Monckton oversteps the mark

Not a good look

I have to confess that I have mixed feelings about Lord Monckton as an advocate for the sceptics cause. On the one hand, he has built up a loyal following and his presentations are always entertaining.

But on the other, he comes across as rather eccentric (and this is in no way a criticism, merely an observation, and it is the unfortunate reality that eccentricity can subtract from credibility), a little out of touch perhaps (every PowerPoint slide features an aristocratic portcullis, both unnecessary and alienating), and, of more concern, some of his claims are sitting targets for alarmists.

We had an exchange of emails back in January regarding the baseline year for claims that temperatures had fallen (see here) which ACM viewed as unhelpful. Read the correspondence and form your own view.

But I think my mind has been made up after this latest episode. The climate debate has become even more vicious and personal in recent days and weeks. Only yesterday I posted about Jill Singer’s suggestion that sceptics should gas themselves with carbon monoxide. Richard Glover wrote recently that “deniers” should be tattooed.

And now, sadly, Monckton has confirmed Godwin’s Law and joined in:

PROFESSOR Ross Garnaut has been labelled an eco-fascist by climate-change sceptic Lord Christopher Monckton in a speech in the US.

The Scottish peer, who is scheduled to speak at the Association of Mining and Exploration Companies conference in Perth next week, said Prof Garnaut, the government’s chief climate-change adviser, held fascist views.

Footage of Lord Monckton aired on the Seven Network showed him variously describing Prof Ross Garnaut as having “a fascist point of view”, as someone who expected people to “accept authority without question”.

“Heil Hitler, on we go,” said Lord Monckton in discussing Prof Garnaut, as a quote was displayed beside a swastika. (source)

Now, I agree in principle with the sentiment of all this, but invoking Nazi symbols and references is uncalled for.

The last thing we should be doing is abandoning our standards of conduct towards those with whom we disagree. Let the alarmists call us names and try to silence us, but at the same time, we must try our very best to maintain dignity and rise above the petty schoolyard bullying of the alarmist camp. As Anthony Watts correctly states, this doesn’t help.

Media bias: Monckton and Delingpole stitched up

BBC is tied up with it…

Hands up who is in the least bit surprised by this? Two shows featuring climate sceptics by the BBC, both heavily biased against any kind of scepticism whatsoever (and in favour of gullibility, therefore). Earlier this week, James Delingpole was done up like the proverbial kipper in a documentary presented by new Royal Society president, Sir Paul Nurse [that should have rung alarm bells for a start – Ed]:

Nurse came to interview me at my home last summer, ostensibly – so his producer assured me – as a disinterested seeker-after-truth on a mission to discover why the public is losing its faith in scientists. “Not scientists,” I replied. “Just ‘climate scientists.’” But as is clear from the Horizon documentary Nurse had already made up his mind. That’s why about the only section he used out of at least three hours’ worth of footage is the one where he tosses what he clearly imagines is the killer question: Suppose you were ill with cancer would you wish to be treated by “consensus” medicine or something from the quack fringe?

As you’ll see in the programme, this took me rather by surprise. Nurse had come posing as an open-minded investigator eager to hear why Climategate had raised legitimate doubts about the reliability of the “consensus” on global warming. Instead, the man I met was a parti-pris bruiser so delighted with his own authority as a proper Nobel-prizewinning scientist that he knew what the truth was already. And to prove it, here was a brilliant analogy which would rubbish the evil climate deniers’ cause once and for all!

But Nurse’s analogy is shabby, dishonest and patently false. The “consensus” on Climate Change; and the “consensus” on medical care bear no similarity whatsoever. (source)

But what does it matter? The aim is to smear the filthy deniers at any cost, right? We need to shelter the viewers from their opinions [because they are so damaging to our beloved consensus… – Ed].

The second example in a week did the dirty on Christopher Monckton. This time, “independent” filmmaker Rupert Murray ingratiates himself with the sceptics and convinces them that he’s sympathetic to their cause – but then dumps on them from a great height. As Dellers reports again:

Murray’s documentary is another hatchet job. This time the man designated for the chop is Lord Monckton. Except, knowing Monckton as I do, I don’t think he’s going to let this one lie. Sure he’ll probably be made to look a fool, but then as Richard North explains in this superb essay, this means nothing.

This is the practice of modern documentary makers, who can gather huge amounts of material and then edit and assemble the material in a way that they can present a message, the message the producer wishes to convey. This is irrespective of what is actually said, and what interviewees actually intended.

The process, North explains, works like this:

You write the script first, setting out what you want to say. Then you go out and find the talking heads that will say the words you need to fit the script. You (in this case I) interview them, collect up the words on the tape and then go back to the edit suite and pull out the words that fit.

Murray, it seems likely, had made up his mind what his angle was long, long before he inveigled his way into the sceptics’ circle and passed himself off as a decent fellow just trying to find out the truth. I’ll say one thing for him: he’s very plausible. I only twigged last week, when I rang him up to find out what his documentary would look like and how much I was in it.

“We’ve decided to concentrate on Monckton I’m afraid,” he said.

“Oh never mind,” I said. “I quite understand. Christopher is way more colourful and exciting than I am.”

We then had a chat about peer-to-peer review, in the course of which Murray quoted approvingly one “Dr Trenberth.” “Well Dr Trenberth says….” he began, in a way which suggested regular contact and great admiration.

Anyway, at least I’m not in it, I don’t think. When Calum asked me to sign the release form for my interview, I said that I would quite like to see the programme beforehand. Funny, I haven’t heard from them since. (source)

Monckton went so far as to seek an injunction preventing broadcast without a right of reply. Unfortunately, it failed.

Media bias at its absolute worst.

UPDATED: Lord Monckton responds to ACM

Lord Monckton of Brenchley

UPDATE: Lord Monckton replies again, with a further clarification (see end of post)

Yesterday I wrote concerning Mike Steketee’s alarmist article in the Weekend Australian, Lord Monckton’s rebuttal, and Steketee’s response to the rebuttal. I am grateful that Lord Monckton took the trouble to write a long comment on that original post, which I have elevated to a post of its own.

The two points I made in that post were, firstly, that claiming no warming since 1998 is spurious, and secondly, that Steketee’s article was not worthy of a response. In relation to the first, Lord Monckton’s rebuttal to Steketee states:


Actually, it is cooler. There was a remarkable spike in global temperatures in 1998, caused not by manmade “global warming” but by a Great El Niño event – an alteration in the pattern of ocean currents that begins in the equatorial eastern Pacific and spreads around the globe, lasting a few months. In the first nine months of 2010 there was another substantial El Niño, but even at its peak it did not match the Great El Niño of 1998.

The point here is that making any comparison of temperatures to a year in which there is a particularly strong El Niño is inadvisable (since it is a natural upward spike over and above the temperature had it not occurred). So whilst the 2010 El Niño spike indeed did not match that of 1998, it says nothing about the underlying trend, and more to do with the relative strengths of those El Niño events. In any case, as I said previously, who cares if the planet is warming? It’s the causation that is important.

In relation to the second, I believe that it is not worth sceptics efforts in responding to uninformed, journalistic alarmism. There are journalists all over the world who write material similar to, if not more extreme, than Mike Steketee. Responding to all of them would be impossible and pointless. Maybe Lord Monckton has a reason for choosing Steketee’s article over the thousands of climate scare stories that are published every week throughout the world – possibly that The Australian is generally regarded as more “climate realist” than any other in this country – but take a look at Adam Morton in The Age, for example. Fairfax made up its mind on climate change years ago, and regurgitates the same tired alarmist material on a daily basis. For that very reason, I have abandoned critiquing Fairfax articles. It just ain’t worth the effort (except for a bit of light entertainment now and again).

One final point I would like to make to Lord Monckton is that despite my original post, we are both on the same side here! As I said, I appreciate the work that Lord Monckton has done with the Science and Public Policy Institute, and I was first in the queue to meet him at his talk in Sydney last January.

Here is Lord Monckton’s response in full. Thoughts and comments appreciated.

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

UPDATE: Lord Monckton’s response to this post [edited]:

It was Steketee, not I, who made a comparison between 1998 and the present, and he got it wrong, by saying that 2010 was warmer than 1998. No, it was cooler. I merely corrected Steketee’s error. There was and is, therefore, no basis for Simon’s allegation that I made  comparisons between 1998 (where the result was distorted by an exceptional el Nino event that caused a strong spike in warming worldwide) and 2010 (when the el Nino was less intense). No, I didn’t, and don’t.

Lord Monckton did not respond to any other points in my post. Although 2010 was technically cooler than 1998, and Lord Monckton indeed corrected Steketee’s claim (although Steketee argues he didn’t say that), it’s all meaningless. In general, alarmists love to point out that sceptics of many different varieties rely on the “no warming since 1998” line, and they rightly pull such an argument apart. In Lord Monckton’s 2008 American Physical Society paper, the first paragraph of the abstract reads (my emphasis):

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC, 2007) concluded that anthropogenic CO2 emissions probably caused more than half of the “global warming” of the past 50 years and would cause further rapid warming. However, global mean surface temperature has not risen since 1998 and may have fallen since late 2001. (source)

I merely believe 1998 should never be used as any kind of starting point for comparison of global temperatures, whether by alarmists or sceptics.

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.

Tim Lambert: How I "wiped the floor" with Monckton

I have just watched the meat of the Monckton v Lambert debate: the initial presentations, the questions to each other, and the five minute summing up. The Sky News version did not include the Q & A session from the audience (no great loss, I would expect, given it was a lay audience).

Monckton was far the better presenter, confidently and forcefully making his points. Lambert, on the other hand, looked edgy and uncomfortable. Admittedly, with Alan Jones as a moderator, it was always going to be difficult for Lambert, but I feel it makes up for the thousands of Lateline interviews conducted by another Jones, Tony, and of course Kerry O’Brien on the 7.30 Report, where any number of sceptics were battling the presenter before they even started.

Lambert, who lacked confidence in his presentation, nonetheless swaggers back to the comfort of his own blog, Deltoid:

You know that famous scene in Annie Hall where a bore is going on and on about Marshall McLuhan’s work and Allen produces McLuhan who tells the bore that he got McLuhan all wrong? Well, that’s kind of what happened in my debate with Monckton. Based on what he had identified as his most important argument in previous talks I was pretty sure he would argue that climate sensitivity was low based on his misunderstanding of Pinker et al Do Satellites Detect Trends in Surface Solar Radiation?. And sure enough, he did.

You remember how I called Lambert’s blog “smug”? It must be great to be him – arrogant, cocksure, and of course, always right, never conceding anything – the antithesis of a proper scientist, of course, who should be always cautious, questioning, doubting, dare I say it, sceptical. And his adoring warmist fans in the comments reassured him he’d done a great job and he’d won comfortably and Monckton was a charlatan. As he modestly puts it himself:

The folks I talked to afterwards (which may, perhaps, be a biased sample [Really? – Ed]) say that I wiped the floor with him. Which is a pretty good result since I’ve never done anything like this before. (source)

“Wiped the floor”? I am amazed that Lambert is ungracious enough to crow about such things on his blog, even if it was said by others. I imagine many more of the audience said similar things to Monckton, but I cannot for a minute see him gloating publicly about it.

Certainly on the Pinker paper, Lambert appeared to have a point that needed further investigation. But Monckton will go away and look at the paper again and no doubt come back with a response (which I will post), because that is the way in which scientific discourse progresses. Elsewhere in the debate, Lambert was unconvincing, recycling the usual warm-mongering rhetoric that we’re so used to, relying heavily on GISS data and temperature sets to show warming, when the satellite record shows stasis since 2001. It was a shame the satellite/surface dichotomy was not explored further.

[UPDATE: I should also add that Lambert’s five minute sum up at the end was particularly weak (actually lasting about two minutes), allowing Monckton really to cash in with a far more powerful conclusion. You can watch them here and make up your own mind – Ed]

If the science is so settled and Lambert was so right and Monckton so wrong, it certainly didn’t show. The debate isn’t over.

Video: Lord Monckton in Sydney

I didn’t record the entire presentation (I didn’t have a tripod with me), but I have put together a few clips of the introductions, and Lord Monckton’s conclusion.

UPDATE: I feel I should add that I acknowledge there are a number of things about Lord Monckton’s delivery which cause me some concern. Whilst he has many sensible things to say, his presentation could very easily turn your average Australian man or woman in the street off. Things such as (a) splashing a coat of arms around on his Powerpoint slides, (b) delivering long speeches in Latin, and, as has been mentioned elsewhere, (c) the overly emotive and cloying conclusion, which somehow rings very hollow. We need people like him to get the message across, but in a way that doesn’t fall into the same traps as the alarmists. See Janet Albrechtson’s comments here: Heated moments mar Monckton.

Part 1:

Part 2:

Heated moments mar Monckton

Viscount Monckton

Janet Albrechtsen in The Australian wisely counsels Lord Monckton against falling into the same trap as the alarmists:

When Monckton talks about the science he is powerful. Watch on YouTube his kerb-side interview of a well-meaning Greenpeace follower on the streets of Copenhagen last month. With detailed data behind him, he asks whether she is aware that there has been no statistically significant change in temperatures for 15 years. No, she is not. Whether she is aware that there has in fact been global cooling in the past nine years? No, she is not. Whether she is aware that there has been virtually no change to the amount of sea ice? No, she does not. Whether, given her lack of knowledge about these facts, she is driven by faith, not facts. Yes, she is driven by faith, she says.

To those with an open mind, Monckton’s fact-based questions demand answers from our political leaders. To this end, he will impress his Australian audience over the next few days. Unfortunately, while Monckton has mastered the best arts of persuasion, he also succumbs to the worst of them when he engages in his made-for-the-stage histrionics. In Copenhagen, when a group of young activists interrupted a meeting, he berated them as Nazis and Hitler Youth. Elsewhere he has called on people to rise up and fight off a “bureaucratic communistic world government monster”. This extremist language damages his credibility. More important, it damages the debate. You start to look like a crank when you describe your opponents as Nazis and communists. You can see how it happens. Talking to a roomful of cheering fellow travellers, the temptation is to hit the high gear of hyperbole. But if your aim is to persuade those with an open mind, this kind of talk will only turn people away. Warning people about the genuine threat to national sovereignty from a centralised global-warming bureaucracy is one thing. Talking about a new front of communists marching your way is another. It sounds like an overzealous warrior fighting an old battle.

Read it here.

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