If you have been reading my blog, you may have already guessed that I find Lord Christopher Monckton to be a fascinating character. But given his hearty acceptance by the climate change contrarian community, as evidenced by the fact that he has TWICE been asked by Republicans to testify about climate change before committees of the U.S. Congress, I ascribe him more significance. To me, Lord Monckton is a living symbol of the fact that many climate change contrarians will believe anything that seems to support their case, even if it’s coming from the most ridiculous source. He’s the gift that keeps on giving to folks that are trying to convince the public that we need to do something about climate change. His strange behavior comes up so often, however, that it’s easy to forget the older examples. To fully appreciate Lord Monckton, you have to keep in mind the sheer volume of kookiness he produces.
With that in mind, I have created this page to collect Monckton’s entire rap sheet into one place for easy reference. I have allowed comments, so please write if you want me to update the page with a new example, or even if you want to defend him. I’ll not update the text with any charges that I don’t think are adequately backed up, however, and I have no problem linking to any responses Lord Monckton wants to post on the Internet.
[UPDATE: If you want to see who has been using Monckton as a trusted source of information, check out The Church of Monckton. UPDATE: For a compilation of rebuttals of Monckton's favorite arguments, see Monckton Myths over at the Skeptical Science site.]
Being a “Snake Oil Salesman” Who Actually Sells the Equivalent of Snake Oil
Nobody could make this stuff up.
1. Monckton claimed that he has developed a cure for Graves’ Disease, AIDS, Multiple Schlerosis, the flu, and the common cold. This is no joke–he actually filed an application to patent a “therapeutic treatment” in 2009. Is it homeopathy? Massive doses of vitamin C? The world waits with bated breath.
2. The list of diseases cured by Monckton’s miracle tonic expands from time to time. At one point he claimed, “Patients have been cured of various infectious diseases, including Graves’ Disease, multiple sclerosis, influenza, and herpes simplex VI.” At another time he said, ”Patients have been cured of various infectious diseases, including Graves’ disease, multiple sclerosis, influenza, food poisoning, and HIV.” Maybe some of you physicians out there can help me interpret this, but it looks to me like Monckton is claiming that his Wonder Cure will 1) wipe out any virus without harming the patient, and 2) cure auto-immune disorders that may (or may not) have initially been triggered by a viral infection. It is unclear to me whether bacterial infections are supposed to be affected since, for instance, food poisoning could be caused by either. [UPDATE: Monckton apparently is saying the miracle cure should be effective against both viral and bacterial infections, as well as prions.]
Shady Business Dealings
1. Monckton lied about his personal circumstances to sell more of his Eternity puzzle, and admitted it. Later, he tried to talk his way out of the lie.
Inflating His Résumé
1. Monckton represented himself to members of the U.S. Congress as a member of the U.K. House of Lords (the upper house of Parliament.) When people started pointing out that he doesn’t appear on the official list of members, however, he started saying that he is a member “without a seat or vote.” When queried, the House of Lords responded that there is no such thing as a member without a seat or vote, and Lord Monckton had never been a member because he inherited his title (Viscount) in 2006, after all but 92 hereditary peers had been barred from membership in the House of Lords since 1999. When asked to respond about this misrepresentation by members of Congress, Monckton basically acknowledged that the British government doesn’t recognize him as a member of the House of Lords, but claimed that they’re wrong because his “Letters Patent” that granted his title to the family (and presumably mention membership in the House of Lords) had never been revoked by specific legislation. He said that the Lord President of the Council in the House of Lords had admitted that letters patent could only be annulled by specific legislation. However, Tim Lambert actually looked up what the Lord President of the Council said, and it turns out that she used the House of Lords Act 1999 as an example of legislation that altered the effect of Letters Patent. In other words, she said the exact opposite of Monckton’s claim. UPDATE: I should have mentioned that Monckton has also gone about using a logo that it quite similar to that of Parliament. Derek at Friends of Gin and Tonic sent an inquiry to the House of Lords Information Office about Monckton’s claim to be a member and his use of the logo, and they responded that, “The House is currently taking steps with a view to ensuring that Lord Monckton does not in future either claim to be a member of the House or use the parliamentary emblem or any variant thereof.” UPDATED UPDATE: Leo Hickman at The Guardian followed up on this with the House of Lords, and found that it’s just possible Monckton could do prison time. We can only hope, but it appears that Monckton may be quietly backing down! In his latest post on the Watts Up With That? blog, Monckton has changed his logo to a gaudy coronet, rather than the gaudy coronet and pink portcullis. ANOTHER UPDATE: Monckton is still claiming to be a member of the House of Lords, and he has added the portcullis back into his logo (although with wavy chains instead of straight). Now the House has taken the step of publishing a “cease and desist” letter on their website. Full story by Leo Hickman in The Guardian.
2. Monckton claimed to be a co-recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize awarded to Al Gore and the IPCC because he supposedly sent the IPCC a letter pointing out something that needed to be corrected in a draft report. At one point he said the claim to be a Nobel laureate was all a joke, but it has continued to be posted by Monckton in his bio at the Science and Public Policy Institute, and the sorts of people who believe Monckton have often repeated the claim with a straight face. (This brings up an important question. On whom was Monckton playing the joke?)
3. Monckton has made several dubious claims about what he did as a member of Margaret Thatcher’s policy unit.
4. One example of these dubious claims is that he was the author of “a 1200-word article for the Daily Telegraph on the reasons in international law why the Falkland Islands are British, read out on the BBC World Service’s Argentinian broadcasts every 20 minutes during the Falklands War.” George Monbiot phoned up the BBC, and they said they had never done any specifically Argentine broadcasts. Maybe Monckton was confused about who did the broadcasting, however.
5. Monckton is now claiming to be ”an appointed expert reviewer for the forthcoming ‘Fifth Assessment Report’ to be published by the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.” But all you need to do to be an “expert reviewer” is to make a self-declaration of expertise. The IPCC doesn’t “appoint” anyone as a reviewer.
Deflating Others’ Résumés
Monckton is not only prone to artificially inflate his own credentials–he also tends to deflate others’ credentials. This makes the issue of Monckton’s qualifications that much more entertaining. Since he was a classics major and journalist, anyone who got a minor in Nutrition or Physical Therapy would automatically have more formal scientific training than him. Why would Monckton, of all people, make an issue of others’ qualifications to talk about climate science?
1. In his wonderfully batty first response to John Abraham’s critique of one of his presentations, Monckton attacked the credentials of both Prof. Abraham and the journalist George Monbiot. He explained, “All of the sciences are becoming increasingly specialized. So most ‘scientists’ – Abraham and, a fortiori, the accident-prone Monbiot among them – have no more expertise in predicting or even understanding the strange behavior of the complex, non-linear, chaotic object that is the Earth’s climate than the man on the Clapham omnibus.” He called Abraham “a lecturer in fluid mechanics at a bible-college in Minnesota,” and Monbiot “a fourteenth-rate zoologist, so his specialization has even less to do with climate science than that of Abraham.” But as Prof. Abraham later pointed out, the physical processes he studies (fluid mechanics and heat transfer) and some of the techniques he uses (numerical simulation) are the same ones climatologists use to understand climate. So while he isn’t a climatologist, his professional background does help him understand clearly what the climatologists are saying. (This is a particularly good thing, e.g., if you are looking up scientific papers Monckton cites to see if he has represented their content correctly. See the next section.) Furthermore, he works at the University of St. Thomas, which is a Catholic University with graduate programs, rather than a ”Bible College,” and Prof. Abraham has extensively published his research. I have never seen George Monbiot bring up the fact that he has a Master’s degree in Zoology from Oxford in any discussion of climate, but like I said, any degree in science is better than none if you want to brandish credentials.
2. Five scientists (including me) recruited over 20 world-class experts in various climate-related specialties to respond to Monckton’s 2010 testimony to Congress. Monckton responded by dismissing all of the experts because of “Climategate.” Apparently, even if you were only mentioned in those stolen e-mails, that means you are now discredited! He attacked the organizers because most of us aren’t climate specialists, but, um… that’s why we recruited all those experts.
Misrepresenting Scientific Literature
1. John Abraham pointed out a number of examples where Monckton cited scientific literature that actually refuted his points, or the authors of the papers said that Monckton had misinterpreted their results.
2. Tim Lambert caught Monckton making up stories about one Dr. Pinker, and it turns out that Dr. Pinker says Monckton misinterpreted her work.
3. Monckton cited statistics about variations in the amount of incoming solar radiation to come to exactly the opposite conclusion from the authors he cited.
4. He also repeatedly cited statistics about local temperature records and treated them as if they were global. (This is a big no-no.)
5. Lord Monckton totally botched his discussion of ocean acidification, revealing that he doesn’t understand ocean circulation, the significance of pH in aqueous systems, and so on.
6. Monckton published an article on climate sensitivity in a newsletter of the American Physical Society. He has repeatedly claimed that this constitutes a peer-reviewed scientific publication about climate change, but the fact is that society newsletters are not typically “peer-reviewed” in any normal sense, and the newsletter editor appended a notice on Monckton’s article saying it was not peer-reviewed. A single scientist associated with the journal (and not a climate specialist) giving you some comments on a draft isn’t the same thing. Almost 2 years later, Monckton was still claiming the newsletter is peer-reviewed scientific literature, however. In any case, Arthur Smith picked this article apart and found 125 errors of fact and logic. Tim Lambert provided a short explanation for why Monckton’s main argument was wrong.
7. Lord Monckton really wants the Medieval Warm Period to have been warmer than today, and will latch onto any piece of “evidence” that seems to support this. For example, he wrote that “There was little ice at the North Pole: a Chinese naval squadron sailed right round the Arctic in 1421 and found none.” He apparently got this claim from Gavin Menzies, but it has been shown to be complete garbage.
8. A New York Times reporter fact-checked Monckton after a debate by asking experts in the relevant fields to comment. The experts said that Monckton was in fantasyland about polar bear populations and global temperature histories. As an aside, I mentioned above that I had shown Monckton tended to erroneously use local temperature records in place of global ones, which is what he was criticized for in the Times.
9. Alden Griffith showed how Monckton has cherrypicked data when discussing trends in Arctic sea ice extent.
10. Skeptical Science has now posted Monckton Myths, a page that collects links to all of Monckton’s main pseudo-scientific arguments, and scientific rebuttals. Since Monckton recycles his arguments ad nauseum, long after they have been shown to be flatly wrong, this should be a valuable resource for many years!
Making up Data
1. Lord Monckton made up data on atmospheric CO2 concentration and global mean temperature that he claimed were IPCC predictions. (This has been addressed several times by Gavin Schmidt, John Nielsen-Gammon, Lucia Liljegren, and me. And yet, Monckton still keeps publishing the same false claims.)
Abusing Scientific Equations
It doesn’t take much effort to plug some numbers into a scientific equation and solve it. Scientists have to learn to plug the right numbers into equations appropriate for the problem at hand, and it usually requires considerable experience for this principle to sink into students’ brains. Before it sinks in, students often tend to use the wrong equations for a given scenario, or plug the wrong kinds of values into the right equations. Monckton does both.
1. He attacked mainstream estimates of climate sensitivity by a misapplication of the Stefan-Bolzmann equation.
2. Monckton made some wild claims about climate drivers after he misinterpreted the work of Rachel Pinker and colleagues. He essentially plugged the wrong kind of numbers into an equation that converts a change in radiative forcing into change in global mean temperature.
3. He frequently uses an IPCC equation for the EQUILIBRIUM temperature response of climate models to calculate TRANSIENT temperature response. The IPCC publishes the transient responses, as well, but Monckton refuses to use that data, because he says the IPCC has monkeyed with their models to make the transient response agree better with global temperature data. In the past he has just substituted in the equilibrium values and plotted them as if they were time-series. However, in response to criticism he says he’s going to correct the equilibrium values–seemingly by multiplying them by a factor of 0.8 instead of looking at the actual model output.
Threatening Those Who Disagree With Him
1. Monckton has threatened to instigate academic misconduct investigations against several professors who have exposed his misrepresentations. The list so far includes Naomi Oreskes, John Abraham, and myself. He has even threatened a libel suit against John Abraham. UPDATE: Monckton has now threatened to extend the libel suit to include Scott Mandia. Here is Scott’s reply. UPDATE: John Abraham tells me that Monckton has threatened lawsuits against him several more times, and Monckton has also threatened me, once again. He also wrote my university administration to tell them I was mentally imbalanced, and that I had been sending him “hate mail”. Well, at least the second part is false.
2. He launched a complaint to the Press Complaints Commission in the UK against The Guardian because of a column George Monbiot wrote about Monckton’s antics. The PCC threw out the complaint. In a bizarre twist, George Monbiot reported that someone claiming to be Monckton and using Monckton’s IP address had tried to edit his Wikipedia page to falsely claim that he had won a £50,000 settlement from The Guardian because of Monbiot’s article.
3. Monckton lobbed threats against Arthur Smith after Arthur objected that Monckton (and the Science and Public Policy Institute) had violated copyright. Smith had written a rebuttal of one of Monckton’s articles, and was trying to get it published. Monckton put the entire thing up on the web along with his comments, and altered the article to imply that Smith had written it at the behest of his employer, the American Physical Society, which was not true. Arthur prevailed after threatening legal action, because he was clearly in the right.
4. John Mashey pointed out an instance where one contrarian had plagiarized from Monckton (and cited papers that had been challenged and withdrawn), and then Monckton turned around and praised the work. When Richard Littlemore reported this, Monckton left a comment on the page saying that Mashey was “under investigation” for breaching “doctor-patient confidentiality,” and that he was guilty of “interfering in an unlawful manner on the blogosphere.” To this day, I don’t think anyone has any idea what Monckton was talking about.
5. George Monbiot chronicled how Monckton has threatened several times to sue The Guardian for libel. The U.K. has libel laws that are absurdly in favor of plaintiffs, and yet, these lawsuits have never materialized.
6. Senators John Rockefeller and Olympia Snowe wrote an open letter to Exxon-Mobile, urging them to stop funding climate-contrarian “think-tanks,” whose tactics resemble those of the tobacco industry, Lord Monckton wrote an open letter to the senators, in which he said, “In the circumstances, your comparison of Exxon’s funding of sceptical scientists and groups with the former antics of the tobacco industry is unjustifiable and unworthy of any credible elected representatives. Either withdraw that monstrous comparison forthwith, or resign so as not to pollute the office you hold.” Ok, so this isn’t really a threat, but Monckton’s language is so bombastic and filled with fake moral outrage that it almost feels like a threat. I should note that 1) in his letter, Monckton falsely claimed to be a member of Parliament, and 2) Naomi Oreskes, a prominent science historian, and Erik Conway, have shown that not only do the most prominent organizations fighting mainstream climate science follow the same playbook as the tobacco industry, but it’s often the SAME organizations and people doing the fighting on both fronts!
7. Monckton launched yet another complaint to the Press Complaints Commission against New Scientist magazine, which had the temerity to point out that Monckton’s article on climate sensitivity in an American Physical Society newsletter was not peer-reviewed, among other things. Of course, the editor had specifically noted that the newsletter is not a peer-reviewed publication, but Monckton said he had the article critiqued by a “Professor of Physics,” i.e., someone who isn’t a climate specialist. The complaint was not upheld.
8. His Lordship complained to Ofcom, the British regulator for TV and radio programming, that he had been unfairly treated by the producers of the BBC documentary, Earth: The Climate Wars. Ofcom found that the show’s producers should have given more information to Monckton upfront about the nature of the program (even though Monckton expressed familiarity with how the BBC had covered the issue in the past.) However, they found that the lack of informed consent did not result in any misrepresentation of Monckton’s views by unfair editing. The complaint summary linked above is a fascinating read, if you have about 15 minutes.
9. Monckton threatened to have IPCC Chairman Rajendra Pachauri jailed for fraud because he used an IPCC graph that turns out to be correct, but misleading. In his letter to Pachauri, however, His Lordship used a temperature graph that had already been shown by several scientists to be blatantly fabricated. I’m sure Monckton is on his way to Scotland Yard right now to give himself up.
10. The BBC aired a documentary called “Meet the Climate Sceptics” which apparently focused largely on Lord Monckton. (Click here to see the trailer.) In fact Monckton unsuccessfully attempted to have the courts stop the BBC from airing it unless they allowed him to insert a 3 minute video rebuttal into the program.
11. The ABC (Australia) aired a rather stunning gutting of Monckton and his crowd. Journalist Wendy Carlisle brought up several instances where Monckton’s sources contradicted him, the fact that he falsely claims to be a member of Parliament, his miracle cure-all, and more. So of course, Monckton threatened to sue unless given airtime to reply.
Making Up Crazy Conspiracy Theories
1. He accused NASA of crashing its own satellite so it wouldn’t have to deal with more data that contradicts the scientific consensus about climate change.
2. Monckton claimed that a treaty would be ratified at the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen that would “impose a communist world government on the world.”
3. After the BP oil spill disaster, Monckton went on CNBC claiming that Pres. Obama has some sort of vendetta against BP because he hates the United Kingdom. What’s the evidence? Well, Obama has repeatedly referred to BP as “British Petroleum”. Which is, well, what “BP” originally stood for. Note that he wasn’t just saying that Obama was using the fact that BP is based in the UK to score political points, pass the buck, or whatever. He was claiming that Obama HATES the U.K., and mentioned some rumor about Obama’s Kenyan ancestors being mistreated by the Brits.
4. After Monckton and his allies went about crowing that his article in an APS newsletter was “peer-reviewed,” the APS started appending notices on all its newsletter articles stating they are not peer-reviewed. Monckton claimed it was all a Communist plot. Marxist, to be precise.
5. Monckton apparently subscribes to one of the “Birther” conspiracy theories, claiming that Barack Obama’s birth certificate is fake. He hasn’t yet explained how birth announcements for Obama made it into a couple Honolulu newspapers in 1961, but I’m sure such nagging little details will be explained in due course.
1. On the Michael Coren show, Monckton butchered the history of the DDT ban so badly that he claimed JFK did things after he was dead… among other things.
A Reluctant Posterchild for Godwin’s Law of Nazi Analogies
1. Some young environmentalist protesters in Copenhagen started chanting and disrupting some meeting Monckton was involved with. Monckton later called these people “Hitler Youth,” even though some were Jewish. Ok, so I would be annoyed about the protesters, too, but when asked about the incident, Monckton denied to an AP reporter that he had been the one to make that comment. But, um… someone had already posted the video on YouTube.
2. Monckton gave a speech at Utah Valley University, in which he said that a group of local scientists (including me) were “trying to impose the same kind of tyranny as Hitler.” When some of us called him on this during an e-mail exchange, he said he didn’t recall having compared us to Nazis.
3. In a speech given at the 2011 Big Footprint Conference, sponsored by the American Freedom Alliance, Monckton gave a long tirade about “eco-fascists”, and compared them to Hitler. (He also flashed up slides with quotations by various accused “eco-fascists” next to a large Nazi flag.) Obviously, there are people who think Democracy can’t deal with a problem like climate change and should move to a more totalitarian form of government, but His Lordship was rather free with his Nazi analogies. E.g., Prof. Ross Garnaut, an Australian economist who wrote a government report on dealing with climate change, said that people who don’t know anything about climate science have no rational choice but to accept what the experts say about it. Of course, for Monckton this sentiment is radically anti-Democratic, but the fact is that Prof. Garnaut was simply encouraging people to be rational. To everyone but the tinfoil hat crowd, summarily rejecting the consensus of scientific experts without knowing what you are talking about is, well… irrational.
Being an All-Purpose Extremist
1. It’s a good thing Monckton has developed a cure for AIDS! In 1987 he suggested rounding up all AIDS-sufferers and isolating them for life. Since nobody took his sage advice, he later acknowledged that the problem had gotten too big for his suggestion to be feasible.
2. Monckton suggested it might be a good idea to require scientists to have some kind of religious certification before being allowed to practice in a field like climatology. You know, because scientists are a pack of atheists who think lying is ok.
3. Monckton claimed that, as a member of Margaret Thatcher’s policy unit, he suggested spiking the Argentines’ water supplies with a “mild bacillus” so the British troops could more easily win the Falklands War. He said he believed Thatcher had followed his advice, even though this would clearly have been a violation of the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention.
He Can Dish it Out, But Can’t Take It
Lord Monckton has repeatedly accused scientists and others of lies, fraud, and conspiracy to impose a Communist world government. He routinely calls people who disagree with him “bed-wetters,” “zombies,” and “Hitler Youth” (see above.) Well, fine. However, nobody likes the kid who can dish it out, but can’t take it. (If you want to see an amazing string of epithets that came from Monckton’s mouth in a single talk, click here. It’s astonishing!)
1. When John Abraham posted an exceptionally mild-mannered, careful critique of one of Monckton’s presentations, His Lordship complained that, “so venomously ad hominem are Abraham’s artful puerilities, delivered in a nasal and irritatingly matey tone (at least we are spared his face — he looks like an overcooked prawn), that climate-extremist bloggers everywhere have circulated them and praised them to the warming skies.” Watch Abraham’s presentation, then read Monckton’s response (heck, just read the passage I just quoted,) and decide for yourself whose language was “venomous,” and whose arguments were ad hominem.
2. When I charged, in an e-mail conversation involving Monckton and a number of local scientists, that Monckton had 1) lied about his personal circumstances for monetary gain (see above), 2) lied about being a member of Parliament (see above), and 3) made up data to discredit the IPCC (see above), he said, “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.” But as Richard Littlemore pointed out, if the issue is Monckton’s credibility, it isn’t ad hominem to point out that he routinely makes things up.
Lord Monckton has largely been ignored or dismissed by scientists in the past because, after all, how could anyone take him seriously (see above)? But we have been astonished to find out that he has been taken seriously by some very powerful people–U.S. Senators and Representatives, for example–and my sense is that the vacation is over. A number of scientists have begun systematically picking apart his scientific arguments (see above). This does not sit well with someone who thinks he is a super-genius who has single-handedly gutted the entire field of climatology and invented a miracle cure-all (among other things.) So when the pressure is on, Monckton can really lose it.
1. The University of St. Thomas unequivocally told Monckton to take a flying leap when he was campaigning to get them to launch an academic investigation against John Abraham, who had critiqued one of Monckton’s presentations. Monckton went on Alex Jones’s show and called Abraham a “wretched little man,” the University of St. Thomas a “half-assed Catholic Bible College,” and the President of the University (Father Dease) a “creep.” He also said the Archbishop of St. Paul (who oversees the University) was “probably so busy sorting out the problems with little boys that he hasn’t got time to deal with this one.” Don’t worry, Catholic readers! Monckton is a Catholic himself, so his comments can’t possibly be construed as bigoted!