Monckton, ’high priest of climate sceptics’, tells lies on TV NZ

By Gareth Renowden 29/01/2010


Christopher, Viscount Monckton of Brenchley (a nice little village in Kent with good pubs, at least when I was growing up nearby) has arrived safely in Australia and embarked on the hectic round of talks and media opportunities that is his birthright and expectation wherever he goes. On Monday morning, my spies tell me he popped up on TV One’s Breakfast show, and managed to get away with an egregious falsehood.

One of his themes for this tour seems to be that the “UN’s climate panel” has exaggerated the warming to be expected from a doubling of CO2 by “six or seven times”. Asked about this on Breakfast, he said (my transcription – starts about 1 minute into the interview):

The scientists have indeed got their sums wrong, because there are only perhaps 40 or 50 scientists involved in calculating that one central quality, which is known as climate sensitivity, how much warming will you get. It’s a very narrow, very specialist field in which I have actually published work in the [slight pause] reviewed literature, and there’s not many people who have done that. Very few people people have actually done work in this field, and unfortunately what they have done is they have preferred at the UN’s climate panel to rely on computer models which are in effect a form of guesswork.

You could describe this whole statement as a big lie, because it contains so many constituent falsehoods. For instance, the assertion that the IPCC has preferred to “rely on computer models” for estimates of climate sensitivity is simply not true, as a quick glance at AR4 WG1 Chapter Nine, section 9.6 Observational Constraints on Climate Sensitivity shows. But the really outrageous falsehood is his claim to have published a paper in the “reviewed literature”. He has done no such thing. He wrote a “paper” which appeared in the July 2008 American Physical Society Physics & Society newsletter (here). Monckton’s employers at the Science and Public Policy Institute (an organisation with close ties to the Scaife funded Frontiers for Freedom Institute) sent out a press release claiming it to be “peer-reviewed”, prompting the APS to add this to the start of the article:

The following article has not undergone any scientific peer review, since that is not normal procedure for American Physical Society newsletters.

The only peer who reviewed Monckton’s piece appears to have been himself. That may go some way to explain why it contains so many mistakes. Arthur Smith catalogued 125 errors, and Tim Lambert at Deltoid provided a nice (and much shorter) overview of Monckton’s sleight of hand with the numbers here. Bottom line? Monckton is quite wrong.

However, this is old news. Monckton’s “paper” was published in July 2008 (there’s a full time line at Rabett Run), and it was comprehensively debunked within weeks. Monckton appears to be relying on the general media not knowing the deep background to the things he says. He doesn’t expect a breakfast TV presenter to be able to call him out on his embellishments of the truth, and perhaps he thinks that after a year and a half he can say what he likes and get away with it.

In one respect, however, he seems to have misjudged the credulity of the TV One interviewer, and even more so that of Sean Plunket, who had the pleasure of interviewing him for RNZ National’s Morning Report on Wednesday morning. Neither were buying his hyperbole about left wing scams. You can hear Plunket’s incredulous tone, after Monckton talks about the “wall to wall lefties” at the ABC, and how all left wingers are “instinctively totalitarian” (podcast here at 8:27). The TV One host even felt moved to challenge him on the “extremity of your rhetoric”, and got a shirty response. One has to hope the Aussie media are being at least as challenging, but glancing at Miranda Devine’s breathless little hagiography in the Sydney Morning Herald today doesn’t fill me with hope.