Posts Tagged ‘monckton-gate’

When will we stop taking Christopher Monckton seriously?

September 22, 2010

It is mind boggling that some people without any expertise in climate are given megaphones to spout their strong but wrong beliefs about climate change.

Internationally, Christopher Monckton is a prime example (even giving congressional testimony in the US), while in Holland Hans Labohm immediately comes to mind (frequently seen in news media and invited by the Dutch ministry of environment).

Scientists are starting to turn the tide on this kind of sophistry.

From the press release, via Barry Bickmore:

A group of five scientists solicited responses from more than twenty world-class climate scientists to the May 6th testimony by Christopher Monckton to the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming.  These climate scientists “…have thoroughly refuted all of Mr. Monckton’s major assertions, clearly demonstrating a number of obvious and elementary errors,” the report says. “We encourage the U.S. Congress to give careful consideration to the implications this document has for the care that should be exercised in choosing expert witnesses to inform the legislative process.”

The rest of the press release is available at the same link.

John Abraham, who thoroughly debunked Monckton’s claims, and was treated with venomous language and threat of legal action by the ‘potty peer’ as a result, put a lot of work in this as well.

The complete report: “Climate scientists respond”.

Coverage by the Guardian.

Apparently, Monckton responded in his typical fashion, calling the scientist’s response “prolix, turgid, repetitive, erroneous and inadequate”.

Well, being repetitive is hard to avoid when responding to Monckton’s long debunked talking points. This guy is a real piece of work. I hope the day is near that the public, politicians and the media (as the providers of the megaphone) stop paying attention to the likes of him. Then scientists can turn their energy to more productive things again rather than slamming down zombie arguments.

On a somewhat related note, George Monbiot has a nice column (h/t Stoat) in which he cites how some of these characters (Christopher Booker in this case) view science:

“I spent a fascinating few days in a villa opposite Cap Ferrat, taking part in a seminar with a dozen very bright scientists, some world authorities in their field. Although most had never met before, they had two things in common. Each had come to question one of the most universally accepted scientific orthodoxies of our age: the Darwinian belief that life on earth evolved simply through the changes brought about by an infinite series of minute variations. The other was that, on arriving at these conclusions, they had come up against a wall of hostility from the scientific establishment.” (…)

“We have seen a remarkably similar response from the scientific establishment to anyone dissenting from that other dominating theory of our time, that rising CO2 levels caused by human activity are leading to runaway global warming.”

Monbiot concludes:

To dismiss an entire canon of science on the basis of either no evidence or evidence that has already been debunked is to evince an astonishing level of self-belief. It suggests that, by instinct or by birth, you know more about this subject (even if you show no sign of ever having studied it) than the thousands of intelligent people who have spent their lives working on it. Once you have taken that leap of self-belief, once you have arrogated to yourself the authority otherwise vested in science, any faith is then possible. Your own views (and those of the small coterie who share them) become your sole reference points, and are therefore unchallengeable and immutable. You must believe yourself capable of anything. And, in a sense, you probably are.

Robert Grumbine explains how people’s (mis-)perception of science can feed these kinds of strange beliefs:

I think a crucial part of that error is a failure to understand how science works.  While you and I (and others) look at it and see masses of scientists from different areas and reach a conclusion, others don’t.  The extra piece of knowledge we have is that science has to hang together as a coherent picture.  If climate people were seriously wrong about the radiative properties of CO2, then CO2 lasers would not work.  And so on through a very, very long list.  Conversely, if climate types were seriously wrong about CO2’s radiative properties, laser specialists would look at the climate work and point to the errors and that’d be the end of the wrong climate CO2 work.

Instead, they take the view that science is story-telling.  Laser physicists go along with the climate people because the climate folks are telling a story that the laser folks like, not because there’s any particular evidence in favor of it.  The “It’s a liberal conspiracy”, or “They only say this because they want to impose one world government” responses are part of this.  The he said — she said journlistic line is exactly this, as the science is presented as two stories the reader is chosing between.  They think the scientists are doing the same thing.  (How would they know differently?)

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