Posted by: Barry Bickmore | July 23, 2011

The Debate Monckton Won’t Have

Over in Australia, Christopher Monckton is busy trying to stir up controversy about a proposed carbon tax over there by challenging anyone who disagrees with him to a live debate.  Here’s the meat of his latest challenge to Malcolm Turnbull:

Now therefore I, The Right Honourable Christopher Walter, by the Grace of God and Letters Patent under the Hand and Seal of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second (whom God preserve) Third Viscount Monckton of Brenchley, do by these presents challenge the said Absolute Banker to a Debate on live television, during which each party shall have the opportunity to state his case and to examine the other’s case, with a view to informing Hard-Working Taxpayers and allowing them to decide for themselves whether the truth is being told by me or by the said Member for Goldman Sachs, upon whom I call to take up this challenge, if he dares.

Now, Monckton is a very good debater, if by “very good” one means that he is a master of fooling people into believing him by spouting scientific-sounding nonsense and Latin phrases.  It’s been shown any number of times that his claims are often utterly divorced from the reality of the sources he cites, so what is his debate opponent to do if Monckton brings in a fresh one?  A person who insists on sticking to responsible arguments can’t just accuse him of making things up without taking time to check the sources, after all.

But listen up, my Australian friends, because herein lies the key to neutralizing Monckton’s debate fever.  He loves live debate, because it plays to his strengths:  i.e., unlimited confidence and total disregard for responsible argument.  He’s not so excited about written debate, where the participants are given time to check each others’ sources.  At least, that’s been my experience.

Back in late 2009, 18 professors at my institution (including me) wrote a letter to the Utah Legislature objecting to how they had been handling climate change issues.  Bob Ferguson, president of the Science and Public Policy Institute and Monckton’s handler, wrote us all a threatening letter challenging us to publicly debate some climate skeptic he would provide (and which turned out to be Monckton.)  All of us either refused or ignored the request, because we thought the challenge was ridiculous.  What would a sound-bite fest like that prove?  However, I told Bob that I would be happy to do a written, online debate with Monckton.  Why?  Because I would have time to check Monckton’s sources to see if they said what he claimed.  Bob wrote back that he thought it was a reasonable suggestion.  A few months later, Bob came back and offered me $5000 to do the debate, and I refused, but renewed my offer to do an online, written debate (for free!!!)  His answer was simply, “No.”  No explanation.

So why not try that, my Australian mates?  If he challenges you to a debate, give him a counter-offer for a more responsible format.  He probably won’t take the offer, but if he does, you’ll have hundreds of climate scientists who would love to help you shove it down Monckton’s throat.


  1. Well, Tim Lambert did manage to trash Monckton last year. I also have some ideas of my own about how one may want to proceed in a live debate.

    Bottom line is, Monckton can be defeated in live debate, though one does need to carefully figure out how to do that.

    — frank

  2. I just finished drafting up a post about Monckton’s recent debate with Richard Denniss in Australia (though I’m going to go back and add a note about your written debate suggestion). Denniss did okay, not being a climate scientist and thus deferring to the consensus rather than engaging Monckton on scientific issues.

    Monckton spent the whole debate misrepresenting the scientific (and economic) literature, as usual, or just flat-out lying. But there was no way for the audience to know he was spewing bull excrement. He was in his element, making bogus claims in his charming British manner, trying to woo over the crowd despite lying to them. No question, engaging Monckton in a public (verbal) debate where there’s no fact checking does him a great favor.

    You don’t win a debate by being right, you win a debate by sounding right. “Skeptics” are good at sounding right, but obviously awful at being right.

  3. Indeed – Gish Gallop works best in a live debate. It’s not so effective on paper – he can’t pretend that he meant something else, because it’s out for all to see.

    Dana – you check my post on the first ~ 20 mins of that debate? I’m happy to cross post your look into that debate. Either fire me an email on or via the contact section of New Anthropocene, if you’re keen!

  4. We all ought to start adding the letters N.M.H.L after Monckton’s name. (Never Member House of Lords).

  5. Barry, I was just up at my alma mater this weekend, decided to take the kids into the Eyring science center which they enjoyed. I looked at the Geology department, etc. So what do the folks in the physics dept. think of AGW? One of these days when I have more time I would love to do a public debate on AGW. Maybe even at BYU. Why is it you guys don’t want to take it to the public? That’s what I don’t get. If someone like Monkton is blowing smoke, why don’t you call him out on it? IT’S JUST THAT EASY. Perhaps you don’t want a replay of Schmidt v. Lindzen et. al several years ago? (by all accounts, Schmidt and co. got trounced–they took a vote before and after) . Or is it that the AGW crowd is just so much smarter than the rest of us that we couldn’t possibly understand what they’re saying? Some advice: You guys better make it understandable if you want everyone to start paying taxes on carbon. You guys have your GCM’s but I have historical records and the last time I checked, that’s what really counts. And speaking of historical records, consider this:

    Wow, These guys are even more extreme than I am! I was willing to give 1-1.2C by 2100, but these guys are maxing out at 1C and “more likely” 0.66 or less! And look ma–No GCM’s! Not only that, “anthropogenic forcing” is just one of three forcings, including land use change (I agree) and urbanization (astro turf).

    • Scott – I think you answered your own question. In the Scmidt-Lindzen-Crichton-etc. debate, Crichton for example spent almost the entire debate presenting the false choice that we should be spending our money eliminating poverty from the world rather than on climate change mitigation. Lindzen, to be blunt, lied several times. I’ve detailed one of the lies he used in the debate here:

      Frankly from a scientific perspective, it was pretty clear which side really won the debate, yet the audience felt that Crichton’s side won. Not because they were right, but because they *sounded* right. Winning a public (verbal) debate has little to do with being correct. Just ask anyone on a debate team.

      As for the Loehle and Scafetta paper you reference, it’s really nothing more than an exercise in curve fitting. It’s very similar to Spencer’s approach which Barry has detailed in a number of posts here. Just playing with models, using random parameters with no physical basis. Actually Barry you might be interested in doing a post on this paper. I might do one for SkS as well, as it’s been highlighted quite a bit in the denialosphere already (at Curry’s and WUWT, I believe).

  6. Dana said, ” Just playing with models, using random parameters with no physical basis”. Wow! I couldn’t have said it any better than this. Thanks Dana!

    So, according to Dana, you’d better throw out Hadley, because their temps have “no physical basis” in reality.

    Man this is fun…..

    PS. If Lindzen was lying why didn’t Schmidt call him out on it right there and embarrass him? Why not? That’s what debates are for.

    • Huh? You do realize that the Hadley data set is based on direct temperature station measurements, right Scott? You seem very confused, basically arguing that thermometers are no different than computer models.

      PS – Scmidt did call Lindzen on some of his lies, but exactly what good does that do in a debate? It then becomes he-said, she-said and the audience has no way of knowing who’s right. That’s why “skeptics” love this style of debate, and why Monckton refused Barry’s offer for a written debate. In a written debate you can actually look up the references to prove a claim is a lie. It’s also why “skeptics” so rarely publish peer-reviewed research. Better to engage in verbal debates where they can say whatever they want without having to worry about being correct or honest.

      • Dana, go read through the abstract, then when the lightbulb goes on and the epiphany happens regarding my last comment, then get back to me. Don’t worry about it–it happens all the time to folks with cognitive biases.

      • I assume you’re referring to “The model was fit to the Hadley global temperature data up to 1950”? That’s what I said – they tweaked the parameters in their model until they fit the observational data (from Hadley).

        I just love it when people who don’t know what they’re talking about behave arrogantly. Not to mention the obvious psychological projection.

      • You mean they tweaked the paramaters to fit HISTORIC TEMP DATA. If I’m not mistaken, that’s what CRU/GISS has tried to do with their glorious models.

        Look, your theory is dead. There is no catastrophe now–no out of control ice melt, no out of control sea level rise, no runaway warming, no massive deaths or “climate refugees” (I love that one), no malaria epidemics etc. etc. etc. OUTSIDE OF NORMAL FLUCTUATING HISTORIC LEVELS. It’s going to get harder and harder to sustain your momentum when there is none. (Oh, except for the heatwave, certainly, that has nothing to do with geographic pressure changes ie weather, unless it’s cold out). So why are you so uptight about it–relax and enjoy the intergalacial!

        You said:
        “I just love it when people who don’t know what they’re talking about behave arrogantly” Couldn’t have said it better myself! 🙂

        But back to topic, certainly there’s GOT to be a warmist out there SOMEWHERE who also knows how to debate and trash this guy Monckton…c’mon I know they’re out there…Let’s get them up there so I don’t have to keep hearing whining about how the skeptics “sounded right” but the alarmists “were right” and how debates don’t determine who’s “right”. Certainly you believe that some debates can be won by “those who are right” right?

      • Oh, I forgot to mention tornados and hurricanes! What else is there?

      • “If I’m not mistaken…”

        You are mistaken, but that’s clearly nothing new.

      • “You are mistaken, but that’s clearly nothing new.”

        OK, so I AM wrong…Silly me for thinking CRU and IPCC for that matter would base their models on historic data. I should have known that they based them purely on a fictional past or as you said, “using random parameters with no physical basis”. Wow, now you’re starting to sound like a skeptic, Dana.

      • Scott, you are missing Dana’s point. The parameters of all models of any complexity are adjusted to “fit” real data. The trick is to reduce the number of the adjustable parameters so that the values of the fitted ones are likely to have something like real physical meaning. The fact that someone fit a model to HISTORIC TEMP DATA is meaningless if the model isn’t physically plausible.

  7. Scott says:

    “But back to topic, certainly there’s GOT to be a warmist out there SOMEWHERE who also knows how to debate and trash this guy Monckton…c’mon I know they’re out there…Let’s get them up there so I don’t have to keep hearing whining about how the skeptics ‘sounded right’ but the alarmists ‘were right’ and how debates don’t determine who’s ‘right’. Certainly you believe that some debates can be won by ‘those who are right’ right?”

    Um, didn’t I just say that I challenged Monckton (through his handler) to a debate in a format where we would have time to check sources? Do you have some kind of problem with debate participants being able to check sources?

    • Barry, you said, “The fact that someone fit a model to HISTORIC TEMP DATA is meaningless if the model isn’t physically plausible.”


      We’re already below the commitment level. Whew! another crisis averted!

      • You still don’t understand what we’re talking about. Clive Best’s piece had nothing to do with how “physically plausible” the models are. He was talking about how well the models fit the data.

        In any case, Best appears to have made some of the same crackpot mistakes as Monckton. See:

      • Sorry I’m so stupid. I mistakenly thought that a good indicator of physical plausibiliy of a models predictability was based on how well the model matches real world data, superimposed on the prediction. Good match=physically plausible. Bad match=not physically plausible. Do you not agree with this? Do you have another graph refuting Clive’s graph and shows that we are indeed warmer now than the IPCC “commitment” to keep temps at 2000 levels? Any references for how the current warming trend matches the IPCC predictions?

        It must be China’s fault, darn them. What if Kaufmann published his study in E&E? I wonder how the AGW crowd would have taken it. In any case, the models DIDN’T predict that even if he is right, which means there’s a whole lot of “physical implausibility” going on.

      • Hi Scott,

        Well, I was hoping I could just point you to the piece on Monckton’s graphs, and you would see the similarities. First, the triangles he plots don’t have anything to do with the model predictions–I think he uses equilibrium sensitivity to get those, like Monckton did, which is nonsense when the system isn’t in equilibrium. Second, the lines he plots for the central model predictions are averaged over many runs, and probably over 3 years or so. If you were to look at individual model runs, they would have bigger up and down squiggles, just like the real data. If he included uncertainties, the data would still be in the uncertainty band.

        So the point is that he wasn’t doing a fair job of comparing the data with the models.

        In any case, the “physical plausibility” of a model isn’t just about fitting the data. Suppose you have a model that involves gravity near the surface of the Earth, and a couple of other processes. But in order for the model to give you parameter values you like, you have to change the acceleration due to gravity from 9.8 m^2/s to 20 m^2/s. That would not be a physically plausible model. Same goes for Roy Spencer’s 700 m ocean mixed layer.

    • “Um, didn’t I just say that I challenged Monckton (through his handler) to a debate in a format where we would have time to check sources? Do you have some kind of problem with debate participants being able to check sources?”

      Not at all. However, perhaps I didn’t make myself clear. A common, typical, public debate does not involve taking 20-30 minutes between each point to go look up stuff to make sure it’s correct. A public debate is just that. My question is why can’t you come up with someone who has “all the skeptic talking points” and can refute them quickly, in front of a crowd. The public isn’t going to sit there and look up all the references. They want someone who is articulate, intelligent, and quick-minded who can respond to the so-called “lies” that we, the uneducated, spew forth. All I’m saying is that if you’re going to be able to convice enough people to buy the AGW theory, you need someone like a Monckton on your side, or your gonna lose in the court of public opinion. I’m just sayin…

      BTW, you’re much nicer than you used to be.

      • In other words, you want someone to make your point of view sound smart, as long as no one looks too closely. And what does being “quick-minded” have to do with anything? Is there something wrong with thinking and researching a question before you open your mouth?

        In any case, I think Tim Lambert cleaned Monckton’s clock (especially with the Rachel Pinker business), if you want to look that up on YouTube.

      • Look, it’s no skin off my nose, but by all objective parameters (e.g. rasmussen, pew, gallup, etc), the skeptics are gaining momentum in the court of public opinion. That presents a challenge for the AGW crowd. You can sit there all you want and talk amongst yourselves about how wrong we are and how right you are, but it won’t amount to much in the real world. I guess have it your way and see what happens.

  8. “the skeptics are gaining momentum in the court of public opinion”

    Not entirely true;

    It doesn’t help your case supporting someone as loopy as Monckton

    • Correction: In the U.S.

      • The Same country that had Monckton as their only contrarian “expert” on climate submit a report to Congress?

        Okay – that’s totally a good measure of what is most likely accurate.. yep..

        Barry – what happened to my reply to this character’s Clive post? It didn’t show up at all.

      • Also interesting to note that at the same time as trust in science is diminishing, trust in the military is increasing;

        You’ve got a few problems going on at home, mate.

      • “Correction: In the US”
        George Mason University’s biannual survey tends to disagree…
        “Dismissives [ie. deniers of the greenhouse effect and/or the detrimental effects of tampering with it] have fallen from 16% of the population at their height to 10% of the population.”

  9. […] refuses to accept challenge from Barry Bickmore to debate in written […]

  10. OK, I have to get back to the real world so here’s my final statement and of course you get the final word…

    You never answered my “crises averted” statement. Is it not true that temps are below the 2000 emissions commitment? So where’s the crisis?

    The IPCC fourth assessment report states: “For the next two decades, a warming of about 0.2C per decade is projected for a range of SRES emission scenarios…About twice as much warming (0.2C per decade) would be expected if emissions are within the range of SRES scenarios”.

    So, we’re looking at 0.4C per decade with no change in GHG emissions according to IPCC. We’re well into the first decade and we’re not even close. According to Dana at Skeptical science, were at .12C since 1996, and heading down.

    So Barry, while you want to criticize Dr. Spencer and belittle his work and his model, what do you and the other IPCC minions have to say about your predictions that are flat wrong so far? How physically plausible are YOUR models if they are off by over 100%? The last time I checked, Spencer is predicting around 1.2-1.4C by 2100 which, not suprisingly, is a rate fairly close to what we’re seeing RIGHT NOW IN THE REAL WORLD.

    If you want us stupid folks to buy into your theory, please give proper respect to those who think outside of the dogmatic orthodoxy, and be willing to say “I was wrong” (It’s so refreshing too!)

    I have a feeling none of my suggestions will be heeded, so good luck learning the hard way, I guess.

    PS: Tell Dana that before accusing someone of cherry-picking, make sure you’re not doing it himself–the fact that there was “significant warming” from 95 onward but “non significant” from 96 onward suggests a downward trend.

    • The observed temperature changes are well within the model predictions. And I’m not the one who chose November 1996 as a starting point – that was Pat Michaels. But I do agree with you that he’s a cherrypicker. At least you got something right, even though you accused the wrong person of it.

    • I caught my mistake–a warming of 0.2C over the next two decades and not 0.4C. My bad. It’s still almost 50% off but not over 100% as I suggested earlier. Now I’m done.

    • Scott,

      Dana’s reply to you is right on. Also, I would add that you are wrong about your interpretation of the meaning of statistical significance. It always takes several years of data (usually 10-20) to get a statistically significant trend in mean global temperature data, because the data is so “noisy” (lots of squiggles.)

  11. […] alternatively, if Monckton challenges you to a debate, follow Barry Bickmore’s advice and offer a written debate where facts can be checked.  Not surprisingly, Monckton declined Dr. […]

  12. […] months ago I wrote a post here about how Lord Christopher Monckton’s handler, Bob Ferguson, had tried to get me to do a […]

  13. […] 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 […]

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