As many people may know ol’ Chris will soon head back to Australia. I’m hoping to simply highlight his strange views and obvious errors with the aim of reminding Aussies who Chris really is. Does he deserve the credibility he has earned on climate change, the reality of Obama’s legitimacy as the US president etc, or has he instead botched together a fairly unreasonable and unrealistic representation of reality?
I’ve heard that in coming weeks Christopher Monckton will be packing his glitter bag with his finest robes and platforms to head down-under for yet another funded tour along the river reassurance. I hope to put the severity of the situation in its correct place.
Taking him serious has given him undue credibility. Why to this day has he no standing within the science literature and yet is considered to hold an opinion inflated beyond mere wishful thinking? Wonder about that before entering into a public debate on science (by all means, debate him on policy and social questions, but without valid scientific footing, he offers nothing to science communication).
I’ll have another one closure to his arrival.
As most bloggers would naturally do, I keep an eye on my stats over time. This allows me to better understand my readership and tailor my work so that it both achieves the purposes of my own goals while merging with what my readers prefer to read.
This only goes so far, obviously. For, if I wanted a higher readership, I’d probably forgo my natural writing style for short, bombastic pop articles, with a couple cute kittens and “memebase” references to boot…
A couple persistent features have stood out to me over the near four years of my writing.
The first of which is that my readership is twice as likely to be from the US than Australia. Unlike many of my counterparts, I don’t actually spend a great deal of energy following the goings-on across the Pacific. My writing is largely about environmental governance and Australian politics. I’m intrigued that, no matter how I break down my stats, it always returns two US hits for every Aussie one.
The second interesting feature – and one that intrigues me more – is that good ol’ Donna Laframboise without fail draws in the crowd. For committed sceptics, she is fairly obscure. Unlike the batty Monckton, Andrew Bolt, Jo Nova and Anthony Watts, she appears (at least to me) nowhere near as prominent. Her arguments are even fairly pathetic – even for denialists.
- Climate scepticism is free speech: Yes, however opinion is no substitute for critical evidence derived by experts. You’re opinion does not deserve equal consideration because it is not equally explored via critical methodology.
- We can’t predict weather in a month, but we think we can predict climate a century from now: No we don’t. Apart from the fact that weather isn’t climate (ie. weather is the physically observable noise overlaying a climate signature visible only through statistical analysis) no-one pretends to predict weather or climate accurately. If she had read the IPCC reports as she claims to have done, she would have noted the effort gone to within them to explain certainty. The could also be said about understanding the genuine science behind meteorology rather than just listening to the local news weather presenter.
Certainty is the point most exploited by the committed sceptic because they don’t understand it. It’s like odds in betting on a sporting event BUT not the result of one blokes guess against the punter, rather the result of a community of highly skilled experts teasing out reality. Rather than a spread, like you have with sports betting, the odds tend to be very close to 1:1 for one idea and the rest 1:1000+. That climate change cannot result from our greenhouse contribution fits into the latter. No punter, who actually read and understood the methodology and uncertainties – or even understood the physical chemistry of greenhouse gases – would make such a stupid bet. Yet, this is exactly the bet the commit sceptic wants us to make.
- The authors to the IPCC reports had a lot of internal kafuffle and political and advocacy involvement: So…? This is disingenuous. What does it say about the quality of the peer-reviewed literature on which the conclusions are drawn? Not a lot. What about the independent reviews by independent experts who have provided another tier of review, which find it sound? Why are the only people who seriously question the validity of the reports they type who hang out, present and/or a funded by deeply conservative think tanks, like the Heartland Institute and the Institute of Public Affairs and create straw-men, such as Donna’s criticism?
- Greenpeace are funded by the fossil fuel industry: Um… okay. lol
Donna’s arguments are pretty weak at best and she certainly doesn’t attract the mainstream media like Nova, Bolt, Monckton and Watts so it is intriguing that she rates higher in the New Anthro than her more noisy peers. Hopefully she reads this and her head inflates just a little.
Of course no-one rates as high – no topic at all rates as high – as another person; Gina Rinehart. However, that’s not so interesting really. She is an oddball with oodles of cash – she is entertaining.
Today, in the latest publication of Nature, I stumbled upon the article, Climate Science: Time to raft up, by Chris Rapley.
We are naturally good at finding patterns – perhaps too much so – and I found it interesting that I stumbled upon this article just after reading Sam Harris’s The Moral Landscape and at a point where I was ready to return to my online writing, but not knowing where to start.
I was drained from my previous efforts in science communication and welcomed all the activities that have, over the previous twelve months, kept me away (or, at best, mere status updates).
I have avoided the arena of climate change debate, for it seems in some ways doomed to the course of the evolution “debate”. So what was I to write about?
Both of the mentioned material are worth reading. However, I have to disagree with aspects of Rapley’s article.
On climate science advocacy, Rapley writes;
“There are dangers. To stray into policy-advocacy or activism is to step beyond the domain of science, and risks undermining legitimacy through the perception — or reality — of a loss of impartiality.
“However, as Sarewitz6 has pointed out, scientists carry authority “in advocating for one particular fact-based interpretation of the world over another”. So acting as a ‘science arbiter’ — explaining the evidence and contesting misinterpretations — is part of the day job.”
However, I feel this has been part of the problem with science communication on climate change and perhaps other topics such as evolution.
Later, Rapley goes on to write;
“The climate-dismissive think tanks and organizations have been effective because they have understood and put into practice the insights of social science. They deliver simple messages that are crafted to agree with specific value sets and world views. Their flow of commentary is persistent, consistent and backed up with material that provides deeper arguments.”
“Regarding the vast body of evidence on which all climate scientists agree, we need to offer a narrative that is persistent, consistent and underpinned by compelling background material.”
But previously, he wrote;
“We need to respond to questions that go beyond facts, such as ‘What does this mean for me?’ and ‘What are our options?’.”
The article is right in many ways in my view, but Rapley is too tentative and maybe, in light of the previous when compared to the others, contradictory.
In chapter three of The Moral Landscape, Harris talks about belief. Rapley does in fact (under the subheading, Why don’t we get it?) talk about very much the same thing.
Belief, that is, the acceptance of certain evidence to be true, is not so strongly based on rational verification as we would like to think it to be. We’re not calculators after all. Belief derives from shared values that in turn derive from different factors, such as social norms, genes etc. We are far more likely to accept evidence presented when it confirms our already held values / the social norms of our community than those that challenge those values.
Sam Harris, in a presentation on Death and present moment, puts it in no uncertain terms (about 13 mins in);
“When we’re arguing about teaching evolution in the schools, I would argue that we’re really arguing about death. It seems to me the only reason why any religious person cares about evolution, is because if their holy books are wrong about our origins, they are very likely wrong about our destiny after death.”
Evolution thus challenges more than one idea (ie. that we were divinely created in recent millennia in our current form), but rather an entire outlook on life and a total way of living, not simply for the individual, but also the social group with which they associate themselves with. The wealth of evidence supporting the theory of evolution is simply not enough to counter such a wide scope of personally held values which are also attached to what we often mistakenly take as one, individual and isolated premise.
Likewise, I suspect the potential reality of anthropogenic climate change, based on very strong evidence, challenges a much wider scope of values that remain unaffected by rational debate over that one point (ie. whether or not our contribution to atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrate affects potential heat storage). We fail to move the “committed sceptics” because the evidence we provide challenged just one point of a wider range of related personal values.
Perhaps, for instance, it challenges the idea that a god is the sole force shaping the world and that we are incapable to such radical modifications (or that an intervening god wouldn’t allow us to harm ourselves in such a way) for certain religious individuals. Perhaps the idea challenges values associated with neo-liberal markets that ought to make us and future generations rich. Perhaps it’s something else.
Rapley was right about the success of climate-dismissive think tanks applying value to their message. He is also correct to argue that we need to go beyond facts and address questions, such as ‘What does it mean for me?’ and ‘What are our options?’ which are at their core really questions regarding a network of wider social and personal values related to the problem of anthropogenic climate change.
Maybe we need to be clearer which hat we’re wearing – that of scientific investigation or of advocacy – or, as Dana Nuccitelli once mentioned in a comment thread (that, if I can locate, I will link to), we should apply a “Gish gallop” approach, the favourite approach, successfully applied by Christopher Monckton in debate, because, unlike with Monckton, when reviewed, the evidence will support the statements we’ve made.*
I tend to agree with Dana’s idea as it allows more value based discussion intertwined with the evidence. You can say what the evidence supports and swiftly move into its personal and social ramifications. This latter arena does truly need debate.
We have done all that can be done to explain the science of climate change and there are many excellent reference sites to which people can venture if they so decide. What we need to talk about are the value question as it is the answers to these that will define who we will become and how our society will look and function.
It’s understandable that people would be uncomfortable with such unknowns. We need to be part of a community with shared values to feel content. In the “debate” over climate change, we hear predictions of how the future might look and how foolish “deniers” are for not understanding science proven over a 150 years ago.
This isn’t only counter-productive, it also dehumanises the issue completely. The global climate has changed many times before without human influence or consequence. This time it is personal. We need to make our debates and communications just as personal if we are to do the best we can for future generations.
* To further explain the point made by Dana, by Gish gallop, Dana suggests that instead of focusing on the evidence, do as Monckton does and just fire through the evidence points and get on instead with the value enriched story, which links to the evidence first briefly mentioned. Unlike Monckton, if reviewed, no errors would be found in the points made if one is presented the evidence honestly.
It isn’t an approach favoured in scientific debate, obviously, but it is effective in public debate – science communicators seem to miss this point entirely.
By Donald Rodbell, originally posted at Concordiensis, here
On March 5, Lord Christopher Monckton came to Union to provide a different perspective on climate change than that held by the vast majority of climate scientists. While his presentation was objectionable on several levels (see below), it did raise the level of interest in global warming to a greater degree than I could ever have hoped for. I suppose we all like a heated debate!
One of Monckton’s main arguments is that science is not done by consensus. The consensus in question here is the 97 percent of climate scientists in a 2008 Gallup Poll (Doran and Zimmerman, 2009) who agree that the world is warming and that humans are at least partially responsible for that warming.
According to Doran and Zimmerman (2009, p. 22), “It seems that the debate on the authenticity of global warming and the role played by human activity is largely nonexistent among those who understand the nuances and scientific basis of long-term climate processes. The challenge, rather, appears to be how to effectively communicate this fact to policy makers and to a public that continues to mistakenly perceive debate among scientists.”
Monckton, however, posits that consensus in general, and this consensus in particular, do not ensure that the underlying science is sound.
This, of course, is true, but while scientific consensus has been wrong (e.g., the dogma prior to Nicolaus Copernicus’ discovery in 1543 that the Earth was not the center of the universe), when that consensus is informed by the scientific method and by replication in peer-reviewed literature, the consensus of scientists is very rarely wrong to the extent suggested by Monckton in the case of global warming.
Few of us doubt the scientific consensus that UV light can cause skin cancer, that chlorofluorocarbons have a deleterious effect on stratospheric ozone levels, or the scientific underpinnings of most modern medical treatments.
However, a main tenet of Monckton’s presentation is that the scientific basis for our concern over global warming is fundamentally flawed. In fact, his blatant misuse and ignorance of published scientific literature, as illustrated below, should make one seriously question his credibility.
One example of Monckton’s misuse of scientific data came in his rebuttal to an op-ed piece that I wrote with Erin Delman for the Concordiensis on March 7, 2012. In this rebuttal, he noted that the Earth has not been warming for nearly 15 years. If one picks 1998 as one’s starting point and ends last year, one does indeed get a negative slope (see graph).
This is due to the fact that 1998 was an exceptionally warm year due to a strong El Nino event that year. If one considers the long-term trend, however, the slope remains positive with warming clearly continuing.
Indeed, Monckton made the point in his Union presentation that one can influence trends by carefully choosing where to start and end a time series.
Why then would Monckton choose this dubious strategy to argue that warming has not been occurring for most of the last decade and a half? That this contradiction has been pointed out by others apparently has not dissuaded him from continuing the practice of cherry picking data sets.
Monckton further mischaracterized climate science during his talk at Union. He chose a record of Beaufort Sea Ice (Melling et al., 2005) to illustrate that from 1991 to 2003, sea ice there has not been declining, and that, by inference, sea ice in the arctic is healthy. In fact, 30-year records from the (U.S.) National Snow and Ice Data Center reveal that arctic sea ice, as a whole, is declining precipitously, and even when Antarctic data are included, the global average is declining. Clearly Monckton knows of the NSIDC data sets, as he must have waded through the Melling et al. (2005) publication, so why would he choose to show what can be charitably characterized as a misleading graphic of the state of arctic sea ice?
A final example is the assertion made by Monckton during his lecture that Venezuelan glaciers are advancing to an extent not achieved at any time during the preceding 10,000 years. Having worked on deciphering the record of glacier margin fluctuations in the Andes for many years, this was news to me! My relatively recent review paper on the subject reports no evidence of recent ice front advances anywhere in the tropical Andes (Rodbell et al., 2009). Knowing the literature is a fundamental part of the scientific process!
I have illustrated but three examples of Monckton either cherry picking or mischaracterizing data sets to suit his a priori thesis. A thorough analysis of one of Monckton’s prior presentations by Professor Abraham of the University of St. Thomas (Minnesota) reveals that these practices are part of Monckton’s modus operandi.
However, the main comment that I made to Monckton at Union and again in the Concordiensis op-ed, is the importance of him publishing his assessment in a scientific journal. There are many journals from which he could choose, and one need not be a scientist to publish. If he is correct, and I do hope that he is, that global warming is nothing that we should be fretting over, then his analysis needs to be spelled out carefully in the peer-reviewed literature.
It is not enough to orally cite strings of publications in his talks or paste references on his slides; we need his written word on, for example, exactly how he bases his climate sensitivity calculations, or why he thinks climate feedbacks will continue to be responsible for homeostasis on Earth. It is not enough to state that those of us interested can contact him for details, those details need to be published for all to evaluate. That is how science works.
Monckton closed his Union lecture by mocking environmentalists (as greenies “too yellow to admit they are red”) and asserting that their concern over climate change would divert billions of dollars that could be used to save those suffering in Africa. This is a false choice. If rainfall projections for tropical Africa and South America are even remotely accurate, then climate change itself may be an especially serious threat to those living on the margins in these underdeveloped regions. In my view, it is not a few degrees of warming that we need to worry most about, it is changes in the distribution of rainfall and the inability of large numbers of people to respond to these changes.
Monckton’s credibility is compromised by his propensity to misuse science, his own ignorance of paleoclimatic records and, most of all, by giving hyper-partisan lectures, the contents of which he refuses to publish and thereby expose to scrutiny.
Doran, P. T., and Zimmerman, M. K., 2009, Examining the consensus of climate change: EOS v. 90, p. 21-22.
Melling, H., Riedel, D., and Gedalof, Z., 2005, Trends in thickness and extent of seasonal pack ice, Canadian Beaufort Sea: Geophysical Research Letters, v. 24, p. 1-5.
Rodbell, D.T., Smith, J. A., and Mark, B. G., 2009. Glaciation in the Andes during the Late Glacial and Holocene: Quaternary Science Reviews 28, 2165-2212.
Again, Peter Hadfield takes Monckton to the cleaners… Honestly old chap, you’re better pretending you hadn’t heard of Potholer54’s channel and thus never replying to it (slyly indirectly, one might add) because you just look silly!
By Dana, a regular author at Skeptical Science, who kindly agreed for his review of the Monckton and Denniss debate to be reposted New Anthro (originally found here and here’s the New Anthro’s look at the fist 20mins of the debate).
Carbon Pricing Economics
Once Monckton has finished warping climate science in his opening remarks, he moves on to warping climate economics.
“in the London insurance market we have a saying, and that is that ‘if the cost of the premium exceeds the cost of the risk, don’t insure’. And that brings me to the carbon tax and the mineral resources rent tax. Now both of these taxes are going to cost more than the cost of letting global warming happen in the first place…andF how much will it cost? Around AU$127 billion over the next 10 years”.
Here Monckton employs the common “skeptic” trick of focusing on the costs of carbon pricing while completely ignoring the benefits. Real world examples of carbon pricing have shown that the benefits exceed the costs several times over. In order to argue that carbon pricing will be costly, tricksters like Monckton, the Heritage Foundation, and the Republican National Committee have to pretend that the funds from the carbon pricing system will disappear into a black hole. That is not reality, and economic studies consistently predict that the benefits will outweigh the costs several times over. However, Monckton claims otherwise:
“it is clearly cheaper to do nothing about global warming and to adapt in a focused way to any consequences that are adverse that may occur from any warming that may occur than to spend any money whatsoever now on it. And that…is the overwhelming consensus in the peer-reviewed economic literature…a majority, in fact a near unanimity among economists show that it is greatly more expensive to try and intervene…than simply to sit back, enjoy the sunshine, and adapt in a focused way, as and if and only when necessary.”
This claim is completely backwards. There is a consensus among economists with expertise in the climate that we should reduce greenhouse gas emissions, because doing so would benefit the economy.
2009 NYU IPI survey results of economists with climate expertise when asked under what circumstances the USA should reduce its emissions
Monckton proceeds to claim that abrupt climate change simply does not happen:
“Ask the question how in science there could be any chance that the rate of just roughly 1 Celsius per century of warming that has been occurring could suddenly become roughly 5 Celsius per century as it were overnight. There is no physical basis in science for any such sudden lurch in what has proven to be an immensely stable climate.”
First of all, the central estimates for warming over the next century – depending on the CO2 emissions scenario of course – are in the ballpark of 2 to 4°C. 5°C is possible, but only in the highest emission scenarios. But more important is Monckton’s claim that the climate is inherently stable. The paleoclimate record begs to differ. A stable climate is the exception, not the norm, at least over long timeframes.
Moreover, there has never before been a large human influence on the climate, so why should we expect it to behave exactly as it has in the past when only natural effects were at work?
Earth Has Warmed as Expected
Monckton also repeats one of Richard Lindzen’s favorite myths, that Earth hasn’t warmed as much as expected based on the IPCC climate sensitivity:
“if we go back to 1750…using the Central England Temperature record as a proxy for global temperatures…we’ve had 0.9°C of warming in response to an addition of greenhouse gases to atmosphere by us which is almost equivalent to a doubling of CO2 concentration. That’s going to give you around 1°C of warming per doubling of CO2 concentration. Over the last 60 years we again see 1°C of warming per century. All of the evidence points to 1°C of warming for a doubling of CO2”
It should go without saying that the temperature record for a single geographic location cannot be an accurate proxy for average global temperature. We know that over the past century, the average global temperature has warmed approximately 0.8°C, and over this period, the atmospheric CO2 equivalent concentration (including the added greenhouse effect from other greenhouse gases like methane) has almost doubled, as Monckton suggests.
However, human aerosol emissions, which have a cooling effect, have also increased over this period. And while 3°C is the IPCC best estimate for equilibrium climate sensitivity, the climate system is not yet in equilibrium. Neglecting these two factors (aerosols and thermal inertia of the global climate), as Monckton and Lindzen have done, will certainly give you an underestimate of equilibrium sensitivity, by a large margin. This is how Monckton supports his lowball climate sensitivity claim – by neglecting two important climate factors.
As we have previously shown, the warming over the past 60 years is consistent with the IPCC climate sensitivity range, and inconsistent with Lindzen and Monckton’s lowball climate sensitivity claims. Monckton claims the observational data supports his low sensitivity claims – reality is that observational data contradicts them.
Monckton proceeds to make false claims about why a few countries pulled out of a follow-up to the Kyoto Protocol:
“there is no need to take any action about carbon dioxide at all. That is why Canada has announced that she is not going to participate in a Kyoto 2, Japan has announced the same, even America has announced the same”
Suggesting that these countries pulled out of Kyoto because they believe no action on carbon emissions must be taken is completely false. Japan, for example, is fighting for a broader deal to reduce emissions. The vice minister for global environmental affairs at Japan’s environment ministry argued that extending Kyoto, which excludes two largest emitters (China and the USA), would be “meaningless and inappropriate”. Japan is trying increase global emissions cuts by including the largest emitters – Monckton’s claim could not be further from the truth. And although the USA and Canada have not taken serious action to reduce emissions, both governments do agree that action must be taken. If Monckton were correct and these countries did not believe emissions reductions were necessary, they would not participate in international climate conferences at all.
Monckton argued that the IPCC climate sensitivity range is:
“a near impossibility physically speaking, because in any object on which feedbacks operate, if the feedback loop gain is great than somewhere in a range of 0.01 to 0.1, the object becomes terminally unstable, and under conditions which might quite easily occur, the loop gain would reach 1, and the system would blow itself apart.”
However, as we have previously discussed, Monckton’s argument doesn’t apply to the greenhouse gas situation, because the equation behind its feedback is different. As usual, Monckton oversimplifies the situation, and as a result, arrives at the wrong conclusion.
Speaking of oversimplifying, Monckton finishes out the debate by intertwining two more myths, arguing that CO2 isn’t a pollutant because it’s plant food.
“let us distinguish between pollution – which usually means particulate pollution such as soot – or the emission of carbon dioxide, which on any view, is not a pollutant. It is plant and tree food.”
However, as Denniss pointed out, CO2 is by definition a pollutant because its emissions are an unintended byproduct of burning fossil fuels, which endanger public health and welfare through their impacts on climate change. And the ‘CO2 is plant food‘ argument is, once again, a gross oversimplification of the issue.
Lesson Learned – Verbal Debates are a Mistake
For the most part, Monckton came out of this debate looking pretty good for one simple reason – you win a verbal debate not by being right, but by sounding right. Monckton spent almost the entire debate misrepresenting the scientific (and economic) literature at best, lying at worst.
But in a debate, you don’t lose anything by being dishonest or wrong. The most your opponent can do is say you’re lying, and then it’s a case of he-said, she-said. And Monckton is certainly an eloquent and charming speaker who plays to a crowd very well. Reality, facts, and science aren’t on his side, but in a public debate, that hardly matters. Thus debating a “skeptic” like Monckton is doing him a favor. If Monckton wants to debate climate science, he should do so in the peer-reviewed literature like a real scientist (and no Monckton, the APS newsletter is not peer-reviewed).
Or alternatively, if Monckton challenges you to a debate, follow Barry Bickmore’s advice and offer a written debate where facts can be checked. Not surprisingly, Monckton declined Dr. Bickmore’s offer.
By Dana, a regular author at Skeptical Science, who kindly agreed for his review of the Monckton and Denniss debate to be reposted New Anthro (originally found here and here’s my look at the fist 20mins of the debate).
On 19 July 2011, Monckton debated Richard Denniss, a prominent Australian economist, author and public policy commentator.
Not being a climate scientist (and knowing Monckton isn’t either), Denniss wisely focused on deferring to the consensus of climate science experts, and the risk management perspective regarding climate change:
“In Australia we have just voted to spend $50 billion (billion with a “B”) to build 12 new submarines to replace the 6 older ones that we haven’t used yet. And no one is quite certain who we need these to protect us from, and no one is sure what day we will need them, and no one is quite certain where we should park them on that day, and if you listen to the Navy we aren’t certain if we’ll have enough crew to staff them. But whenever it comes to making decisions about national defense, whenever the decision comes up about our health, whenever the consequences are catastrophic, what sensible people do is take the conservative path.”
“We have to decide whether we bet the house on the hope that Chris Monckton is correct, or we choose to insure the house on the chance that the scientists are right.”
Nevertheless, Monckton delivered his usual Gish Gallop, repeating a number of long-debunked myths, which we will examine in this post.
Monckton launched his Gish Gallop by arguing that climate cannot be predicted in the long-term because it’s too chaotic:
“because the climate is chaotic…it is not predictable in the long-term…they [the IPCC] say that the climate is a coupled, non-linear, chaotic object, and that therefore the long-term prediction of future climate states is not possible.”
Considering that each IPCC report has developed projections as to how the climate will change in response to various human greenhouse gas emissions scenarios, it’s really quite self-evident that Monckton’s statement here is incorrect. Climate scientists can predict how future climate will change based on the main climate drivers – primarily CO2. We’re even running a series of posts examining some of those past climate change predictions, and the IPCC reports will be the next projections evaluated in the series.
“The Royal Society – in a complete re-write of its original disastrously unscientific statement about the climate – now says we do not know how much the planet will warm as a result of our activities.”
In September 2010, the Royal Society issued a Climate Change Guide. The Guide discusses the various levels of certainty of important climate issues. Regarding future warming projections, the Guide states (emphasis added):
“Current understanding of the physics (and increasingly the chemistry and biology) of the climate system is represented in a mathematical form in climate models, which are used to simulate past climate and provide projections of possible future climate change….The underlying uncertainties in climate science and the inability to predict precisely the size of future natural climate forcing mechanisms mean that projections must be made which take into account the range of uncertainties across these different areas.”
Thus we find that what the IPCC report and Royal Society Guide actually say is very different than what Monckton claims they say. But it’s really nothing new for Monckton to misrepresent scientific sources. In fact, as John Abraham discovered, it’s the norm.
Monckton proceeds to demonstrate his confusion about the causal relationship between science and consensus:
“the idea that you decide any scientific question by mere consensus…”
Let’s just stop Monckton right there. He suggests that somehow climate science is done by first creating a consensus, when in reality, the consensus exists because the scientific evidence supporting the anthropogenic global warming (AGW) theory is so strong. The scientific evidence was gathered and evaluated first, and the consensus formed as a result of that evidence overwhelmingly supporting the AGW theory. Monckton has cause and effect completely backwards.
Now, many people will suggest deferring to that consensus of scientific experts, because individuals can’t be experts on every subject. We defer to experts all the time – doctors, mechanics, engineers, etc. Climate science is a highly technical field, and most people have neither the time nor the scientific background to evaluate the accuracy of the AGW theory by themselves. For those people, the wise course of action is to defer to the experts, as Denniss suggests. But the science itself is decided by the evidence, and the consensus follows.
Medieval Warm Period
Monckton proceeds to weave together a couple of myths regarding the Medieval Warm Period (MWP):
“Why does official climate science still pretend the Middle Ages were not warmer than the present, when the fabricators of the 2001 UN report – preported abolition of the Medieval Warm Period – are now under criminal investigation for defrauding taxpayers by tampering with data and results?”
Monckton has managed to jam 3 myths into one sentence – an impressive Gish Gallop rate.
- “Official” (peer-reviewed) climate science demonstrates that the MWP was not warmer than present by using temperature proxies to reconstruct the temperature record. Every single peer-reviewed milennial temperature reconstruction agrees that current temperatures are hotter than during the peak of the MWP.
- The 2001 IPCC report did not “abolish” or “disappear” the MWP; it simply presented the most up-to-date scientific research, which included the first milennial proxy temperature reconstructions, which like every reconstruction since, concluded that the MWP was not as hot as today.
- The climate scientists involved in creating those first milennial proxy temperature reconstructions are not under criminal investigation – certainly not for anything associated with the so-called “hockey stick”. Numerous ‘Climategate’ investigations found the scientists innocent of any significant wrongdoing.
Monckton then decides to drag us 16 years back in time to a disagreement during the drafting of the IPCC Second Assessment Report. How this debate is relevant to climate science today, I don’t know, but Monckton manages to mangle the truth once again.
“I wonder why the published version of the 1995 report – written by just one man – stated the exact oppostie of the scientists’ final draft, which had said five times that no human influence on global temperature was either discernible or immediately forseeable.”
The scientists who actually participated in the development of the IPCC report chapter in question tell a very different story than Monckton does here. Citizen’s Challenge has documented the events, as did the late Stephen Schneider in his excellent book Science as a Contact Sport.
What actually happened is that the scientific literature at the time clearly demonstrated a number of ‘fingerprints’ of human-caused global warming, as Dr. Ben Santer (undoubtedly the “one man” Monckton refers to) showed during his work on the chapter in question. The Saudi Arabian and Kuwaiti delegations – for obvious reasons – claimed this was ‘bad science’, and were joined by a few delegates from other small countries like Kenya. As a result of the disagreement, a Contact Group was held to negotiate the language that would eventually go into the report.
The Saudis and Kuwaitis did not even send representatives to the Contact Group – they were uninterested in discussing the science. A Kenyan scientist joined the group, which discussed the scientific evidence, and eventually all parties agreed that a clear human signal could be found in the observational data. When the Kenyan joined the group calling for this language to be included in the report, the Saudis and Kuwaitis finally dropped their opposition.
It was not a matter of one scientist re-writing the IPCC report. That’s not how the organization functions; the IPCC report is a consensus document. As the link above discusses, there are now many clear fingerprints of global warming, so why this argument 16 years ago is relevant to the science today is a mystery. Regardless, Monckton has grossly misrepresented reality yet again.
Monckton proceeds to make another bizarre claim about the IPCC reports which we’ve never heard before – that they use “a fraudulent statistical technique” to inflate global warming. This is the problem with public debates, and why “skeptics” like Monckton enjoy them so much – in a public debate, the participants can say anything they want without needing to provide any supporting evidence. As long as the claim sounds like it could be true, the audience likely cannot determine the difference between a fact and a lie. Monckton takes advantage of this advantage yet again when discussing climate sensitivity.
“Why do we think that we’re going to suddenly get 3.3 Celsius for a doubling of CO2 concentration this century – that’s the IPCC’s central estimate – or 5.1 – which is your [Australia’s] government’s central estimate – when all the science done by measurement and observation rather than by models, suggests just one Celsius degree?”
Where Monckton gets this claim that the Australian government’s central climate sensitivity estimate to doubled CO2 is 5.1°C is a complete mystery. The Australian government would undoubtedly defer to the IPCC, which determined that equilibrium climate sensitivity is unlikely to be above 4.5°C. 5.1°C is outside the likely range, let alone being anywhere near its central estimate.
Monckton also repeats a myth similar to one that we previously examined in Christy Crock #6 – that most climate sensitivity estimates are based on models, and those few which are based on observations arrive at lower estimates. The only study which matches Monckton’s description is the immensely-flawed Lindzen and Choi (2009). [Note – Lindzen and Choi recently published an update to their 2009 study in an obscure journal after two prominent journals (of AGU and PNAS) rejected the paper in its submitted state because it failed to address the substantive criticisms of the 2009 version.]
It’s true that most climate sensitivity research involves some level of modeling, but one exception was Forster et al. (2006), which examined the climate response to recent large volcanic eruptions, and found a central climate sensitivity estimate of 2.3°C to doubled atmospheric CO2. This study alone completely refutes Monckton’s claim that “all the science done by measurement and observation” suggests a climate sensitivity of 1°C. Moreover, even the climate sensitivity studies which include modeling also include data obtained through measuement and observation.
Monckton – Specialist at Mangling Climate Sensitivity Calculations
It’s also worth noting that, as a prior Peter Hadfield video found, Monckton at various times has claimed that climate sensitivity to doubled CO2 is anywhere between 0.2 and 1.6°C. And as the Hadfield video shows, many of Monckton’s low climate sensitivity calculations were based on obvious blatant errors (such as arbitrarily and erroneously dividing the CO2 radiative forcing by three). Yet twice during the debate, Monckton claimed to be “a specialist in the field of the determination of climate sensitivity”, on which he “lectures at faculty level”. Of course, as the British House of Lords would tell you, Monckton has a habit of inflating and falsifying his credentials.
It is an argument after all. It’s not a debate, at least not a reasoned one nor a sensible one.
I’ve recently found that the best strategy is to turn the heads on the so-called “sceptics” and rather than defend the strong scientific body of evidence (as if it needs such defense after all), simply question the sceptics themselves.
Steven Lewandowsky makes the point, “Tellingly, so-called climate “sceptics” refuse to participate in scientific debates: by and large, they do not contribute to the peer-reviewed literature and they do not present their views at scientific conferences…”
It doesn’t mean that their views are beyond question, however, and by demanding evidence to their claims, you stop the gallop.
For example, rather than defend the scientists caught up in the thoroughly discredited “climategate” affair, demand that the self-proclaimed sceptics provide the damaging evidence that has been overlooked by the numerous investigations. If they state that the investigations were a whitewash, then they still must back this up with evidence – which simply does not include climategate books or blog posts but a thoroughly audited review of the investigations.
Likewise the varying claims from, “it’s not happening,” to, “it’s natural climate change,” – too often we rush to explain why the science doesn’t support this rather than take the appropriate scientific approach; ask for the evidence to these claim and the analysis which undermines the consensual standing within the scientific community.
After all, these self-proclaimed sceptics in fact do have various, indeed copious, hypotheses; the obligation is on them to not only test these hypotheses, but to then present their findings in a like fashion to that of genuine scientists within the peer-reviewed literature. Without this, theirs is nothing more than a bluff. As Chris Monckton demonstrates, it can be on first glance a convincing bluff, but it remains a bluff nonetheless.
Without this expectation to include their work within the confines of scientific methodology, we in fact unfairly promote their conclusions to the same status as those thoroughly tested and scrutinised by the scientific community; just as it inflated Chris Monckton’s status beyond all reason by respected scientists subjection themselves to his Gish gallop.
While the Jo Nova’s of the world might plead ignorant to evidence to support their bogus claims of genuine scepticism (it is after all, up to them what they choose to know and how much they’re willing to learn and understand, not ours to educate) it is entirely different when they start proposing their own hypotheses.
At the end of the day, we’ve waste a lot of energy on engaging with such people in what can only be described as a screamfest, when we should have; presented the evidence how it stands; engaged with those who really do want to learn more; ignored those demand you to convince them; and, asked for those with alternate hypotheses to address them in like fashion to that of any working scientist. Not only has it been a waste of effort, it has unfairly promoted their noise and saturated an otherwise lukewarm audience now saturated on a very serious matter. We’ve simply handed them the ‘win’ on a silver plate. Not a win based on evidence, of course, but one that is very much in the realms of public discussion and political at best and it remains valid in the the eyes of the general public.
On that, it is great to hear Malcolm Turnbull – probably one of only a few prominent figures in the Liberal party firing on all cylinders (I was disgusted when Abbott took his place) – has finally stood up for his previous views regarding climate change and for the scientific evidence itself. See the following;
“It is an intensely moral issue…”
“Do not fall into the trap of abandoning the science.”
I don’t want to waste much of my time and I shouldn’t need to; for most reasonable people now understand that Chris Monckton is perpetually wrong when attempting to reflect the science of climate.
That said, yesterday, Mike [WtD] forwarded to me the below debate between Chris and Dr Richard Dennis.
Firstly, it is good to see that this was addressed appropriately by both men. It was not a scientific debate at all. As Steven Lewandowsky rightly states,
“A demand to be taken seriously remains farcical unless accompanied by credible contributions to scientific debate.
“Climate deniers, such as Mr Monckton, have not made a credible contribution to scientific debate.”
In the presentation, both men obsess over consensus. Monckton again employed the “orthodoxy” angle. Yet, it’s nothing like the, “heavier than air flight is impossible” of yesteryears boffins as that idea was largely untested.
The Anthropogenic Climate Change [ACC] theory is the result of over a century of investigation, many thousands of research hours and countless data collection, validation and analysis. Every thought up question has been asked [ie. ‘is it the sun?’, ‘is it other gases?’, ‘is it cosmic rays?’ etc] and been rejected, except for ACC – leaving us with a treasure trove of independent sources of evidence all pointing to the very high likelihood of ACC.
Monckton even brings up that it only takes one study to undo this theory, yet he completely ignores the fact that the chances of this occurring today is exceedingly slim as so many avenues have been explored as discussed above. It’s unreasonable doubt in light of the wealth of evidence that supports the theory. Furthermore, as Dr Nurse puts it,
“Consensus can be used like a dirty word. Consensus is actually the position of the experts at the time and if it’s working well – it doesn’t always work well – but if it’s working well, they evaluate the evidence. You make your reputation in science by actually overturning that, so there’s a lot of pressure to do it. But if over the years the consensus doesn’t move you have to wonder is the argument, is the evidence against the consensus good enough.”
(Another point would be that Chris claims to be an expert on climate sensitivity, yet has on numerous occasions claimed climate sensitivity different values and confused forcing for sensitivity. Apparently Monckton doesn’t even have a consensus with Monckton – more here [h/t Rob H])
As was the case in the interview with Adam Spencer, Chris again alluded to a criminal case concerning a climate scientist corrupting their data-set. It seems, although he refuses to name the scientist involved, that he is referring to the endless pursuit on Mann. As with the investigations into the larger “Climategate” nonsense itself, it seems that it doesn’t matter how often nothing is found to be malicious or devious in the scientific activity, these people must be guilty, or as Tim Minchin puts it,
“Science adjust its views based on what’s observed. Faith is the denial of observation, so that belief can be preserved.”
Even if, in the very unlikely event Mann was found guilty, that does little to undermine the wealth of mutually supportive evidence which this one scientist had no involvement in collecting! It doesn’t undermine the science of ACC.
Climate is chaotic. Yeah, but so is weather and we’re not too bad at predicting the short term trends with that. Likewise, on a climate timescale and coarseness, we’re getting better and better at predicting climate. Of course this relies on many unknowns (including GHG concentrations, solar activity etc), so you need to work within ranges of confidence, which is done and clearly demonstrated in the literature.
If a methodology proved to be rubbish, either it would be improved upon or scrapped. You wouldn’t continue to use the same predictive methods if they are proving completely useless, would you? If anything, the prevailing models seem to be too conservative.
Chris; show me the evidence that models have been and continue to be utterly wrong. It’s simply not enough to be bombastic in your approach and to hurl Latin – you need hard evidence to back up your claims; something that time and time again, you’re proven to be wrong about (such as…)
He makes the claim that the observed warming is only around 1oC for a doubling of CO2 so far. Yet, over the industrial era, we’ve had only about a third increase of CO2, not a doubling and more than half of that has occurred within the last 30yrs (not linear, not doubling) [h/t Rob H for the heads up]! If we wanted to use such simplistic an approach, this would mean that we’re on par for the 3oC of warming – but of course, it’s not that simple, hence why this isn’t a scientifically peer-reviewed report and unlike Chris, I’m not trying to suggest that this flimsy methodology proves/disproves the available scientific literature on the subject; only that he doesn’t get the literature at all.
He mentions Idso’s list of a thousand scientists which Prof. Abraham has already shown to be nonsense.
He makes the argument that Australia is too small to make a difference, which I’ve discussed already and in my previous post, I’ve also stated, many countries have already begun the transition – we’re silly not to invest in what is going to be the future backbone to human activity.
He argues that economists are unanimous on doing nothing to tackle climate change, yet Stern’s books and reports beg to differ as does a recent survey.
He states that he has lectured at a faculty level and written in reviewed literature, yet he fails to mention on what topic (hell, he could have lectured on theology – I won’t listen to him on scientific matters) nor if as an academic or paid by industry in a rented university venue (as was the case in the University of Notre Dame to give the Hancock Free Enterprise Lecture).
It’s also well known that he has written nothing that has been peer-reviewed in a scientific journal (2mins into the following video) and what has been reviewed by scientists, such as his report to the US congress and his lectures (most notably the review by Prof. Abraham) has been shown to be riddled with errors.
Lastly, his plea to the reporters was incredible!
Of course many Australian’s are scared when you have hypocrites like Tony Abbott screaming that industry will collapse and we’re all about to be hit by a big fat tax (contrary to the evidence) and crackpots like Chris screaming cold-war propaganda about hidden green-communists and that mining jobs will be lost (over a $2 per ton of coal tax on an industry that has nearly doubled its per unit value in recent years) running around the country out to inspire such emotions.
On that, it’s also noteworthy that a man quick to apply Godwin’s law at any social gathering is also the same character who, hypocritically, uses like tactics to inspire fear, anger and hatred within his audience. Take a listen to this podcast (40mins in) where his audience turns on and begins to shove Wendy Carlisle, an ABC reporter. It is his own anger rallying which lead to such vile behaviour and I couldn’t think of a more fitting comparison to behaviour we should leave in the 20th century.
Why he continues to get airtime and be taken seriously by anyone is beyond me.