The bizarre decision by some members of Congress to use Christopher Monckton as their expert science witness at recent hearings on climate change shows that politically-driven abuse of science is alive and well on Capitol Hill. For those who take Rush Limbaugh as a leader, the colorful Viscount, a scientific amateur who refers to President Obama as “Osamabamarama,” might be just what they’ve been looking for.
Post by Rick Piltz
On March 25 the U.S. House Subcommittee on Energy and Environment held a hearing on “Preparing for Climate Change: Adaptation Policies and Programs” – the eighth thus far in a series of hearings the subcommittee has held this year as part of the development of major climate change legislation. Among the seven witnesses were Tom Karl (written testimony here), Director of the National Climatic Data Center at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and co-chair and editor of the forthcoming U.S. Climate Change Science Program synthesis report, Global Climate Change Impacts on the United States (public review draft here). Karl, along with several other government and nongovernmental witnesses, presented useful testimony to the effect that global climatic disruption will require efforts to adapt to disruptive impacts in addition to efforts to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases.
But something else that really caught my attention at the hearing was the presence, and performance, at the witness table of The Right Honourable Christopher Walter Monckton, Third Viscount Monckton of Brenchley, also known as Christopher Monckton (also here), who was identified as Chief Policy Adviser, Science and Public Policy Institute.
SPPI is a global warming denialist/contrarian operation based in Haymarket, Virginia, and headed by a long-time former Republican congressional staffer. On their web site you’ll find numerous pieces by Monckton (a recent example: “Global Warming is Not Happening”). One also finds Willie Soon, David Legates, and Sherwood, Keith and Craig Idso, joining Monckton in a recent publication, The Unwisdom of Solomon, which aimed at countering an important study by IPCC Working Group I co-chair Susan Solomon et al., “Irreversible climate change due to carbon dioxide emisions,” in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, February 10, 2009.
This was not Monckton’s only Capitol Hill appearance this year. He was also a witness at a March 12 hearing of the House Ways and Means Committee, which is also developing climate change legislation.
Energy and Commerce Committee Minority Ranking Member Joe Barton (R-TX) referred to Monckton, in his opening remarks, as being generally regarded as “one of the most knowledgeable, if not the most knowledgeable, experts on the skeptic side.” Mr. Barton, who has a history of warring with the mainstream climate science community, went on to say: I think the Earth’s climate is changing, but for natural variation reasons. Mankind has adapted to climate as long as he has walked the Earth. When it rains we find shelter. When it’s hot we get shade. When it’s cold we find a warm place to stay. As Lord Monckton will testify, the Middle Ages were warmer than today. Then during the Little Ice Age people responded to the cold by adapting. Adapting to shifts in temperature will not be difficult. What will be dificult will be adapting to the damage to our economy if a cap and tax bill is passed. In the name of the house of cards posing as scientific certainty, and with alarmism about global warming, the Majority seems hell-bent on….”
You get the picture. Countering decades of advancing understanding by the leading climate scientists by going straight to the Viscount – who has zero science credentials – and manufacturing a supposed scientific debate in order to justify the usual anti-regulation policy stance. One of Mr. Barton’s fellow members said, “It’s nice to have Lord Monckton here, he was a senior policy advisor to Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, so he’s a good witness to have.”
Monckton’s written testimony opens in a rather unusual manner:
I BRING fraternal greetings from the Mother of Parliaments to the Congress of your “athletic democracy”. I pray that God’s blessing may rest upon your counsels.
As a Prime Ministerial policy advisor to Margaret Thatcher, inter alia I modeled the economic interactions of taxes and benefits on low-income households, and investigated scientific frauds. I have written and lectured on climate sensitivity. I advise institutions on climate change.
He then goes on provide his personal assessment of climate change (emphasis added):
The right response to the non-problem of “global warming” is to have the courage to do nothing. There has been global cooling for seven years-
The UN’s climate panel has exaggerated carbon dioxide’s effect on temperature sevenfold, verified by satellite observation that the diminution over time in outgoing long-wave radiation is one-seventh of that which the UN’s computer games were told to predict –
Carbon dioxide is accumulating in the air at less than half the rate the UN had imagined –
This century we may warm the world by half a Fahrenheit degree, if that. If doing nothing is inexpedient, adaptation to warmer or cooler weather – when and if necessary – is many times more cost-effective than attempted mitigation – …
Adaptation to warmer weather is unnecessary unless the weather gets warmer. For 14 years there has been no statistically-significant global warming.
Do not do or spend anything to mitigate or adapt to “global warming” until global temperature is 2 Fahrenheit warmer than in 2000….
Adaptation is a practical, affordable natural response to natural climate change. In the Middle Ages it was warmer worldwide than today. Then global cooling set in. Our ancestors adapted.
Adaptation is at present unnecessary. Mitigation is always unnecessary. It is also disproportionately expensive….
If the United States adopts cap-’n’-trade, she may do so alone.
Cap-’n’-trade will create “green jobs” by the thousand while destroying real jobs by the million at a cost of trillions. “Green jobs” are the new euphemism for mass unemployment….
For proof of the economic damage caused by unilateral but futile attempts at influencing climate, see the galloping exodus from California.
Everyone with any get-up-and-go is getting up and going. Unlike their robotic Governor, they won’t be back.
In the Q&A, Monckton’s supporters sought to balance Monckton’s conclusions against those of the science community, which on this occasion was represented by Tom Karl. (The charts referred to here are in his written testimony.)
Barton: Mr. Karl, you are part of the IPCC, a climatologist, an expert. Lord Monckton has presented the committee with three charts. One shows global cooling during past 7 years at rate of 3.5 degrees per century. Is he lying? Are these data accurate?
Karl: [From longer responses] That figure is not the way we aggregate temperature data. [See here for a more detailed discussion – global warming hasn’t stopped.]
Barton: His other graph says the UN [presumably referring to the IPCC] exaggerates rate of warming seven-fold.
Karl: The chart is incorrect.
Barton: What about the last chart, which shows CO2 isn’t increasing as fast as IPCC says.
Karl: I’m quite surprised to see that graph. During past 15 years global emissions are rising faster than the IPCC projected.
Monckton: [Says he’ll supply an unpublished paper he has written that will back up his views.]
Barton: Mr. Karl, will you study these charts and give us your full response?….
Finally, here’s an exchange that exemplifies something I’ve noted since my days with the House Science Committee – the seeming impossibility of getting the collective congressional discourse up any kind of learning curve on climate science:
Monckton: Carbon dioxide is plant food.
Member: It’s plant food! So by limiting it we may be depriving Earth of an essential need.
Is this disingenuous, or is this Member really starting from scratch on Climate Change 101? Does the Minority staff on the subcommittee do any homework on this stuff? Do they do anything to educate their Members? Are they embarrassed by their Members? Do they care?
A few items to put Monckton’s seeming ascendancy in the denialist line-up in context (see here):
He played a key role in a legal challenge in the UK in October 2007 in a bid to prevent An Inconvenient Truth from being shown in English schools.
He funded the distribution to UK schools of the notorious denialist documentary The Great Global Warming Swindle, as a response to Gore’s film. (We’ll have to revisit the problem of this movie in a later post, it’s too significant to deal with here in passing.)
He rallied the denialist troops with his article “Climate Chaos: Don’t Believe It,” published in the UK Telegraph Nov. 5, 2006. His essential argument was shredded by Gavin Schmidt on RealClimate (“Cuckoo Science,” Nov. 9, 2006). George Monbiot in the UK Guardian slammed him further (“This is a dazzling debunking of climate change science. It is also wildly wrong,” Nov. 14, 2006).
He was party to an attempt by the disinformation campaign to hijack an American Physical Society web forum in July 2008. See our July 20, 2008 post. Credit to Joe Romm at Climate Progress for exposing and following up on this story. Gavin Schmidt at RealClimate also dealt with this: “Once more unto the bray,” July 23, 2008.
But none of this really captures the combination of showmanship and aristocratic arrogance combined with slanderous treatment of the actual science community that characterizes the Viscount when he gets on a roll. Let’s get a couple of good examples on the record here.
First, from his remarkable March 10 keynote address at the conference “Global Warming: Was It Ever Really a Crisis,” held in New York City. The conference was sponsored by the Heartland Institute, a “libertarian” right-wing policy group that pushes a free-market deregulatory ideology
Where are they all today, those bed-wetting moaning Minnies of the Apocalyptic Traffic-Light Tendency—those Greens too yellow to admit they’re really Reds?…
The main message of this conference to the bed-wetters is this. Stop telling lies. You are fooling fewer and fewer of us. However many lies are uttered, the scientific truth remains unalterable. The Forces of Darkness, with their “global warming” chimera, came perilously close to ending the Age of Enlightenment and Reason. They almost ushered in a new Dark Age. Yet they have failed….
[D]og-poop is a real environmental problem. “Global warming” is not. The correct policy response to the non-problem of climate change is to have the courage to do nothing.
We, the people, are no longer afraid of “global warming.” We are fed up to the back teeth of hearing about it. We are bored by it. And the bed-wetters know it. Their ever-more-outlandish predictions are a measure of their blind panic. The Dr. Strangelove of NASA [Jim Hansen, presumably], in the latest of a series of ever-more-desperate attempts to flog the dead horse of climatic apocalypse, recently wrote that sea level is about to rise by 246 feet, “und anyvun zat disagrees viz me vill be arrested und put on trial for high crimes against humanidy und nature.”…
Governor Schwarzenegger—now, there’s an oxymoron for you, or “moron” for short….
[G]lobal temperatures…have been plummeting at a rate equivalent to 11 Fahrenheit degrees per century throughout the four years since Gore launched his mawkish, sci-fi comedy horror B-movie. At this rate, by mid-century we shall roasting in a new Ice Age….
…the furtive connivance of Senator Boxer and her politicized snivel servants…
There was no climate crisis. There is no climate crisis. There will be no climate crisis. “Global warming” is not a global crisis. It is a global scientific fraud….
The environmental movement is out of control. It is now humankind’s deadliest enemy. In the name of humanity, it must be outlawed….
…“Greens” are killing millions by starvation in a dozen of the world’s poorest regions….If we let them, they will carelessly kill tens of millions more by pursuing Osamabamarama’s stated ambition of shutting down nine-tenths of the economies of the West and flinging us back to the Stone Age without even the right to light fires in our caves….
As Subcommitee Chairman Ed Markey said when Monckton finished his testimony, “Good show, Lord Monckton, very good show.”
This next one is more scurrilous. It’s from Monckton’s “The Unwisdom of Solomon: Bad logic, bad science, and bad policies,” posted on March 16 on the SPPI web site – an attack on Susan Solomon et al., “Irreversible climate change due to carbon dioxide emissions,” and through her on the science community more generally.
(Monckton’s reference to $40 billion spent on climate research in 2008 is good example of his command of facts – the climate change research budget is less than $2 billion, and that includes the NASA space-based observing system hardware.)
It is lamentable that the National Academy of Sciences should have seen fit to publish so scientifically baseless a paper in its Proceedings. Regrettably, very nearly all scientists are taxpayer-funded: the United States alone spent almost $40 billion on climate-related “research” – often in the form of mere political propaganda such as the Solomon et al. paper – in the fiscal year 2008. Since the scientific journals are intended to appeal to scientists, nearly all of whom are parasites upon the taxpayer, they pander to the prejudices of scientists by failing to subject papers such as that of Solomon et al. to proper peer-review. Instead, it appears that the reviewers merely check to find that the paper comes to the “politically-correct” conclusion, regardless of whether there is any scientific, logical or rational basis for that conclusion. Indeed, most scientists no longer have sufficient training in the Classical studium generale to recognize how often and how grievously the arguments they advance in their papers on climate change are, in the formal sense, irrational.
It is becoming painfully obvious that scientists are no longer capable of thinking or writing logically. They have become mere drones, churning out puerile propaganda intended to please their political paymasters. Fortunately, the electorate is no longer as readily fooled by the phrase “scientists say” as once it was. It is increasingly understood that what “scientists say” (on matters of climate) is these days chiefly said with a view to maximizing the chance of the next fat grant or comfortable academic promotion.
It is not for me to say whether Solomon et al. have written their paper purely so as to fawn upon their political masters for the sake of their own enrichment, and to curry favor with their academic colleagues, many of whom are similarly enriching themselves at our expense with their increasingly absurd and ever-more-desperate attempts to spin a crisis out of nothing. But the reader who has been kind enough to stay with me this far will perhaps be able to discern what I think.
This is the science witness of choice for the Minority at U.S. House of Representatives hearings on climate change these days. If anyone out there is calling for “bipartisanship” on this issue, they’ll have to suggest how to split the difference between those who appear to take scientific advice from, say, Susan Solomon and Tom Karl, and those who appear to opt instead for Viscount Monckley’s views.