Posted by: Barry Bickmore | March 26, 2012

The Monckton Files: Squealing Tires

Last month I wrote a post about how Peter Hadfield, an experienced science journalist and YouTuber, seemed to be cornering Lord Monckton into a debate.  Here’s an excerpt from that earlier post.

Several months ago I wrote a post here about how Lord Christopher Monckton’s handler, Bob Ferguson, had tried to get me to do a live debate with Monckton.  I declined, because I felt that live debates favor people who, well… make up whatever they want.  Instead, I proposed a written online debate, in which we would have time to check each other’s sources.  This proposal was flatly refused.

Well, it appears that Monckton may have been forced into a written debate by an experienced science journalist, Peter Hadfield.  Or at least he’s been forced into looking very, very bad if he doesn’t accept Hadfield’s challenge.

Hadfield, who goes by the handle “Potholer54″ on YouTube, produces a high quality series of videos that debunk common climate myths.  Some months ago he produced five videos debunking various claims made by Monckton.  (Lord Monckton Bunkum Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4Part 5).  Much of it was simply a matter of checking Monckton’s sources and comparing what they actually say to the claims Monckton used them to support.  In other words, Hadfield did a John Abraham, but with video clips to back up his assertions about what Monckton had said.  Monckton posted a “response” to the video series on the Watt’s Up With That? blog, in which he dropped a bunch of insults on Hadfield and tried to squirm out of the charges by essentially denying everything.  Hadfield responded back with a two-part video series (Part 1,Part 2), which was, to be frank, devastating, because Monckton was on video saying all those things he now denies having said.

But here’s where the story gets really good.  Anthony Watts, a former weatherman and proprietor of the Watt’s Up With That? blog, has now posted a written response by Hadfield right under Monckton’s post.

Apparently, Monckton had promised to answer Hadfield’s criticism, but he has now responded to Hadfield’s requests by saying that he all of a sudden has far too much other stuff to do, and so he can’t possibly be expected to address such “inconsequentialities” as whether he misrepresented his sources to make all the major points in his public lectures.  This is quite amusing to Monckton watchers like myself, because for years His Lordship has been touting the fact that Al Gore refuses to debate him.  Al Gore would likely refuse to debate Jessica Simpson or the guy who played Screech on Saved by the Bell, too, but the fact is that Monckton has very publicly criticized certain points in Gore’s movie, An Inconvenient Truth, and many, many people repeat those criticisms.  In my opinion, most of the criticisms are absurd, but I don’t think Gore would be remiss in assigning a staffer to do some kind of written response.  I’m all for ignoring fringe figures, but when fringe figures are testifying before the U.S. Congress as “expert” witnesses, maybe it’s time to take notice.  Here is Monckton throwing down the gauntlet for Al Gore on Fox News (video here):

I want you to face me in a debate about global warming, and if you don’t dare, I want you to remain silent about that subject forever, from now on.

As I noted, however, the sort of debate Monckton wants is the kind where you can say anything you want and nobody can check your sources.  So now that he has been cornered into a debate ABOUT his sources, with video clips and photographs of paragraphs in the papers he cites, I think it’s a bit uncomfortable for him.  Hadfield has followed up with an open letter to Monckton, which he has posted on his YouTube channel, challenging Monckton to continue with the debate.

Will Monckton respond?  I doubt it, but he has no excuse for it.  Peter Hadfield had this to say with respect to Monckton’s “I don’t have time” excuse.

Let me address the first excuse first. I understand you are currently on a busy tour, but you promised Anthony Watts you would respond when you returned from your last tour, and you did not. Meanwhile I note that you have had plenty of time to respond to a university newsletter that criticized you, and you spent two hours talking on skype to a small classroom of students. I fail to see why these are “priorities”, while my 57,000 subscribers and the hundreds of thousands of subscribers to wattsupwiththat are not deserving of an answer from you concerning clear evidence that you seriously misled your audiences over a period of several years. The people watching this debate have watched you vacate your chair, and are still expecting to see you to re-appear from backstage at any moment with some incisive rebuttal after checking my evidence. I am sure they will be as shocked as I am to hear the squealing of car tyres as you make good your escape.

As the sound of Monckton’s squealing tires fades into the distance, the real question is this.  If Monckton refuses to debate Hadfield, will he “remain silent about [climate change] forever, from now on”?


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  1. So surely Gore should immediately agree to a debate with Monckton, with only one proviso, that it be a written one.

    • Sure. Or at least he should assign a staffer to make a written response. It’s like shooting fish in a barrel with Monckton if you actually check his sources.

  2. I can attest to Monckton being busy in recent days (which doesn’t excuse him from failing to respond when he said he would, after his last tour). He’s currently busy touring California, giving a presentation full of the usual misinformation and conspiracy theory nonsense.

    I’ll have a post on his Sacramento presentation on Skeptical Science on Wednesday. Frankly his time would be much better served looking at the misrepresentations of his sources documented by Hadfield, rather than giving presentations full of similar misrepresentations to the public and policymakers.

  3. Funny,

    Reading the comments on WUWT, where Moncton has NOT responded to Hadfields most recent rebuttal, one would get the strong impression that Moncton had eviscerated all Hadfield’s arguments.
    It is fascinating to see the degree of self-censoring people do in order to continue to believe what they want.
    I was also fascinated with the hammering Singer got in his attempt to distance himself from the denialist cranks.
    And I just remembered Ann Coulter was vilified in comments when she contended that Republicans can nomonate nutjobs as long as there are a couple of million followers whereas Dems never give space to the certifiably nuts Democratic candidates (who she contends includes Kucinich, who in my opinion is quite sane)

    • “It is fascinating to see the degree of self-censoring people do in order to continue to believe what they want.”

      That’s why they’re called deniers, after all.

  4. Ah. I guess you posted about Coulter.

  5. Barry,

    I would like to suggest that the challenge for CAGW believers is not convincing Monckton but convincing physicists like Dr. Happer of Princeton and Dr. Brown of Duke (in a previous comment). There profs give great cover for any politician who doesn’t want to vote for policy to address CAGW (policies that increase energy costs).

    Dr. Hopper In today’s WSJ

    “It is easy to be confused about climate, because we are constantly being warned about the horrible things that will happen or are already happening as a result of mankind’s use of fossil fuels. But these ominous predictions are based on computer models. It is important to distinguish between what the climate is actually doing and what computer models predict. The observed response of the climate to more CO2 is not in good agreement with model predictions.”

    “We need high-quality climate science because of the importance of climate to mankind. But we should also remember the description of how science works by the late, great physicist, Richard Feynman:

    “In general we look for a new law by the following process. First we guess it. Then we compute the consequences of the guess to see what would be implied if this law that we guessed is right. Then we compare the result of the computation to nature, with experiment or experience; compare it directly with observation, to see if it works. If it disagrees with experiment it is wrong.”

    “The most important component of climate science is careful, long-term observations of climate-related phenomena, from space, from land, and in the oceans. If observations do not support code predictions—like more extreme weather, or rapidly rising global temperatures—Feynman has told us what conclusions to draw about the theory.”

    Dr. Brown

    “Look, here’s how you can tell — to get back to your question. You compare the predictions of their “catastrophic” theory five, ten, twenty years back to the actual data. If there is good agreement, it is at least possible that they are correct. The greater the deviation between observed reality and their predictions, the more likely it is that their result is at least incorrect if not actual bullshit. That’s all. Accurately predicting the future isn’t proof that they are right, but failing to predict it is pretty strong evidence that they are wrong.”


    “The latter is the story that is being widely told, to keep people from losing faith in a theory that isn’t working — so far — the way that it should. And I have only one objection to that. Keep your hands off of my money while the theory is still unproven and not in terribly good agreement with reality!

    Well, I have other objections as well — open up the debate, acknowledge the uncertainties, welcome contradictory theories, stop believing in a set of theoretical results as if climate science is some sort of religion… but we can start with shit-canning the IPCC and the entire complex arrangement of “remedies” to a problem that may well be completely ignorable and utterly destined to take care of itself long before it ever becomes a real problem.”

    • If only these guys actually did climate research.

      • And if only it wasn’t printed in the Wall St. Journal, which is no a science free zone.

        Charles. Did you say this guy is a professor of physics?
        I’m not scientist, but what you posted sure looks like a lot of hand waving to me.

        The Climate of Physics

        “As one of the younger ones pointed out
        this is a problem with physicists: they think they know everything, because they’re smart. What they don’t understand is that yes, it is true, actually meteorology is a branch of physics. And so you take a physicist, like me, and you can sit him down, and in 2 or 3 years, they could learn meteorology. But physicists confuse being smart and having the ability to learn everything with actually knowing stuff! ”

    • Charles, there is no challenge in convincing the unconvincible. It simply is not possible.

      It’s like trying to convince Kary Mullis and Peter Duesberg that HIV really does cause AIDS. Or convincing Henry Morris (if he’d were still alive) that his young earth creationism requires some pretty novel ways of interpreting physics and biology that are all at odds with current theories.

      In 2010 Will Happer was still claiming that CFCs don’t harm the ozone layer based on highly cherry-picked data, so there is no reason to assume he would ever be swayed to accept what the majority of scientists have concluded on global warming, if more than 20 years after the Montreal Protocol he is still trying to find ways of casting doubt on the role of CFCs in ozone breakdown.

      Brown’s cherrypicking (see also Barry’s post on Will Happer’s …uhm…less -than-honesty) doesn’t bode well either.

    • The only CAGW believers are the deniers. They’re practically the only ones talking about it.

  6. Monckton is a high class act and indeed is very difficult to follow. Greek and Roman Classics are his speciality. He has therefore abused the elevated position of his birth – and his non-expertise – to great effect.

    Professor Richard Lindzen should be silenced as well. When caught-out spouting nonsense, just like Monckton, he becomes very difficult to pin down. However, Lindzen gave up being objective about science a very long time ago.

    Unfortunately, MIT think his perfunctory apology (for one piece of NASA-GISS data misrepresentation) is sufficient to cover over a multitude of other sins.

    And finally, the AGU apparently don’t like what Lindzen has been doing but do not have a Code of Conduct via which they could discipline him.

    Honestly, you could not make this stuff up!

    • If Lindzen apologized and admitted the error, I don’t see why he should be disciplined. I wish Monckton would ever admit an error.

      • I was there, Barry; and I know what I saw. I did not even notice the NASA-GISS slip up (as only pedants would even bother to investigate it). What I saw was someone taking great care to misrepresent the situation to people without the equipment to recognise they were being misled. Lindzen’s apology for one “mistake” does not absolve him of responsibility for everything else that was wrong with his (misrep)presentation.

        Lindzen is a disgrace to his profession who, at least 20 years ago, made a very clear choice to put his faith in libertarian ideology (rather than science).

        • Oh, I agree that Lindzen has lost it, but I think he’s more blinded by ideology than consciously deceptive. It’s often hard to tell the difference, though, so I don’t think it’s a good idea to go after academics for being wrong.

          • Thanks Barry. Have you seen this very honest response to a similar comment by me (on climatecrocks) by “caseyeh” (from an academic institution in Ohio possibly?)…

  7. Perhaps Gore could have Hadfield write the responses. That way Mr Monckton could debate both simultaneously, and resolve the issue of debate avoidance once and for all.

    [Cue smoking, squealing tires...]

  8. [...] See also: Climate Crocks, Barry Bickmore. [...]

  9. interesting back and forth with Monckton is here:

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