On the trail of Christopher Monckton – part 1
The third Viscount of Brenchley, Christopher Monckton, is a bit of a slippery customer: A member of the British aristocracy with no scientific training or qualifications, but nevertheless idolised as an expert by climate change “sceptics”, he is prone to rambling statements (even more pompous-sounding than much of what I write!) that are full of potentially misleading information and/or misrepresented research that is invariably poorly (if ever) referenced. You could be forgiven for concluding that he is “intoxicated with the exuberance of his own verbosity” (i.e. Disraeli on Gladstone)…!
In recent years, you could also be forgiven for assuming that he was going to slowly fade from view as a result of the forensic examination of one of his presentations expertly carried out by Professor John Abraham; and Monckton’s spectacular failure to respond appropriately and/or effectively to such a devastating critique. Much more recently, he has been taken to task by Potholer54 (a.k.a Peter Hatfield) and – having been quite content at first to debate online – has gone remarkably quiet since being challenged to debate the science face-to-face (see Footnote).
My personal dealings with Monckton began when I attempted to redress the misleading presentation of one Richard S Lindzen at a meeting in London on 22 February this year that Monckton chaired. Having departed from my own script, I was prevented from asking even the simplest of questions (because I was clearly off-message too). You can even see me attempting this feat here.
Monckton then harassed me over my supposed defamation of his character within my subsequent complaint to MIT regarding Lindzen. I clarified the intent of my remarks to MIT and issued an apology; something I am pretty sure Monckton has never done. As Hatfield has demonstrated, Monckton just changes what he says (i.e. so-called “Monckton Manoeuvres”)
In April this year, I invited Monckton to review my own assessment of him as a non-expert in climate science (September 2011) and tell me where I have gone wrong. However, in his long-winded and disparaging response – full of reality inversions and obfuscations – he did not address any of my factual criticism of either him; his absence of any relevant qualifications; his repeatedly having been shown to be peddling misinformation; and to have misinterpreted – if not misrepresented – genuine climate science. He also declined my request for permission to publish his response.
Most recently, in response to a piece by Scott Denning PhD (a rare non-sceptical speaker at Heartland Institute conferences), Monckton submitted a 5000-word dissertation to the Yale Forum on Climate Change and the Media, which was also subject to forensic examination and found to be pre-debunked “sceptical” propaganda. Unfortunately, the post summarising this nonsense was bombarded by silly comments that prompted the site editor, Bud Ward, to close-off the post to new comments just after Monckton had attempted to rebut my own criticisms… Unable to get Mr Ward to allow my response to appear, I decided to email Monckton myself. Therefore, what follows is a transcript of the exchanges that has since followed; or at least it would be if Monckton had not again claimed his right(?) to confidentiality in responding to me. However, I think you can guess what he said – and how he said it – from my responses:
You have made great play of the fact that you followed chairing the Lindzen sideshow on 22 February by briefing an anonymous and sceptical Cabinet Minister. Because I was concerned that this might constitute an attempt to subvert sensible government policy, I asked my MP to find out who you met. However, short of trawling through every department’s records (when published), this is not going to be possible and, in any case, I suspect your meeting (if there was one) will not have been “on the record”.
With regard to your recent (surely pre-existing?) essay submitted to the Yale Forum on Climate Change and the Media, I think it was entirely ludicrous of Scott Denning to respond by repeating the unfair suggestion that you might be a creation of the comic Sacha Baren Cohen. However, the reason this annoyed me is that it appears to have (understandably) prompted a deluge of comments from those who consider your unscientific views on climate change worthy of attention. This, in turn, prompted Bud Ward to stop accepting comments on that particular post. Despite my protestation, Mr Ward has refused to publish my response to your last comment so, for the record, here it is:
“With respect, Viscount Monckton, it is the so-called climate ‘sceptics’ that are failing to learn the lessons of history (or palaeoclimatology for that matter). I was brought up not to live beyond my means; and humanity would have done well to do the same. Instead, our environmental bank account is now seriously overdrawn; and the interest payments will just get bigger and bigger if we make no attempt to pay off our debts.”
Also for the record: I think history may have done King Canute a dis-service as he probably sought to demonstrate that man cannot hold back the tide. However, this is more in your field of expertise than mine. Perhaps you can enlighten me? Furthermore, if you already know this, are you not also guilty of mis-representing King Canute as well (by telling readers they should “Remember Canute”); and perpetuating yet another myth (such as that which seeks to suggest human activity is not the primary driver of ongoing climate disruption)?
Finally, I should like to re-iterate the frustration of many people who have pointed out that, although you are always very quick to ridicule people and/or demand retractions for supposed defamatory comments or misleading or incorrect statements, you do not seem to practice what you preach: That is to say, when things you say or write are shown to have been likely to mislead, inaccurate, or demonstrable false (e.g. in your dealings with John Abraham, Peter Hatfield, and here and elsewhere in the ‘Monckton Myths’ section of the SkepticalScience website) you do not seem to ever admit it. I would however be delighted to be proven wrong but, please do not waste your time writing me a long response, links to published statements on the Internet will suffice.
Yours very sincerely,
Dear Mr. Lack,
[Sorry - Confidentiality has been invoked by the author]
Monckton of Brenchley.
Footnote: Monckton claims to have rebutted Peter Hatfield’s criticism on the website of SPPI – an organisation for which he is Chief Policy Advisor, which gives him a platform from which to spout non-peer-reviewed misinformation; and gain the attention of ignorant and/or credulous politicians on Capitol Hill in the USA. Unfortunately, the SPPI website does not have a search function – and this response (if it exists) is not in any obvious place such as the ‘Monckton Collection’.
The exchanges continued, from which you can infer what Monckton said, but I will conclude this sorry tale tomorrow.