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Monckton’s deliberate manipulation

Filed under: — gavin @ 2 May 2009

Our favorite contrarian, the potty peer Christopher Monckton has been indulging in a little aristocratic artifice again. Not one to be constrained by mere facts or observable reality, he has launched a sally against Andy Revkin for reporting the shocking news that past industry disinformation campaigns were not sincere explorations of the true uncertainties in climate science.

The letter he has written to the NY Times public editor, with its liberal sprinkling of his usual pomposity, has at its heart the following graph:

Among other issues, it is quite amusing that Monckton apparently thinks that;

  • trends from January 2002 are relevant to a complaint about a story discussing a 1995 report,
  • someone might be fooled by the cherry-picked January 2002 start date,
  • no-one would notice that he has just made up the IPCC projection curves

The last is even more amusing because he was caught out making stuff up on a slightly different figure just a few weeks ago.

To see the extent of this chicanery, one needs only plot the actual IPCC projections against the observations. This can be done a number of ways, firstly, plotting the observational data and the models used by IPCC with a common baseline of 1980-1999 temperatures (as done in the 2007 report) (Note that the model output is for the annual mean, monthly variance would be larger):

These show clearly that 2002-2009 is way too short a period for the trends to be meaningful and that Monckton’s estimate of what the IPCC projects for the current period is woefully wrong. Not just wrong, fake.

Even if one assumes that the baseline should be the year 2002 making no allowance for internal variability (which makes no sense whatsoever), you would get the following graph:

– still nothing like Monckton showed. Instead, he appears to have derived his ‘projections’ by drawing a line from 2002 to a selection of real projections in 2100 and ignoring the fact that the actual projections accelerate as time goes on, and thus strongly over-estimating the projected changes that are expected now (see here).

Lest this be thought a mere aberration or a slip of his quill, it turns out he has previously faked the data on projections of CO2 as well. This graph is from a recent presentation of his, compared to the actual projections:

How can this be described except as fake?

Apart from this nonsense, is there anything to Monckton’s complaint about Revkin’s story? Sadly no. Once one cuts out the paranoid hints about dark conspiracies between “prejudiced campaigners”, Al Gore and the New York Times editors, the only point he appear to make is that this passage from the scientific advice somehow redeems the industry lobbyists who ignored it:

The scientific basis for the Greenhouse Effect and the potential for a human impact on climate is based on well-established scientific fact, and should not be denied. While, in theory, human activities have the potential to result in net cooling, a concern about 25 years ago, the current balance between greenhouse gas emissions and the emissions of particulates and particulate-formers is such that essentially all of today’s concern is about net warming. However, as will be discussed below, it is still not possible to accurately predict the magnitude (if any), timing or impact of climate change as a result of the increase in greenhouse gas concentrations. Also, because of the complex, possibly chaotic, nature of the climate system, it may never be possible to accurately predict future climate or to estimate the impact of increased greenhouse gas concentrations.

This is a curious claim, since the passage is pretty much mainstream. For instance, in the IPCC Second Assessment Report (1995) (p528):

Complex systems often allow deterministic predictability of some characteristics … yet do not permit skilful forecasts of other phenomena …

or even more clearly in IPCC TAR (2001):

In climate research and modeling, we should recognize that we are dealing with a coupled non-linear chaotic system, and therefore that the long-term prediction of future climate states is not possible. The most we can expect to achieve is the prediction of the probability distribution of the system’s future possible states….

Much more central to the point Revkin was making was the deletion of the sections dealing with how weak the standard contrarian arguments were – arguments that GCC publications continued to use for years afterward (and indeed arguments that Monckton is still using) (see this amendment to the original story).

Monckton’s ironic piece de resistance though is the fact that he entitled his letter “Deliberate Misrepresentation” – and this is possibly the only true statement in it.

513 Responses to “Monckton’s deliberate manipulation”

  1. 451
    Chris says:

    #450 Kevin McKinney

    “Not surprisingly, the trend in sea ice extent has been sharply downward”
    Indeed, it’s early summer.

    “the extent is now much closer to 2008 levels than to the reference mean for the date.”
    But 2008 levels on 2nd June were still the highest in 5 years by 170,000km2
    6 2 2003 11732344
    6 2 2004 11335313
    6 2 2005 11284531
    6 2 2006 11151094
    6 2 2007 11318125
    6 2 2008 11507656
    6 2 2009 11523125

    “So any denialists you may still hear crowing…”
    Or even any tongue-in-cheek self-styled anti-“septics”?

    A less antagonistic way of making the same statement could be “So the very recent trend has been away from May’s “recovery” of Arctic sea ice”

  2. 452
    Mark says:

    Chris, 451, your “of course” is often missed by those who wish to promote the idea that GW is wrong because the ***Antarctic*** ***in places*** is having ice extent increase over *some* period.

    Why avoid being antagonistic when you can rub their noses in it? It’s not like they listened to the “Of course” from the climatologists, is it.

  3. 453

    My friend has posted (June 2) a criticism of IPCC temperature predictions on his blog at

    I told him I could see at least three reasons his argument fails — I said the first reason was that he had no lag time built into his analysis and that I was not going to tell him the other two reasons.

    His basic point is that the IPCC’s projections have been wrong in the past and there is no reason to think they will be correct in the future. We’ve had a series of email exchanges on this; he thinks his argument is rock solid.

    He invites people to look at his post and give it their best shot. The blog is one upon which people may comment.

  4. 454
    dhogaza says:

    Your friend has shown himself to have a closed mind. I doubt there’s much point in engaging him. Best to ignore his blog and not do anything to boost its popularity. Blogs with no readership are an exercise in writing for the round file, after all …

  5. 455
    Mark says:

    “His basic point is that the IPCC’s projections have been wrong in the past and there is no reason to think they will be correct in the future.”

    But that is no reason why they are wrong in the future either.

    Has he ever driven and not made a corner? Does he then refuse to drive except on straight roads because, since he’d got it wrong before, there’s no reason to believe he’ll get it right next time?

  6. 456
    Mark says:

    PS John, stop being the fluffer for your friends delusional blog, please.

  7. 457
    Chris says:

    It’s sad how a friend can be turned into a “friend” over this sort of thing. Look out for the commentators who think for themselves and show the most respect, and try to advance your friendship with a similar approach to theirs. Don’t let yourself be dragged into a zero-sum game by people who hang out on blogs just to rubbish those with a different point of view.

  8. 458

    Actually, I haven’t been crowing–other than in the post above, which I think is fairly modest in that regard. I have been enjoying the sudden deafening silence on the topic of sea ice extent, though.

    And I rather think that I may indulge myself in some crowing round about September. But in the meantime, I’ll say what I said back in April–“we’ll see.”

  9. 459
    Mark says:

    “Don’t let yourself be dragged into a zero-sum game by people who hang out on blogs just to rubbish those with a different point of view.”

    Uh, how about those with a wrong point of view?

    I mean, we don’t like to give Garry Glitter the time of day (google him) even though he has “a different point of view” on how old you have to be to get intimate with someone.

    The problem is that his “friend”‘s blog is not even as good as a zero sum game. It is only a negative-sum game. The only way to win is not to play.

    Hence my comment #456.

    Lets not play the game, eh?

  10. 460
    Hank Roberts says:

    When you meet a strawman by the side of the road, don’t stop to argue.

  11. 461
    Ray Ladbury says:


    “Love the sinner and hate the sin”–St. Augustine

  12. 462

    #457, Is this the same Chris from the UK who believes in sea ice making a come back? The same chap who thought a certain shoddy London Sunday Telegraph piece had some merit? If it is the same Chris, hello…. be kind, and you need to study more again

    Some perspective is needed:

    2008 is not available, Note the snow extent North of Russia, and again on this one:

    2007 went on in no time to become the all time melt:

    So we must take note of 2007 as a standard, but all years are never quite alike. Yet 2009 had thinner ice to start with in some parts, as you can see in Lancaster and Barrow Strait. The NW passage from Atlantic to Cornwallis Island will be possible in a few days not at all like 2007.

    But the clouds dominate:

    as long as they do, 2009 melt will be tempered, not as crazy as 2007. So far as the snow footprint indicates, its warmer on the Eurasian side, There is no sea ice come back, per say, there are just conditions which spares or causes great melts, these are the times for great melts. If the clouds vanish and allow the sun through like during 2007, there would be more focus on the poor state of the ice.

  13. 463

    To several:

    It would have been more useful if you pointed out to him where his argument fails.


  14. 464

    I will add that there are two reasons I wish to engage with him:

    1. He is a friend and colleague of many years
    2. At least two other friends and colleagues follow his blog and, so far, seem to accept his work.

    I also add that he is not a “troll,” in that he does his own work and does not just lift quotes and news from others.


  15. 465
    Mark says:

    re 460, but the sin is the person too here. Even his fluffer has noted he won’t listen to counters that he’s tried.

    If the sin is ignorance, surely the sin and sinner are the same when it’s WILLFUL ignorance.

    re 464, I did give it. That it has been wrong before is no proof it is wrong now and in the future.

    And add to that he has no proof it was wrong before.

  16. 466
    Mark says:

    re 460. that’s why I posted comment 456. But John keeps propping that darn bale of straw up on the highway right in front of any passer by going “Look at the man in the road!!!”.

    So I ask John to leave that pile of hay where it is. It’s quite happy there and it isn’t going to listen to anyone telling it something. And trying means we have to stop the car and delay our journey.

  17. 467
    Chris says:

    #459 Let’s not ;)

    But it doesn’t have to be a zero/negative-sum game. Concede where friend has some semblance of a valid point e.g. temps more below model mean than above in past decade. Find a more accurate/reasonable representation of this point, e.g.
    Then explain about spread of model ensembles, point out *under*-prediction of 1998 peak etc. And of course lags, aerosols…
    The conceding part is crucial. Too many people will never concede anything, because they believe their cause too important ever to show weakness.

  18. 468
    Chris says:

    #462 Hello and best wishes for 2009 Arctic summer :)

    #463/4 “…where his argument fails…” You’ve already pointed out the lags issue – that’s enough to fail it. There’s also aerosols. In some ways I agree with the others that it’s best not to engage beyond that. I only disagree with them insofar as I would suggest doing it in such a way that is not too dismissive, as like I said he may have (a semblance of) a valid point on some issues. In other words leaving the door open for more constructive discussions in the future. (For example where he is prepared to use a tone a lot less exaggerated/aggressive than e.g. “This, to me, says that the IPCC is nothing but a scaremongering organization.”)

  19. 469
    Hank Roberts says:

    IF he’d cite the basis for his beliefs, they’d be worth looking into. E.g. “since 2003 the oceans are cooling”

    (Did nobody ever tell him that temperature lags CO2? He’s arguing for instantaneous change in the air temperature on the assumption the ocean isn’t involved.)

    This is just warmed-over Monckton; he’ll get the attention he earns without your trying to get him help he doesn’t want from people he doesn’t respect.

  20. 470
    Hank Roberts says:

    John, read through this:
    in particular John Mashey’s pieces.

    Once you are clear on what you understand, you can talk with your friend.

    Before that, it’s an invitation to “let’s you and him fight” — amusing to watch but unproductive.

  21. 471
    Hank Roberts says:

    John, try just focusing on these, after reading Mashey.
    4, 6, 9, 12, 28, 29, 34, 40, 43

  22. 472

    OK. I understand. Am I a “fluffer?” That’s a new term to me. If it means someone who points to an invalid argument, even when discussing why that argument is invalid, I guess I qualify.

    I think his argument also fails on these particulars:

    1. I’ve mentioned the lag problem, which he has rejected.
    2. His model does not consider convection.
    3. His model does not consider that CO2 is only a few parts per million.
    4. I had thought of another reason but right now it escapes me.

    I have studied young earth creationism for many years, partly because I am fascinated by people who really believe outrageous things and how they twist the data to give those beliefs a “scientific” basis. To some extent this phenomenon is repeated by the AGW contrarians, although I can find no “religious” basis for it. There does seem to be, at least partly, a political basis, although there are both left and right wing people to be found on both sides.

    I appreciate the discussions.


  23. 473
    Hank Roberts says:

    Here, John:
    register, sign in, nominate the site if you think it qualifies (as having any original content)

  24. 474
    Jim Eager says:

    Re John Burgeson @472, not “religious” per se, but definitely an unquestioning belief in fundamental free market dogma, a steadfast resistance to altering the economic and power structure status quo, and a refusal to accept that humans have the capacity to alter the climate system predominates in the contrarian and denialist camps.

    Captcha is blunt tonight: “the sadists”

  25. 475
    RobR says:

    Happened to catch a Discovery Channel show last night – SNOWBALL EARTH. Makes me fear global cooling far more than warming.

    Some postulations concerning these super ice ages made me think of the blog last year –
    – in which it was postulated that the delay in rising CO2 leels in Greenland ice cores of 800 years at begining of retreat of ice age 100,000 years ago was not inconsitent with AGW theories. However, I would note that the presence of ice would greatly reduce the volume of plant matter worldwide and thereby the ability of plants (both domestic and marine) to photosynthesize CO2. Volcanic action would continue unabated during the ice age resulting in increased CO2 levels that should mitigate when the ice age retreats. This conforms with the deniers’ view that increasing CO2 follows from warming temperatures. Any explanation.

    BTW, concerning Monckton, is there a reasoned complete response to the Heatrtland Institute’s publication: Nature, Not Human Activity, Rules the Climate, Singer ed. (2008), anyone can refer me to?

  26. 476
    Mark says:

    re 472, a fluffer is someone who ensures that a male pron movie star looks “ready” by taking a feather duster and “fluffing” the appropriate areas to create the appropriate reaction to indicate readiness.

    I would not expect it to be a particularly worthwhile job.

  27. 477
    Mark says:

    re 467, and it looks like Johns friend doesn’t want to consider they are wrong in anything.

    So why bother with him?

  28. 478
    Chris says:

    #477 “…doesn’t want to consider they are wrong in anything. So why bother with him?”

    I would say that with such people, it is more that they don’t want to consider you (the anti-“denialists”) are *right* in *everything*.

  29. 479

    Chris writes:

    Concede where friend has some semblance of a valid point e.g. temps more below model mean than above in past decade.

    But it’s not a valid point. The temperature curve jogs up and down. It has jogged down this much in the past, and up just as often. A climate trend needs 30 years or more of observations to come out of the noise. “Trends” since 1998 are impressive only to complete statistical illiterates. Unfortunately, this includes most Americans, and as far as I can tell, every single AGW denier out there.

  30. 480

    RobR posts:

    This conforms with the deniers’ view that increasing CO2 follows from warming temperatures. Any explanation.

    It’s not “the deniers’ view,” it’s everybody’s view. In a natural deglaciation, due to Milankovic cycles, the Earth warms first and CO2 follows. CO2 is less soluble in warmer water, so it bubbles out of the oceans, with a mean time lag of about 800 years.

    That is NOT what’s happening now. We know the new CO2 is from fossil fuel burning by its radioisotope signature. The oceans are presently a net SINK for CO2, not a net SOURCE. They give off about 90 gigatons of carbon a year but take in 92.

  31. 481

    Mark writes:

    re 472, a fluffer is someone who ensures that a male pron movie star looks “ready” by taking a feather duster and “fluffing” the appropriate areas to create the appropriate reaction to indicate readiness.

    I would not expect it to be a particularly worthwhile job.

    Depends on how much it pays. It sounds like easy work to me. And I could use the money. You know where to find me.

  32. 482
    Mark says:

    478, well that doesn’t fit either, Chris.

    He doesn’t know me, for one.

    John has tried and been ignored for two.

    And I’ve not said I’m right in everything.

    So three strikes.

    You’re out.

  33. 483

    RobR, the lag of CO2 was understood by “ice age theorists” for a long time before the present era of AGW controversy. “Normally”–ie., in pre-Industrial times–CO2 is believed to have risen predominantly as a result of warming temperatures, not so much because of the factors that you mention, as because cold water can hold more CO2 in solution than warm water. (Think here about warm sodas versus cold ones, and their respective “fizziness.”) (Apologies if you’ve already “got” this part.)

    So as temperatures increase, CO2 is released from the oceans, causing yet more warming, and boosting the planet out of a glaciated state.

    To assess the importance of the factors you mention, you’d need to quantify how much CO2 volcanoes release, and how the reduction of the geographical extent of the active biosphere affects the carbon cycle. FWIW, I’d expect the latter to be a really complicated question–the biosphere acts as both sink & source of CO2, and it’s not clear (to me at least) that the marine biosphere would necessarily contract (as cold waters today are often among the most biologically productive.)

    Hope this helps. BTW, if you haven’t read Weart’s “Discovery of Global Warming” yet, it’s excellent, and has a lot of information relevant to your post. There’s a link to it in the RealClimate sidebar.

  34. 484
    Chris says:

    #479, #482

    You both prove my point. “Too many people will never concede anything, because they believe their cause too important ever to show weakness.”

  35. 485
    Mark says:

    484, what proves that point, Chris?

  36. 486
    Hank Roberts says:

    Nope, Chris, you have to pick a real issue to concede on, not a common misstatement. Look at the error range of each measurement, not the little dot at the middle that’s reported as though it were a fact. You understood Tamino’s lesson on this, a while back, I thought.

  37. 487
  38. 488
    Chris says:

    No further comment, especially re: the cleverly provocative #486. Who am I to stand in the way of the daily no-nuance anti-“denialist” (~anyone who disagrees on any point to any extent in the “wrong” direction) commenting campaign?

  39. 489
    Chris S. says:

    Chris, Barton and Hank have it right, although the temps are below the ‘model mean’ this goes nowhere near proving any sort of point. If the temperatures had plummeted, or if we were in the middle of an El Nino event & the temperatures had stayed relatively constant then there may be a point but as it is everything is still pretty much what was expected (within reasonable error margins).

    Captcha: “means year” – a prediction of its own perhaps? Inscrutable as ever…

  40. 490
  41. 491
    dhogaza says:

    You both prove my point. “Too many people will never concede anything, because they believe their cause too important ever to show weakness.”

    We should concede that a lie is true?

    How odd…

  42. 492
    John E. Pearson says:

    Where does the 30 year time scale (for the minimum time needed to see a climate trend) come from? Why is it 30 years and not 10 or 100 years?

  43. 493
    Jim Eager says:

    Ah, Barton (481), You might want to rethink that. Mark’s not being quite straight with you. It’s not really a feather duster that a “fluffer” uses.

  44. 494
    Chris says:

    Even during the El Nino-dominated period between 2002 and 2007 (26 months worth of El Nino see p.26 of )
    global temperatures could barely keep up with the model mean
    (despite a lack of volcanic cooling, and despite the lower than expected Arctic ice/snow coverage)

    #486 I never said that anyone should concede whole issues.

    Other than that, #484 will have to be my last word, as I wrote another reply but…

  45. 495
    dhogaza says:

    Where does the 30 year time scale (for the minimum time needed to see a climate trend) come from? Why is it 30 years and not 10 or 100 years?

    From looking at data. This period was chosen some decades ago as being the shortest timescale which successfully separates long-term climate from shorter-term phenomena such as ENSO.

    It has nothing to do with the global warming argument per se, i.e. this timescale was settled on before AGW became a hot button even among researchers, not to mention the public.

  46. 496
    Hank Roberts says:

    For John Pearson–your question, pasted into Google:

    The first hit in the search:

    More Grumbine Science: Results on deciding trends
    You need 20-30 years of data to define a climate trend in global mean temperature … we found 20-30 years as the appropriate time span. … Again, we see that the figures (maximum trend, minimum trend, … Repeat this inspection for other years, and think you’ll rapidly come to the conclusion that …

  47. 497
    Dan says:

    re: 494. “Even during the El Nino-dominated period between 2002 and 2007…”

    Gee, what a classic cherry-pick! We are talking about warming trends on the order of 30+ years. You’ve just “proven” that picking out a shorter period shows climate noise, just like those who pick the strong El Nino year of 1998 as the start of their statistically irrelevant “cooling trend”. Thanks for making that clear.

  48. 498
    Dan says:

    re: 492. Thirty years are used for climate trend analyses and for defining “climate normals” for a particular location per the World Meteorological Organization standard. There will always be shorter term influences (weather noise, if you will) that affect trends. It’s the longer term signal that is of interest here. I believe 30 years was determined through statistical analyses. It was the shortest period which allows the signal to overcome statistical noise.

  49. 499
    John E. Pearson says:

    re 496 and 498. Thanks. The Grumbine site is interesting but I was hoping to see something more rigorous. Do you know of a discussion of this in the literature?

  50. 500
    Mark says:

    “#486 I never said that anyone should concede whole issues.”

    But you WILL say “You just don’t want to listen to a contrary opinion” when there’s no evidence to support that conclusion.