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.