Posted by: Barry Bickmore | May 6, 2010

Dance, Monckey!

I mentioned here how the Climate Change Denial Champion for the Republicans in the Utah Legislature was none other than Lord Christopher Monckton.  Well, it turns out that he is also the CCDC for some of the Republicans in Congress.  This morning he testified before the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming as the sole “expert” for the minority.  I was encouraged to see one congressman try to slap Monckton down by bringing up that in his last testimony to a Congressional committee, he began by saying, “I BRING fraternal greetings from the Mother of Parliaments to the Congress of your ‘athletic democracy’”.  This congressman (I didn’t hear who it was) asked Monckton when he had ever been a member of the House of Lords (a house of Parliament).  [UPDATE:  It was Rep. Jay Inslee (D-WA).]

Monckton correctly pointed out that he is a “Lord.”  (The congressman apparently didn’t understand that point.)  But then, predictably, he tried to wiggle out of his lie by saying,

But, by virtue of the 1999 House of Lords Act, I no longer have the right to sit or vote, that was taken away from my father, so I have never sat or voted in the House of Lords, nor have I ever pretended otherwise.  And I think that really should deal with that matter.

No, Your Lordship, it doesn’t deal with the matter.  The fact is that Monckton has clearly and publicly claimed to be a member of the House of Lords.  In a 2006 letter to Senators John Rockefeller and Olympia Snowe, he said,

Finally, you may wonder why it is that a member of the Upper House of the United Kingdom legislature, wholly unconnected with and unpaid by the corporation that is the victim of your lamentable letter, should take the unusual step of calling upon you as members of the Upper House of the United States legislature either to withdraw what you have written or resign your sinecures.

So, wait a second.  Is he, or isn’t he, a member of the House of Lords (“the Upper House of the United Kingdom legislature”)?  The key to detecting Monckton’s evasion is to realize that he claims to be a member of the House of Lords who doesn’t have a seat or vote.  Like a mascot, or something.  In a recent article he explained,

Google me and you’ll find hundreds of enviro-loony websites, such as Wikipedia, now an international music-hall joke for inaccuracy, that call me a fraud (for writing about climate science when I’m not a climate scientist), a plagiarist (for citing learned papers rather than making up scare stories), and a liar (for saying I’m a member of the House of Lords when – er – I’m a member of the House of Lords, though, being merely hereditary, I don’t have a seat there).

However, when I e-mailed the House of Lords Information Office about whether Monckton was some sort of “honorary,” or “non-voting” member, they replied,

Christopher Monckton is not and has never been a Member of the House of Lords. There is no such thing as a “non-voting” or “honorary” member.

(Check out this page for more details and the full text of the reply from the House of Lords Information Office.  Also check out this article in the Salt Lake Tribune, and this one from The Guardian, for details about my experiences with Monckton.)

The good congressman who brought the subject up didn’t really close the deal with Monckton, but he should be applauded for giving it the old college try.  The important thing is that we have fun making the Monckey dance.

Here’s another short tutorial on how to make His Lordship dance and squirm.  In a recent nasty e-mail exchange that involved both Lord Monckton and me, I brought up that he has publicly admitted lying about his personal circumstances to sell more units of a puzzle he invented.  A reporter from The Scotsman newspaper documented the whole thing.

Lord Monckton invented the Eternity Puzzle, and offered a $1 million prize for the first person to solve it.  Given the chance that someone would solve it before enough puzzles were sold to cover the prize, Monckton took out an insurance policy against such an eventuality.  Two mathematicians did solve the puzzle after only 18 months, and of course, the insurance covered it.  But as a publicity stunt Lord Monckton had gone around claiming that he had to sell his ancestral home to cover the prize.  In fact, he did sell his home, but he didn’t need the proceeds to cover the prize.  Monckton admitted the deception to The Scotsman, which reported:

Mr Monckton told The Scotsman that the story about him being forced to sell Crimonmogate, his 67-room pile near Peterhead, had been invented to boost sales. In fact, he said he had made a healthy profit from the first version of the puzzle, despite it being solved so quickly.

“[The house sale] was the story which the PR people dreamed up after we had three months of the best sales that any puzzle had ever had,” he said. “They wanted to keep the momentum going to take us through to Christmas.

“I was selling the house anyway and they asked me if I would be willing to tell people I was selling the house because I was afraid somebody might solve the puzzle too fast. I said ‘yes’. They said, ‘Don’t you mind being made to look an absolute prat’, and I said, ‘No – I’m quite used to that’. History is full of stories that aren’t actually true.

“We sold shed-loads of extra puzzles and I made an handsome profit – and I sold the house as well.”

But when I brought this incident up in our e-mail exchange as an example of Monckton’s tendency to make up facts whenever convenient, consider how he tried to evade the issue.

I did not admit to lying about selling my house because I feared someone would shortly win the £1 million prize for the ETERNITY puzzle: it is a matter of record that I sold my house, having admittedly taken full advantage of the publicity opportunity that the circumstances of the sale presented, and paid the prize in full.

Careful readers will note that his denial didn’t really deny anything he had been accused of.  Not wanting to miss the chance to watch Monckton squirm, I replied:

I’m confused about the puzzle business.  You say that this accusation is false because you paid the prize and sold your house.  The actual accusation, however, was that you said you had to sell your house to cover the prize, but in fact the prize was covered by insurance.  Therefore, the sale of your house was unrelated to the prize.  The article from the Scotsman I linked said this:  “The 54-year-old, who now lives in a mansion on the shores of Loch Rannoch in Perthshire, hit the headlines six years ago when he said he had been forced to sell his Aberdeenshire home to help cover the $1 million (£500,000) prize he had to pay out after Eternity, a 209-piece 3D jigsaw he had invented, was solved years sooner than he had expected by two British mathematicians.”  Did you not actually claim this?  Did the insurance not cover the prize?  Incidentally, there was a similar story in the Sunday Herald…. Did that reporter get the facts wrong, as well?

Here was Monckton’s response to me:

I do not propose to answer any further ad-hominem points, and, as I have explained, I shall not answer any points from anyone who continues to assert ad-hominem arguments against me. No further communications from this email address will be answered, therefore. – Monckton of Brenchley

So remember, Monckton’s method is to evade owning up to his lies by answering questions that nobody asked.  The key to extracting the maximum fun from making him dance is to keep the pressure on.  Don’t be daunted by the fact that he’s such an accomplished liar–just relax and enjoy the challenge.

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  1. I suggest a title for him: Liar. It starts with “L” and also has an “r” in it. It has the added benefit of being more accurate than “Lord.”

    • That brings to mind the well-known conundrum: “Liar, Lunatic, or Lord?” (Apologies to the apologists.)

      • Given he resides in Scotland shouldn’t it be ‘Laird’ (only without the d and a slight rearrangement of the letters)?

  2. Dr. Bickmore,

    Maybe you are setting the bar too low with your seeming tireless focus on Monckton. How about taking on some actual scientists? For example a recent post from WUWT and it’s related links should make great substantive climate change debate.

    Pielke, Sr. expanding on a question by Andy Revkin that is quite relevant to the current debate:

    “Is most of the observed warming over the last 50 years likely to have been due to the increase in greenhouse gas concentrations ?”

    Your rebuttal to Pielke and Roy Spencer on this question would be informative and welcome. Disclaimer: I don’t know if it’s good form to directly challenge a blog in your own blog. But, I notice that never stops your friend Tamino.

    • Hi Daniel,

      This blog focuses on Utah, and Lord Monckton recently visited Utah. Thanks for the link, though. Pielke is usually worth paying attention to, at least, even if you don’t agree with him.

      • “This blog focuses on Utah, and Lord Monckton recently visited Utah.”

        Thanks for clearing that up. In future I’ll make sure not to confuse Monckton of Brenchley with Monckton of Nephi.

        Does this mean that, because Roy Spencer once visited Utah, you’ll be doing a critical review of his new book “The Great Global Warming Blunder: How Mother Nature Fooled the World’s Top Climate Scientists”? I must admit I haven’t read it yet. It’s on my list though.

        Here’s a brief preview from his website:

        The most obvious way for warming to be caused naturally is for small, natural fluctuations in the circulation patterns of the atmosphere and ocean to result in a 1% or 2% decrease in global cloud cover. Clouds are the Earth’s sunshade, and if cloud cover changes for any reason, you have global warming — or global cooling.
        How could the experts have missed such a simple explanation? Because they have convinced themselves that only a temperature change can cause a cloud cover change, and not the other way around. The issue is one of causation. They have not accounted for cloud changes causing temperature changes.
        The experts have simply mixed up cause and effect when observing how clouds and temperature vary. The book reveals a simple way to determine the direction of causation from satellite observations of global average temperature and cloud variations. And that new tool should fundamentally change how we view the climate system.
        Blunder also addresses a second major mistake that results from ignoring the effect of natural cloud variations on temperature: it results in the illusion that the climate system is very sensitive. The experts claim that, since our climate system is very sensitive, then our carbon dioxide emissions are all that is needed to explain global warming. There is no need to look for alternative explanations.
        But I show that the experts have merely reasoned themselves in a circle on this subject. When properly interpreted, our satellite observations actually reveal that the system is quite IN-sensitive. And an insensitive climate system means that nature does not really care whether you travel by jet, or how many hamburgers or steaks you eat.”

        Tantalizing isn’t it. Spencer promises “peer reviewed research” to be published soon, supporting his claims.

    • Two more things.

      Pielke is at least a credentialed scientist. Why didn’t the Republicans in Congress ask him to testify? Why are they reduced to trotting out charlatans like Monckton?

      Answer: Because he won’t disappoint them by trying to state his case in a semi-responsible manner. He will just let rip whatever crazy misrepresentation of the science pops into his head. For instance, today he trotted out a paper by Pinker et al. to show that recent warming is due to natural causes. And yet, in a recent debate with Tim Lambert, he was shown that Dr. Pinker thought Monckton was misrepresenting her results. Since Monckton doesn’t care about accuracy, he keeps trotting out that paper.

      Alternative Answer: Because there just aren’t that many climate scientists who disagree with the consensus, and their schedules all conflicted with the hearing.

      The other issue I have, after reading Pielke’s post, is that these guys (Pielke, Spencer, Lindzen) like to wave their hands a lot about how clouds are a big uncertainty in the models, but they don’t ever seem to make any attempt to incorporate their ideas into a physical model that would allow them to test their ideas on paleoclimate data, let alone recent climate data. Can a model reproduce the ice ages without some hefty positive feedback in the system, for instance? I don’t think so.

      • I agree. Monckton was handed his lunch in that part of the debate.

    • Daniel, credentials though he may have, RP Sr. has pretty much departed the reservation with this one. Even the list of supposedly supporting citations is dodgy, since about half of them provide no support at all.

      Anyway, this would be a good place for you to start to get some specifics.

      • Steve,

        Robin Warren and Barry Marshall had to “depart the reservation” in the early 80s when they correctly identified H. pylori as a cause for peptic ulcers. Until then, virtually every physician in the world was treating the disease with antacid, dietary changes and attempts to lower stress.

      • I think it may have been Carl Sagan who said something to the effect of “They called the Wright brothers clowns. They also called Bozo a clown.” The H. Pylori story is interesting for sure, but 1) that type of overturning of consensus is the exception, not the rule–lets not pretend otherwise, and 2) aside from the fact that in both cases the experts were largely in agreement…can you think of any other parallels? The situations seem totally different to me.

        It seems that Steve is using the phrase “left the reservation” to indicate RP Sr.’s departure from intellectual rigor, whereas Daniel is using it to refer to bucking the conventional wisdom. Hence if Daniel is implying that Steve is being critical of skepticism (i.e. real, honest skepticism), I think Daniel is misunderstanding Steve’s point.

      • (This is supposed to be aq reply to Daniel, but there was no “reply” button).

        It is one thing to take a position, stick with it forever, fighting against massive and increasing evidence, whose results are strongly supported by physics. {Really, to make AGW not happen, you pretty much have to get rid of Conservation of Energy or quantum mechanics…)

        It is rather different to examine an area where people didn’t really understand the problem, come up with a new hypothesis. Since science is conservative, new hypotheses are always greeted by skepticism, but when people (fairly quickly) replicated the results, their hypothesis was fairly rapidly accepted, i.e., over the next few years. The original paper was in 1985, by 1995 they’d gotten a Lasker, and by 2005 a Nobel, and a stack of other awards.

        In science, no one gets Nobels for just agreeing with the mainstream. People build reputations by being early to identify new ideas *that actually turn out to work and get increasing support*. People whose work keeps getting proven wrong, who stick with ideas proven wrong many times, just forgotten. But they are popular with people who cannot tolerate inconvenient science.

    • You seem to hold Roy Spencers work in high esteem. Here is an example of his blog work, the part that he does not submit to peer review.

      Spencer posited: If the C13/C12 relationship during NATURAL inter-annual variability is the same as that found for the trends, how can people claim that the trend signal is MANMADE??

      Tamino took it up and showed, how this claim was wrong. Anyone with highschool level math ought to be able to understand his post, but as his reply seemingly went over the head of most commenters at WUWT, I showed the fallacy for what it is in detail. Spencer never addressed this issue, nor did he retract his claim. Furthermore, Spencer doesn’t mind regressing linear trends against each other and claiming that this proves something about the fitted raw data.

      Spencer’s peer-reviewed published work seems to be OK, I don’t trust his blog writings, though.

  3. Hi Daniel,

    That’s not a bad idea to do a piece or two on Roy Spencer, sometime. Since I just started the blog, you can’t blame me for picking the low-hanging fruit, though. ;-)

  4. > … you may wonder why it is that a member of
    > the Upper House of the United Kingdom legislature

    See, he used the wrong word. He should’ve said

    “you may wonder if a member of the Upper House …”

    And the correct answer is:

    No, no member of the Upper House did.

    • Ahhh, sneaky. You could teach His Lordship a thing or two about deceiving without technically lying.

  5. [...] far, I have personally checked into Monckton’s claims about being a member of the House of Lords, the IPCC’s CO2 and temperature “predictions”,  solar variations as a climate [...]

  6. [...] readers may think I have already posted too much about Lord Christopher Monckton.  (See here and here.)  But the fact is that bloggers are expected to be snarky, and for that purpose Monckton is the [...]

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