, will not go away even though an orchestrated group of contrarians wishes it would.

The most outspoken leader of this troupe is Christopher Monckton, a person with excellent credentials in speaking but no credentials in real science (he has not published a single peer-reviewed paper on any scientific topic).

Christopher Monckton presents himself as a fair and accurate interpreter of the science, but a careful examination of his views shows that he is anything but fair and accurate.

He was most recently seen comparing Ross Garnaut, the Australian government’s climate change adviser (and author for this series) to a Nazi.

Monckton succumbs to “Godwin’s Law” and compares Ross Garnaut to a Nazi.

Real scientists have never taken Mr. Monckton seriously. This hasn’t stopped him from traveling the world, presenting his views on science to anyone who will listen.

Mr. Monckton has been shown to have his science wrong on many occasions. Many real scientists have spent untold hours of effort to carefully document his scientific nonsense.

The documentation is critically important because in Mr. Monckton’s speeches, he cites study after study which give the impression that either climate change is not happening, or if it is, we don’t need to worry about it.

Mr. Monckton artfully mixes self-deprecation and humour among slides laden with graphs and scientific images that seem convincing to his audience.

I wondered, what does Mr. Monckton know that 97% of the world’s leading climate scientists don’t?

Is he some Galileo shouting truth from the rooftops?

I had to find out. Last year, I performed a little investigation. I actually read the articles that Mr. Monckton used as evidence against the concerns of climate change.

What I discovered was astonishing.

None of the articles I read supported the claims or inferences that Mr. Monckton was promoting. Just to be sure, I began to write to the authors of the papers. Of the 16 authors I wrote to, all of them agreed with me: Mr. Monckton had misrepresented or misunderstood their work.

So, where does Mr. Monckton’s science go astray? Nearly everywhere.

Here are a few highlights of his mistaken understanding:

  • Mr. Monckton claimed that the International Astronomical Union (IAU) had a symposium wherein they declared that recent warming was caused by the sun. I wrote to officials at the IAU and they stated that they made no such declaration. Mr. Monckton has twice admitted that he was in error on this claim.

  • Mr. Monckton claimed that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) uses canvas buckets to measure ocean temperatures because more accurate methods are “not convenient, they go the wrong way”. I wrote to Sydney Levitus at NOAA and asked if this was true. He wrote back, “Mr. Monckton’s statement to the effect that NOAA uses temperature measurements gathered by dragging canvas buckets through the ocean are completely false. In fact, I know of no scientific group that would even think such a technique could supply useful measurements.”

  • Mr. Monckton claimed that “the medieval warm period was real, global, and warmer than today”. He showed a number of papers which reportedly support his claim. Well, I wrote to a number of these authors and they all agreed that Mr. Monckton had not accurately presented their work. For instance, Dr. Anil Gupta told me, “You are right, we never said the medieval warm period was warmer than today”. Another researcher, Dr. David Anderson, stated, “Your interpretation (of our work) is more correct”. Dr. Lloyd Kiegwin said that I was “absolutely right,” and Dr. David Frank stated, “temperatures now, are indeed much warmer than during medieval times”.

  • Mr. Monckton also wrote that Arctic sea ice is fine, it has been steady for a decade. Monckton used information from a research group called IARC-JAXA. I wrote to two scientists there, Dr. Larry Hinzman and Dr. John Walsh. They both agreed that Monckton had not correctly presented that data. Just to be sure, I wrote to Dr. Mark Serreze from the National Snow and Ice Data Center. He emphatically stated, “Monckton is wrong”.

I could go on and on … but we get the picture. Monckton’s science is wrong and Monckton’s interpretation of others’ work does not agree with the originators of the data.

He makes mistakes on polar bears, claims that the ocean is cooling, claims that the planet is cooling, claims that ocean rises will not be significant, claims that ocean acidification is not a concern, claims that recent global warming is caused by cloud changes, and so on.

It would be one thing if Mr. Monckton just gave speeches to partisan audiences.

It is an entirely different matter when he testified to the US Congress as an “expert” on climate change.

That testimony, in May 2010, presented nine key assertions that were without merit. Mr. Monckton’s assertions were so misleading that a group of 26 scientists (myself included) wrote a detailed, point-by-point rebuttal.

Scientists are generally a reserved group.

Despite this reservation, statements used to describe Mr. Monckton’s testimony included, “Mr. Monckton’s assertions on acidification are remarkable … the basics of this subject have been understood for a long time”.

Another scientist stated, “Monckton’s reasoning and calculation is incorrect … the remainder of his statement is simply chemical nonsense”.

Still another reported, “The submission from Monckton … is profoundly wrong … This is simply a red herring”.

What motivates scientists like myself to spend untold hours of time, without pay, to carefully document Monckton’s false claims?

The reason is simple.

We have a serious problem facing us. In order to make wise and informed decisions, we need accurate information.

Only with good information can we decide which pathway offers us the cheapest and most effective means to deal with climate change.

This is why CSIRO recently dropped sponsorship from an Australian conference at which Monckton will be speaking later this month. It’s also why Monckton was dumped from a private school networking event on the Gold Coast.

When people like Christopher Monckton misrepresent science, with an obvious agenda to delay action, they make our decisions more difficult and more expensive.

Instead of making light of the issue of climate change, instead of vilifying people who are genuinely concerned, instead of presenting inaccurate science, we should find ways to work together in a civil manner to collectively choose a path forward.

What Mr. Monckton doesn’t tell people is that the technology to deal with this problem is available right now. Enacting solutions now would provide many benefits.

Aside from addressing climate change, it would create jobs, improve national security and diversify our energy supply. Who can be against that?

Instead of fighting science and demeaning climate scientists, we should focus on solutions.

We really don’t need more Moncktons in this debate.

We need people who are respectful, scientifically literate and focused on solutions.

We need people who are not afraid of trusting in our own ingenuity to solve this problem.

We need people who have the courage to take action now for the sake of our future generations.

Wouldn’t that be a breath of fresh air?

This is the tenth part of our series Clearing up the Climate Debate. To read the other instalments, follow the links below:

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