Lack of Environment

A blog on the politics and psychology underlying the denial of all our environmental problems

The Monckton trail comes to an end

with 16 comments

After my last exchange of emails with Christopher Monckton (back in May this year), I did promise myself I would not waste any more time on him.  However, following the recent flurry of publicity surrounding the pronouncements of first Richard Muller, then John Christy, and then James Hansen (all of which have been covered on this blog recently – here, here, and here), I decided to try once more to see if there is any scope for having a rational discussion of facts with this aristocratic Classics graduate and former newspaper proprietor turned climate expert.

Sadly, it has thus become quite apparent that this is not possible.  Therefore – and I mean it this time – I do not intend to ever email him again.  However, first of all some context:  Of the three incidents above, it was Christy’s highly misleading testimony to the US Senate – and the disgraceful attempts by his supporters to defend it by inverting reality and accusing mainstream scientists of abusing their positions of influence – that prompted me to email Monckton again.  However, this time, I decided address my email to three people not just one; the other two being Rev Phillip Foster (Repeal the Act) and Dr Benny Peiser (GWPF).  For now, I will focus on the exchange of email I had with Monckton after I sent this email (under the title ‘An appeal to you to be reasonable’)…
———–
Dear Lord Monckton, Rev. Foster, and Dr Peiser,

We have had a few exchanges of emails in recent months and, unfortunately, they have not been very constructive.  Being an eternal optimist, I am hoping that this time may be different.  However, before reading any further, I should like to ask you, as I did in a recent email to the Bishop of Chester (currently on holiday), to bear in mind that I am a Conservative voter and hold very conservative views on a range of social issues; but have been concerned about the environment for as long as I have been a Christian…  In other words, I am a very long way from being a“Watermelon”

I recently tried to watch the video of the 1 August 2012 hearings of the U.S.  Senate Committee on the Environment and Public Works but, for me, the volume was too low.  Fortunately, the same web page has links to the prepared text of both the opening statements of Senator Boxer and Senator Inhoffe; as well as to PDFs of the written testimony from all six Witnesses.

Reading these has left me feeling very uneasy because, just as they did in the hot summer of 1988 in which James Hansen testified to a similar Committee, truth and integrity seem to have become lost in political farce:
– Before listening to any witnesses, Boxer and Inhoffe make two completely mutually-contradictory statements (of their views on climate change) containing numerous conflicting truth-claims.
– Both Democrats and Republicans call Witnesses that (one could argue) simply tell them what they want to hear.
– Witnesses are cross-examined by Senators from both parties but no-one changes their opinion (based on the balance of the evidence).
– No prejudices are challenged or dislodged; and truth remains in the eye of the beholder.

However, given the completely opposite views stated -they cannot all be right -some of the Witnesses must be wrong.  Furthermore, truth is not whatever you want it to be; the truth is what it is and… If we cannot be sure what the truth is, then we should act according to the balance of probability; not according to our prejudice.

Therefore, with regard to the evidence presented in Panel 1 of these Hearings (PhDs Christopher Field, John Christy, and James McCarthy), the choice is as follows:
— John Christy is probably right and almost everything the majority of climate scientists tell us is wrong; or
— The majority of climate scientists are probably right and almost everything Christy says is wrong.
Forgetting arguments about science for a moment – and putting all our prejudices aside (because we all have them) – which of these scenarios is more likely?

In my humble opinion, the answer to this question is simply far too important for humans to continue to argue about it based on pre-existing ideological prejudice; or concerns regarding the motives of those making unpalatable statements.  We all need to stop dodging the issue:  The predictions made by James Hansen in 1988 have not only been proven accurate – the situation is now worse than that – as he said in his op-ed in the Washington Post last weekend, this “is not a climate model or a prediction but actual observations of weather events and temperatures that have happened”.

With the greatest of respect, therefore, is it not time that we all acknowledged that we are all equally likely to be prejudiced – and/or suspended our disbelief – long enough to take a cold hard look at the facts of history and science; and ask ourselves what would be the wisest thing to do?  Indeed, this is a question I posed on my blog some months ago – in typically light-hearted fashion – and find myself asking it still.

Assuming you will make one, and do so in a similar reasonable-minded fashion, I await your response(s) with interest.

Yours very sincerely,

Martin Lack

———–

I have reproduced this email in full here because, despite being what I thought was entirely polite, reasonable, and conciliatory, the response I got from Monckton was none of the above.  Instead, he chose to take offence at the title of the email; suggesting that this was insulting (because it implied that he or his current position is unreasonable).  Here, the phrase “me thinks he dost protest too much” comes to mind.  However, I cannot quote from his exact words because, as he has done in the past, Monckton has invoked his right to privacy.

One of the many ironies in dealing with Monckton is his ability to invert reality (and apparent blindness regarding his own failings when criticising others).  He is on record as having criticised me for waffling and not being concise but, on its own, his initial response to me on this occasion was 1984 words; and was followed by 550 words; 1634 words; 875 words; 111 words; and 612 words (a total of 5766 words with an average of 961 words per email).  This compares with my original 650 words (above), 219 words; 298 words; 253 words; 97 words; and 74 words (a total of 1591 words with an average of 265 words per email).

To be fair to Monckton, he did spend most of his time lecturing me on his superior grasp of Latin and/or trying to bait me into discussing his version of climate science.  However, I stuck to my principles; and kept insisting that I did not want to “debate” science – I wanted to discuss what actions are now most likely to be in the best long-term interests of humanity.  Monckton, however, was not willing to engage in such a discussion; which is a great shame for all concerned.

Despite Monckton’s claim to a right of privacy in his initial response; supposedly extending to a prohibition against my even acknowledging the existence of his email (which sounds like Super Injunction territory to me), he did not assert any such right over subsequent emails.  I am therefore tempted to publish them but, when set in chronological order with my emails, the whole thing runs to over 8000 words, which I doubt anyone would read; even though it reveals a lot about Monckton’s modus operandi.   For all Plebians out there, that is Latin for ‘method of operation’. ;-)

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Written by Martin Lack

14 August 2012 at 00:02

16 Responses

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  1. Well, If I could wave a magic wand to get two simple concepts into the heads of everyone in the climate change debate, I think this issue would be resolved within a year and everyone would be able to go back to doing productive work instead of wasting each other’s time continuously rehashing old arguments.

    1. The term scientific debate is one of the most idiotic phrases in the English language. You cannot have a debate about science (this entire concept is fundamentally flawed because not even the best debating skill can bend the laws of physics). You can have a dialectic (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dialectic), but not a debate. The principle practical difference is that those in “debate” mode listen to opposing arguments searching for any possible error, while those in “dialectic” mode search for any truth that can augment their current understanding. This makes all the difference.

    2. As you said, the question we must attempt to answer is not “is climate change man-made and is it dangerous?”. It should be, “based on what we now know, what response to climate change would be in the best interests of humanity?”

    Wouldn’t it be nice if we could get everyone to have an honest dialectic about the second question in point 2?.

    Schalk

    14 August 2012 at 08:28

    • That’s brilliant, Schalk, thank you. I have promised Monckton never to waste my time emailing him again but, without doubt, that is the response I should have made: Without realising it, I was inviting him to have dialectical discussion; whereas his response was to ridicule me and my position and insist that he is right about the science. However, you cannot have a dialectical discussion with someone who insists that climate change is not happening. Indeed, on almost every occasion that I have appealed to someone to consider Greg Craven’s (“What’s the worst that could happen?”) decision matrix, I have been told it is a false dichotomy; because climate change is not happening.

      Both I and Greg Craven are sure that we are right but, in both my original email and in his decision matrix, the possibility that we are wrong is conceded. The problem is with the other party that refuses to make any such concession, which is a completely unassailable position. What irritates me so much about Monckton is that he wastes so many words doing so. It is almost as if he is deliberately trying to intimidate (or bully) me into submission…

      Martin Lack

      14 August 2012 at 09:00

      • Yep, I agree that you should probably not waste any more of your time on this. It appears that the problem here is not one of science, but rather one of philosophy. And yes, purely philosophical disagreements are notoriously difficult to resolve (and are downright impossible to resolve through scientific argumentation).

        It is hard to do, but sometimes you just have to cut your ties to people who are simply holding you back and move on. Personally, I automatically distance myself from any “debating” scientists who are 100% committed to their present view and determined to win the argument rather than to establish the objective truth. Working with such scientists is guaranteed to be frustrating and fruitless.

        With regards to the matrix, it is common engineering practice to price risk and uncertainty. When scaling up a new technology for example, engineers normally take conservatively small scale-up steps, thereby paying a lot of time and money to avoid the risk and uncertainty of taking larger scale-up steps. Naturally, the pricing of risk is a gray area and this is one of the most important areas within which you need people capable of dialectic reasoning. However, refusing to price the risk and/or refusing to accept that there is any degree of uncertainty in a scientific field as vast and complex as climate change is, well, just not very smart.

        In any case, I have come to realize that the top right box in the matrix is completely and utterly impossible and that the top left box really is the one and only option for the “business as usual” scenario. I have recently published a series of pages on this if you are interested (http://oneinabillionblog.com/collapse/) and believe that this understanding strengthens the argument in the video even further.

        Schalk

        15 August 2012 at 06:57

        • Thanks Schalk. I took a quick peek at the new stuff on your blog. As ever, important points beautifully distilled down to simple statements. Each one of which I recognise as something I have tried to say at least once; but not yet as effectively. I look forward to reading about the antidote(s). Sorry to be so brief but, I really must prioritise job applications.

          One minor point of order though; Monckton is not a scientist. Other than that, I think you characterise his behaviour perfectly.

          Martin Lack

          15 August 2012 at 09:29

        • Best of luck with the job hunt. It’s probably best to forget about Monckton when completing job applications ;-)

          Schalk

          15 August 2012 at 16:52

      • What irritates me so much about Monckton is that he wastes so many words doing so. It is almost as if he is deliberately trying to intimidate (or bully) me into submission…

        Well swamping others with, often big or obscure, words is a part of Monckton’s ‘modus operandi‘ is it not – as he ‘pomps’ about a stage trying to impress his audience using other words from that ancient language.

        Monckton has shown himself to be buffoon, a mountbank and a charlatan, a snake-oil salesman of the first primo order. One who has had the Black Knight (longer section) treatment over and over but who still wishes to gain blog credibility by using hit and run posting tactics.

        Lionel A

        15 August 2012 at 16:26

        • Not so much hit and run”
          More like steamroller until optically-flat finish achieved and run”!

          Martin Lack

          15 August 2012 at 16:40

  2. Considering how fast the sea ice is melting in the Arctic ocean at this point, why to be polite with deliberately idiotic evil prostitutes? They can say whatever they want. Facts howl much louder.

    There is a point where politeness is, per se, a form of collaboration. I don’t mean you should stop being polite, Martin. Somebody has to do your job. But I think, something Paul did not quite understand, that it is high time to call liars for what they are!

    Patrice Ayme

    14 August 2012 at 08:42

    • Thanks Patrice. I think the reason Monckton responds with such hostility is precisely because he has already been revealed to be a charlatan. Since he cannot possibly admit this, his only remaining form of defence is relentless attack. Therefore we must wait for the views of such people to become so completely at odds with reality that they are ignored. The only problem with that strategy being that people like Monckton – and the even more foolish poodles like James Delingpole that parrot what he says – are like an anchor on a ship dragging along the sea bed. They are without doubt the reason why, despite all the accumulating evidence, a majority of the UK population still think climate change is not happening (or at least that was the case a few months ago)…

      Martin Lack

      14 August 2012 at 09:21

    • Email on its way to you c.c. Martin in an attempt to better reveal myself over this! And there’s no disagreement with the stand you are taking! Paul

      Paul Handover

      14 August 2012 at 15:53

      • Dear Paul: I prefer published comments, because common people have these debates too. They need to understand they can have their emotional machinery connected to them. Only then will progress be made. I’m also going to some meeting and then restaurant in my CO2 machine, baby in tow, so absence of answer will not be indicative of seething anger (yes, I have no smart phone).

        Patrice Ayme

        14 August 2012 at 16:32

  3. [...] was neither. Both my email and a summary of Monckton’s response were posted on this blog last week. However, as I have explained, Monckton was not willing to admit any possibility of his being [...]

  4. The way to deal with the prevaricating peer is the same as with all trolls: don’t feed him.

    pendantry

    29 August 2012 at 23:53

    • Thanks Colin. I was never trying to feed him, I was trying to cure him. However, whatever, I have now stopped.

      Martin Lack

      30 August 2012 at 10:00


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