Monckton's own goal

UPDATE: Lord Monckton responds to ACM on this post – see here.

I avoided posting on this yesterday, because I could see that it was heading for a train wreck – I left a comment on WUWT expressing my concerns.

Mike Steketee is a columnist for the Weekend Australian, and has a history of writing articles that plug the AGW line. Last weekend he wrote a “hottest-year-since-the-dawn-of-time” scare piece, comprising many of the usual alarmist viewpoints trotted out about climate change – hurricanes, bushfires – ticks in all the boxes. He should read my post “What does ‘in history’ mean?” In response to this article, Christopher Monckton prepared a dense and detailed response in PDF form with a proper SPPI cover, a flashy graphic and all the trimmings – an error in itself, I thought, since it dignified Steketee’s piece far beyond what it deserved. The trick with his columns is simply to ignore – far safer. But in doing so, Monckton exposed himself to attack, by apparently misrepresenting what Steketee had said in several cases, and thereby letting in a simple own goal. Steketee’s response is considered, and makes Monckton look shrill.

I think Christopher Monckton has done a great deal to help communicate scepticism and the debunking of AGW myths (that is if you can get past the unnecessary aristocratic coronets on every Powerpoint slide he shows) but he will insist on plugging the “no warming since 1998” line, which I’m afraid, is an open goal. 1998 was a huge El Niño year, and the spike in temperatures that year cannot be used to justify that there has been “no warming since 1998”. I ignore the surface temperature records entirely, since they have warmists’ sticky fingers all over them (eg. James Hansen and GISS – potential conflict, NASA? Apparently not…) so let’s look at the satellite record, which is less susceptible to fudging and “adjustment”:

Satellite temperatures, 1979 - 2010

We can see clearly that temperatures for much of the first decade of the 21st century were indeed higher than the last decade of the 20th. To argue otherwise is asking for trouble. And 2010 had another major El Niño, which pushed up temperatures in the first part of the year. A La Niña is now acting to reverse that increase, and it will be interesting to see how much further temperatures will drop in the next few months.

However, none of this tells us anything about the cause of that warming. So what if this decade is warmer than last? The planet has been warming slowly since the end of the Little Ice Age, well before there were any anthropogenic CO2 emissions, so is it any wonder that this decade is warmer than the last? There is a temporal relationship between increasing temperature and rising CO2 levels, but no proven causal link. That is the point that Monckton should have made.

If you really want to run the “no warming” line, you could choose 2002 if you wish, but it’s just getting a little silly then. In any case, why bother? The planet’s warming? Big deal. It warms, it cools, it does just what the hell it likes. Nobody can link the warming of the late 20th and early 21st centuries directly to anthropogenic emissions, and that is the weak link in the armour that Monckton and sceptics in general should aim for.


  1. Because of the thermal inertia of the oceans which tends to smooth out short term regional fluctuations and because of the absence of the UHI effect ,the best data set for determing global trends is the Hadley CRU Sea Surface Temerature data. The five year moving average shows that the warming trend peaked in 2003 and a simple regression analysis shows a cooling trend from that time to the present.When combined with the negative PDO and the declining solar magnetic field strength which suggest the possibility of a Dalton or even a Maunder minimum, we can reasonably predict a 20 – 30 year cooling spell. Anthropogenic CO2 clearly plays only a minor role in earths climate.

  2. “….no proven causal link. That is the point that Monckton should have made.”
    Absolutely. Well constructed argument.

    “…we can reasonably predict a 20 – 30 year cooling spell. Anthropogenic CO2 clearly plays only a minor role in earths climate.” More’s the pity, Norman. Just as we were getting to enjoy the recovery from the LIA. Maybe we should crank up CO2 emissions by several orders of magnitude. Piddling in the ocean, I know, but what else is there?

  3. Right from the get-go, Michael Steketee’s prejudice is evident in his attempted rebuttal of my article pointing out a couple of dozen questionable assertions – some of them downright false – in a scare story he had published in The Australian: Steketee says experts will continue to challenge my assertions about climate. It would have been more balanced to add that other experts will continue to support my assertions, or, better still, to leave out that redundant statement altogether.

    Steketee next argues that I should not have held his remark that 2010 was the warmest year on record against him, because he was quoting the World Meteorological Organization. Yet it was his lack of balance I was criticizing: he was too prejudiced also to quote the satellite record of Remote Sensing Systems, Inc. and of the University of Alabama at Huntsville, which does not show 2010 as the warmest year on the 160-year global instrumental temperature record.

    On this point, Simon-from-Sydney carelessly weighs in, accusing me of “plugging the no-warming-since-1998” line. No: in my Monthly CO2 Reports at, I date the temperature graphs from both 1980, the beginning of the well-calibrated satellite record, and 2001, the beginning of the new millennium. I do not date my graphs from 1998 or draw any trend-lines starting at that date. All I did, correctly in every respect, was to point out that Steketee had said that 2010 was warmer even than the great-El-Niño year of 1998, when in fact the satellite records show it is cooler.

    Steketee goes on complain that I criticized him for cherry-picking individual extreme-weather events that pointed in one direction only. True, he cited a professor as saying there had been some cold-weather events too, but not one of these was specifically mentioned in Steketee’s article, which was full of specifics about various hot-weather events.

    Next Steketee tries to mislead his readers by complaining that I had criticized him for saying the 2010 hurricane season was among the worst in recent decades, when in fact, according to Dr. Ryan Maue, who keeps the Accumulated Cyclone Energy Index, it was just about the least active in half a century. The fact is that on this as on many other points Steketee simply got it wrong, and all his errors fell in the direction of making up a problem where there isn’t one and exaggerating it where there is – again, an indication of the prejudice that was (and is) my fundamental criticism of him.

    Steketee goes on (and on) to accuse me of “complete misrepresentation” in saying he had asserted that “even cautious scientists tend to say we can blame [manmade] climate change for certain extreme-weather events. But that is what Steketee actually said. Steketee uses a get-out clause all too prevalent in his sort of journalism: he says he stated that a single proessor did not argue that climate change was responsible for any single event – except the bush-fires in Victoria, for which he had said there was strong evidence for an anthropogenic component. Yes, Steketee cited that one scientist: but his wider point – that “even cautious scientists” – in general – are attributing individual extreme-weather events to manmade climate change is not extinguished by his citation of a single professor who said that most extreme-weather events cannot be attributed to us.

    Finally, Steketee says I was unfair to say he had asserted that manmade climate change had contributed to the 20% decline in rainfall in parts of southern Australia over recent decades. But that is exactly what he said. True, he attributed the statement to the CSIRO, but he did not offer any countervailing evidence.

    But it is the omissions in Steketee’s attempted rebuttal that are so damning.
    The simple fact is that many of the facts in his piece were simply wrong; I said so; and he was quite unable to say I was wrong to say so. Just a few examples:

    2010 was not the most active hurricane season on record, but just about the least. the floods of last year in Pakistan were not the worst on record; only the worst since 1980 or thereby. We will not face 2 C of locked-in warming if we stop emitting any CO2 from today: it’s more like 0.4 C at most. The atmospheric concentration of CO2 has not risen by 27.5% since 1990, but by just 10.5%; and, if one takes into account all other greenhouse gases as well, the anthropogenic component has risen by just 2%.

    So, Simon-from-Sydney, take some trouble to get your facts right before you accuse me of scoring an own goal. You say you don’t think I should have responded to Steketee’s nonsense at all: however, it is precisely because he and his ilk have been peddling trashy, largely truth-free extremism for years that so many feeble-minded governments have bought into the climate scare. Sometimes it is necessary to hit back with the facts, even if those who got them wrong then complain – quite inappropriately – that they were “misrepresented”. – Monckton of Brenchley

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