Monckton is a fraud

by Gareth on August 3, 2010

Christopher, Viscount Monckton of Brenchley, pompous peer of a parish in Kent, not content with threatening legal action against US scientist John Abraham (who had the temerity to point out the huge number of errors and misrepresentations in a talk he gave: see Support John Abraham, now 1050+ comments), has now threatened action for libel against Professor Scott Mandia. Mandia wrote a blog post in support of Abraham, inviting members of the media to consider if Monckton were a fraud — which drew a spiteful little email from Tannochbrae

I also note that you have publicly accused me of “fraud”, and have widely circulated that accusation on the internet, and have expressed the intention to invite the mass media to repeat it. Since this is a serious charge, do you have any evidence to back it up, or should I add your name to that of Professor Abraham in the libel case that will be filed shortly?

Mandia’s open letter to the media asked them to “expose Monckton for the fraud that he is”, which is somewhat different to an accusation of fraudulent behaviour. Let’s examine the evidence, and see if Monckton can reasonably be described as “a fraud”, and whether his actions and public statements are in themselves fraudulent. First we need some definitions:

The Google definition listing is here, and from that Princeton Wordnet offers:

  • intentional deception resulting in injury to another person
  • imposter: a person who makes deceitful pretenses
  • something intended to deceive; deliberate trickery intended to gain an advantage

My elderly Oxford English Dictionary (complete edition, 1979) offers the following:

  • the quality or disposition of being deceitful; faithlessness, insincerity
  • criminal deception; the using of false representations to obtain an unjust an unjust advantage or to injure the rights and interest of another
  • an act or instance of deception, an artifice by which the right or interest of another is injured, a dishonest trick or stratagem
  • colloq of a person; One who is not who he appears to be; an imposter, a humbug ( = a hoax, jesting or befooling trick, an imposture, deception, fraud or sham)

Then a US legal definition (definitions differ in other jurisdictions):

Fraud is generally defined in the law as an intentional misrepresentation of material existing fact made by one person to another with knowledge of its falsity and for the purpose of inducing the other person to act, and upon which the other person relies with resulting injury or damage. Fraud may also be made by an omission or purposeful failure to state material facts, which nondisclosure makes other statements misleading.

How do Monckton’s public statements, writings and presentations stack up when considered in the light of the above definitions. Not well. Let us first note the evidence assembled by Professor Barry Bickmore of Brigham Young University in Utah on his Lord Monckton’s Rap Sheet page. One item will suffice: In a letter to the US Congress Monckton represented himself as a member of the House of Lords in the British Parliament. Monckton is not now, nor has he ever been a member of the House of Lords. Intentional misrepresentation? You be the judge…

Next, let us consider his bizarrely overwrought “Response to John Abraham” [PDF]. Once more, one item will be sufficient. From page 69:

394: Are you aware of results such as that of Pinker et al. (2005), and of several other researchers and data gathering organizations? Pinker found that in 18 years and 1 month from 1983-2001 a naturally-occurring global brightening, attributable at least in part to a reduction in cloud cover at low latitudes and altitudes, had increased the flux of solar radiation reaching the surface by 2.9 Watts per square meter, an increase sufficient to account for all of the “global warming” over the period?

Monckton made a similar assertion in a debate with Deltoid’s Tim Lambert in Australia earlier in this year, only to have the wind knocked from his sails by a quote from Rachel Pinker, pointing out that he was wrong. Tasked with this, Monckton assured Lambert that he would “check with Pinker and the IPCC”, and change his argument. It appears that he has failed to do this, preferring instead to continue to misrepresent Pinker’s paper. A deceitful pretence? You be the judge…

Closer to home, Monckton was caught telling lies on New Zealand television, claiming to be an expert on the calculation of climate sensitivity:

The scientists have indeed got their sums wrong, because there are only perhaps 40 or 50 scientists involved in calculating that one central quality, which is known as climate sensitivity, how much warming will you get. It’s a very narrow, very specialist field in which I have actually published work in the [slight pause] reviewed literature, and there’s not many people who have done that. Very few people people have actually done work in this field, and unfortunately what they have done is they have preferred at the UN’s climate panel to rely on computer models which are in effect a form of guesswork.

Monckton’s only contribution to this field was an article (not a peer-reviewed paper) in a newsletter (not a peer-reviewed journal) of the American Physical Society in 2008, which got the science so badly wrong that Arthur Smith was able to document 125 errors. Two years on, Monckton would prefer we didn’t remember that. Something intended to deceive; deliberate trickery intended to gain an advantage in debate? You be the judge…

Monckton has also made free with his threats of actions for libel. Aside from Abraham and Mandia, he has threatened George Monbiot and The Guardian (he got nowhere, though he has apparently attempted to claim that he was awarded £50,000 damages), and Arthur Smith’s debunking also earned him a threat of action (see Monckton’s Rap Sheet). None of the ignoble Lord’s threats amount to more than hot air. Perhaps he thinks that preaching from a bully pulpit will impress his congregation. His popularity with the American think tanks running the campaign against action on climate change depends to some extent on his being seen to be at least vaguely credible, and perhaps that demands that he be seen to posture and preen. Or perhaps that is just the nature of the man…

In Britain he carries much less clout. There he is recognised for what he is — a pretentious fabulist and self-important minor peer who is involved with a fringe far-Right political party. Nigel Lawson’s secretly-funded Global Warming Policy Foundation wouldn’t touch Monckton with a barge pole, because it would make Lawson and his backers look like idiots.

On the evidence, it is clear that Monckton is a shameless humbug, a proven liar and a hypocrite, who intentionally misrepresents the facts of climate science in order to mislead his audience. The real mystery is why this isn’t obvious to important sections of the US body politic.

{ 44 comments… read them below or add one }

Lazy j August 4, 2010 at 12:09 am

Monkton will win the libel case if it is held in the uk. It is impossible to prove fraud since you have to know his motivations. It is possible that he is not a fraud but rather a delusional moron.

free transit August 4, 2010 at 1:01 am

Monckton is a lightning rod, keeping the oil companies from being struck directly.

adelady August 4, 2010 at 2:03 am

Careful, Gareth. This could develop into a scene from The Mikado.

Who knows who’s next on the “list”.

Scott A Mandia August 4, 2010 at 2:29 am

Gareth, thank you for your support.

M August 4, 2010 at 2:37 am

Don’t forget that he claims he knows how the IPCC calculates temperature better than the IPCC does!

Dappledwater August 4, 2010 at 8:09 am

Way to go Prof Mandia. Down with the cookie monster.

lyndon August 4, 2010 at 10:26 am

Lazy j – Not wholly convinced. In order to win surely he would have argue that explanation in a way that was more convincing than deception.

Note also one thing David Irving found out when he sued Penguin. If you sue, they get discovery on you. They can read your papers. In Irvings case the duplicity became rather obvious. It would simply be a question of the resources at the disposal of the defence.

[Although another argument for him might be that being 'a fraud' is not the same as merely having been fraudulent. However I think there is sufficient for any consruction of the former.]

BA August 4, 2010 at 1:08 pm

Monkton’s whole schtick is razzle-dazzle, tell half-truths or lies in a loud confident voice then move on before anyone can fact-check. It’s hard to picture that working in court, or him not being aware of what discovery could expose.

Bryan Walker August 4, 2010 at 3:43 pm

The widespread credence given to Monckton is more astonishing – and much more alarming – than the act that he performs. One hopes that the debunkings he is receiving will start to tell, but it seems that the more outrageous denial is the more it attracts a segment of the population.

Carol Cowan August 4, 2010 at 9:42 pm

It looks like three fans of Monckton have passed through “thumbs-downing” every comment.

bill August 4, 2010 at 9:53 pm

…surely that should be ‘thumbsing down’? easily rectified!

J Bowers August 4, 2010 at 9:58 pm

Barry Bickmore’s email exchange with Monckton concerning the Eternity Puzzle:
http://bbickmore.wordpress.com/2010/05/06/dance-monckey/

Tom Bennion August 5, 2010 at 12:28 am

In terms of continued relevance of this important site, I just wonder if we still need these extended posts on Monckton et al? I think that Joe Romm on Climate Progress has this challenge as well. I admit, these posts are great fun to read, but they tend to suggest that the denier versus believer debate remains important.

Some of the worst consequences of warming are clearly occurring. Cant we relegate Monckton, Wishart and the rest to your twitter feed and focus on ‘what to do (right) now’. There are urgent practical matters to attend to. By way of example, thousands of families in Victoria face financial ruin as their property values have literally gone up in smoke (http://bit.ly/aAIn4d). We are now well beyond recycling, switching off a few lights, and laughing at deniers.

The ever perceptive and wry Dmitry Orlov notes:

“So what became of the Soviet mavericks, some of whom foretold the coming collapse with reasonable accuracy? To be brief, they faded from view. Both tragically and ironically, those who became experts in explaining the faults of the system and in predicting the course of its demise are very much part of the system. When the system disappears, so does their area of expertise and their audience. People stop intelllectualizing their predicament and start trying to escape it … but they have no time for pondering the larger context.”
(Reinventing Collapse p128)

Tom

Lazy J August 5, 2010 at 1:29 am

lyndon,

I’ll admit that I’m not an expert on UK libel law, but according to Ben Goldacre you will always win a libel case against someone who has claimed you are a liar. Ben is a self described campaigner for libel reform and specialist in “unpicking dodgy scientific claims made by scaremongering journalists, dodgy government reports, (etc).”

He’s a defender of science – one of the good guys. According to him: “Lies’, I can tell you from personal experience, is one word you can never use in England: even if you can show that someone was obviously wrong, even if you can show that they probably knew they were wrong, you still need to show that they deliberately distorted the truth, and that’s almost always impossible, without direct access to their thoughts. They might just have been mistaken, after all. Or sloppy. Or stupid”

http://www.badscience.net/2010/07/and-then-i-was-incompetently-libelled-by-a-litigious-millionaire/

toby August 5, 2010 at 2:47 am

LazyJ,

Hitler-admirer David Irving took a libel suit against American historian Deborah Lipstadt when she called him a “Holocaust denier” in print.

Irving was sure he would win under the UK libel laws. Actually, he lost disastrously. Monckton’s odious arrogance would not be an advantage in court, nor would the intemperate attacks he made on Abraham, the Rector of St. Thomas and the local bishop (all recorded on tape) be of much use.

I tend to agree with Tom in the last post. I am heartily sick of Monckton, hockey-sticks and Climategate – let the other side wallow if they want to.

Lazy J August 5, 2010 at 5:18 am

Toby,

I hope you’re right. Either way, it would be a hell of a show to see Monkton argue that he is sloppy or stupid rather than a liar. I hope this goes to court. It won’t though. It’s important for a liar to appear indignant when called out, but not very strategic to push the point.

J Bowers August 5, 2010 at 6:01 am

Wapedia has a pretty good article on libel.
http://wapedia.mobi/en/Libel

Bryan Walker August 5, 2010 at 8:24 am

Tom, three years ago when Gareth published his book he demoted the sceptics to an appendix, after originally intending to devote a chapter of the book to them. He reasoned that they had become irrelevant once the balance of the debate had moved on from the existence of the problem to looking for solutions. In the years since, however, we have seen how their persistence, backed by serious funding from vested interests, has obfuscated the issue in the media and the public perception. They are a serious threat to an effective response to climate change. I think we have to keep pointing out their total lack of credibility. Admittedly that accords them a status they don’t deserve, but ignoring them runs the risk of surrendering the field of public opinion.

Gareth August 5, 2010 at 9:23 am

Tom & Toby, Bryan explains the position well. When Monckton and his ilk cease to have traction in political circles, I’ll lay off them. But I do appreciate your point — I get as bored as the next man forced to debunk “cooling since 1998″ for the nth time.

Gareth August 5, 2010 at 9:35 am

On the legal issues, Monckton’s big risk is that if he starts an action for libel he immediately puts his entire public life up for judgement. The defendant would have a field day, as Barry Bickmore’s rap sheet shows. As for lies, he has admitted telling one in the case of the Eternity Puzzle. From my perspective, I’ll rely on the Wishart defence. Ian puts this on the frontispiece of Air Con:
LEGAL NOTICE: Criticisms of individuals in this bookarticle reflect the author’s honest opinion, for reasons outlined in the text or generally known at the time of writing.

Tom Bennion August 5, 2010 at 10:23 am

Understand your point. You have to hope newspaper editors are reading the site. But apparently not.

I guess my point is that if you back yourself in terms of the science and a rational analysis of what is occurring, its time to roll out the civil defence information and discuss how to re-organise our current society for major change both to radically cut emissions and adapt. Bill McKibben seems to be of a similar mind:

http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/commentary/la-oe-mckibben-climate-20100804,0,7179186.story

bill August 5, 2010 at 10:31 am

As for the deniers, I work with 150 ‘ordinary’ Australians in a large open-plan office. I get to hear a lot of conversations, and get sent some disturbing e-mails. Those of us who are well-read in these matters would be astonished by the level of ignorance on this crucial issue – it is almost impossible to credit that water-impoverished Australians in particular would not bother to get properly up to speed on it – displayed by a surprising number in this fairly representative sample of educated suburbanites; chiefly manifested in canards about ‘but the scientists don’t agree’ and ‘but weren’t those scientists caught making up the data?’ – and even some ‘it’s a UN take-over’ style malarkey!

This is a political fight, and it’s a mistake to think that being on the right side of the facts alone can carry you through in any political fight.

The disinformers have been phenomenally successful – all they have to do is peddle doubt, after all, not facts, and that’s actually a lot easier, particularly when people don’t want to believe the facts anyway – and I’d argue that success was a significant component of the demise of Kevin Rudd and the probable imminent collapse of Australia’s federal Labor Party (when combined with their own pusillanimity!)

The fact is, if the ‘balance’-obsessed media presents someone as a voice on an issue the public, who are often not really paying that much attention anyway, assumes that means they’re credible. I agree we shouldn’t have to waste time arguing absurdities, but absurdity is all the rage at the moment; witness the rise of the US Tea Party…

David Pollard August 5, 2010 at 11:51 am

Christopher Monckton’s ‘warm-refs.pdf’, which he provided to support claims made in the ‘Apocalypse Cancelled’ spreads in the Sunday Telegraph in November 2006, are no longer available from the Telegraph’s web site. There had been other copies on the net, but these too seem to have disappeared.

Warm-refs.pdf is a noteworthy document. Those who are interested may be able to locate a copy on the wayback machine, here:
http://web.archive.org/web/20080423005135re_/www.telegraph.co.uk/news/graphics/2006/11/05/warm-refs.pdf

Tom Bennion August 5, 2010 at 3:19 pm

bill

I think McKibben’s analysis is that when tea party / deniers are met with informed reasonable debate, tea party / deniers win.

So we need high-profile fact-backed protest? Things like Greenpeace stunts and non-violent sit ins, tending towards Sea Shepherd ‘in your face’ actions (the planet is burning and people are dying after all).

This is in line with Gandhi’s (alleged?) saying “First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, then you win.”

Its one thing to ridicule Monckton. You can get agreement around the watercooler. Its another to start the discussion with your office and family about halting all non-essential air travel as a matter of urgent public health and safety.

The other angle would be civil defence. As in “your property just turned out to be worthless because its in a fire zone. You dont have to agree with us re global warming, but we are here to help.”

Tom

Neven August 5, 2010 at 7:34 pm

Sometimes I think what is needed is the antithesis of denialists, in other words flat out, the sky-is-falling alarmists. But you know, professional ones, with think tanks that pester the media and continuously scream and whine for attention.

What the media can then do, is go to scientists who say: ‘It’s bad, but not that bad yet’. And that way, the ‘balance’ is shifted and the media still get to do their he-said-she-said-fables.

We need a Monckton of our own. Is there any actor out there we could hire? We also need a Chris Horner, an Anthony Watts, a Roy Spencer, a Lawrence Solomon, an Ian Plimer, a Bob Carter, etc, etc…

AndrewH August 5, 2010 at 9:48 pm

What about Al
Or Betty
Or even Paul Simon

AndrewH August 5, 2010 at 9:57 pm

So in Britain Monckton is seen as “a pretentious fabulist and self-important minor peer”.
Therein lies the divergence between Britain and America.
In the British English speaking world that lengthy description would commonly be condensed into a single word.
In American English they don’t use that word.
Language influences how you perceive your world.

Graham August 5, 2010 at 10:36 pm

Well one thing’s certain. The good Lord has got alarmists buzzing like bees in a bottle!

bill August 5, 2010 at 10:57 pm

Neven, I suppose one could argue that Lovelock has filled that role somewhat (but he’s too much of the curmudgeon and not enough of the entertainer, I’d argue!)

The most genuinely alarming stuff I’ve heard recently has come from Gwynne Dyer, and that’s because he was looking at the strategic and geopolitical impact. (Incidentally, anyone who doubts that southern Italy could become a failed state in a few short decades might want to get Gomorrah out on DVD.)

Part of the problem is that I think that people actually know deep down – even the most apparently hysterical proponents, many of whom are blatant hucksters – that Obama is not actually, really-truly going to sign us on the World Communist Government, and so all the ‘doom! doom!’ palaver is not really threatening, it’s theatrical!

It’s entertaining, and gives a great focus for the selfish, witless and essentially nihilist indignation that so drives the ‘Libuuuurty’ brigade! It’s like never growing out of some ghastly spoiled adolesence – you get to endlessly make scenes and throw great tantrums and best of all; it works! Stuffy old responsible mum and dad – i.e. rational grown-ups – may just keep making concessions to you forever in order to try to get some peace!

Whereas what Dyer says is genuinely alarming. A ‘curl up in a foetal ball in the corner’ kind of alarming. It isn’t funny, and it makes people’s brains close down rather than take it in…

Neven August 5, 2010 at 11:20 pm

Bill, you’ve hit the nail on the head. An überalarmist PR effort that’s the exact mirror image of what the denialists have organised so far, will not work for the obvious reason that it’s not what people want to hear. This is the core of delayer success and the reason why the denialists have it easy: they are telling people want to hear, reinforcing them in their natural defense mechanism of psychological denial: ‘Don’t worry, you’re not responsible, you don’t have to change your habits to lessen the impact of your actions. Smoking doesn’t cause cancer and your completely unrealistic material standard of living isn’t causing floods and fires. Now go out and buy something, lest ye be bored.’

Neven August 5, 2010 at 11:30 pm

Still, some genius should get that mass psychological denial to transition towards ‘Okay, it will be bad, but not that bad.’

Tom Bennion August 6, 2010 at 12:03 am

Neven

But trying to talk everyone into doing something significant about climate change despite ourselves plainly isnt working. Check out your local motorway and airport. We are involved in addictive behaviour. We will reason away any facts or argument to mean we dont have to change or change very much. Surely its time for an intervention.

Tom

Andrew Thompson August 6, 2010 at 1:51 am

Goldacre is incorrect. You can call someone a liar and still win. Channel 4 and Brian Deer called MMR vaccine quack Andrew Wakefield (struck off) “unremittingly evasive and dishonest”, which means lying all the time. In fact, they made the allegation formally to the court, so there would be no doubt as to what they were saying.

And they still won.

Neven August 6, 2010 at 3:57 am

Gareth, you want to see this: Petermann Glacier calving event.

bill August 6, 2010 at 3:45 pm

That’s very impressive, Neven! Apart from being inherently fascinating how would you assess its inherent significance? I’m inferring that the excitement means it is quite an event…

Graham August 7, 2010 at 12:27 am

Neven August 5, 2010 at 7:34 pm says

“We also need a Chris Horner, an Anthony Watts, a Roy Spencer, a Lawrence Solomon, an Ian Plimer, a Bob Carter, etc, etc…”

Scientists of their stature would not stoop so low as to put their name to alarmist anthropogenic climate fiction.

deconvoluter August 7, 2010 at 2:40 am

There are risks with legal actions in the UK. Contrary to what has been said , Monckton still has his supporters in the UK (e.g. Piers Corbyn) and you cannot predict how a , badly informed, Spectator reading, judge might react to a, no holds barred,fundamentalist anti-CO2-theory attack led by Corbyn on climatology. He might well retreat into a statement that he cannot make legal decisions about the science or the accuracy of Monckton’s claims. It could even be worse.

realist August 7, 2010 at 8:50 am

Perhaps we need the High Court Judge who found Al Gores’ propaganda documentery guilty of several lies, to pontificate on Monkton.

Nick Barnes August 7, 2010 at 12:46 pm

“realist”, I expect that readers of this blog are pretty well-informed, and know that your description is false, in addition to being incorrectly spelled and punctuated.

David August 9, 2010 at 4:26 pm

Thank god you’re here Nick. Save us from the bad punctuation. Since you are “pretty well-informed” could you help me out and give me a link to a Peer Reviewed paper which proves Positive Feedback occurs in our atmosphere and creates warming.
Thanks a lot.
D

Nick Barnes August 10, 2010 at 2:27 am

David: you could start here: Arndt, D. S., M. O. Baringer, and M. R. Johnson, Eds., 2010: State of the Climate in 2009. Bull. Amer. Meteor. Soc., 91 (6), S1-S224

Nick Barnes August 10, 2010 at 2:28 am

(classic Gish, by the way)

Richard C August 13, 2010 at 9:08 am

AndrewH, I’ll guess that word in one.
Want to play hangman?
_ _ _ _ _ _

Archie Bunker August 13, 2010 at 5:56 pm

Thank God you’re here Nick.

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