Guest commentary by Barry R. Bickmore, Brigham Young University
If you look around the websites dedicated to debunking mainstream climate science, it is very common to find Lord Christopher Monckton, 3rd Viscount of Brenchley, cited profusely. Indeed, he has twice testified about climate change before committees of the U.S. Congress, even though he has no formal scientific training. But if he has no training, why has he become so influential among climate change contrarians? After examining a number of his claims, I have concluded that he is influential because he delivers “silver bullets,” i.e., clear, concise, and persuasive arguments. The trouble is his compelling arguments are often constructed using fabricated facts. In other words, he makes it up. (Click here to see a number of examples by John Abraham, here for a few by myself, and here for some by Tim Lambert).
Here I’m going to examine some graphs that Lord Monckton commonly uses to show that the IPCC has incorrectly predicted the recent evolution of global atmospheric CO2 concentration and mean temperature. A number of scientists have already pointed out that Monckton’s plots of “IPCC predictions” don’t correspond to anything the IPCC ever predicted. For example, see comments by Gavin Schmidt (Monckton’s response here,) John Nielsen-Gammon (Monckton’s response here,) and Lucia Liljegren. Monckton is still happily updating and using the same graphs of fabricated data, so why am I bothering to re-open the case?
My aim is to more thoroughly examine how Lord Monckton came up with the data on his graphs, compare it to what the IPCC actually has said, and show exactly where he went wrong, leaving no excuse for anyone to take him seriously about this issue.
Atmospheric CO2 Concentration
By now, everyone who pays any attention knows that CO2 is an important greenhouse gas, and that the recent increase in global average temperature is thought to have been largely due to humans pumping massive amounts of greenhouse gases (especially CO2) into the atmosphere. The IPCC projects future changes in temperature, etc., based on projections of human greenhouse gas emissions. But what if those projections of greenhouse gas emissions are wildly overstated? Lord Monckton often uses graphs like those in Figs. 1 and 2 to illustrate his claim that “Carbon dioxide is accumulating in the air at less than half the rate the UN had imagined.”
Figure 1. Graph of mean atmospheric CO2 concentrations contrasted with Monckton’s version of the IPCC’s “predicted” values over the period from 2000-2100. He wrongly identifies the concentrations as “anomalies.” Taken from the Feb. 2009 edition of Lord Monckton’s “Monthly CO2 Report.”
Figure 2. Graph of mean atmospheric CO2 concentrations contrasted with Monckton’s version of the IPCC’s “predicted” values over the period from Jan. 2000 through Jan. 2009. Taken from the Feb. 2009 edition of Lord Monckton’s “Monthly CO2 Report.”
It should be noted that Lord Monckton faithfully reproduces the global mean sea surface CO2 concentration taken from NOAA, and the light blue trend line he draws through the data appears to be legitimate. Unfortunately, nearly everything else about the graphs is nonsense. Consider the following points that detail the various fantasies Monckton has incorporated into these two graphics.
Lord Monckton claims the light blue areas on his graphs (Figs. 1 and 2) represent the IPCC’s predictions of atmospheric CO2 concentrations.
The IPCC doesn’t make predictions of future atmospheric CO2 concentrations. And even if we ferret out what Lord Monckton actually means by this claim, he still plotted the data incorrectly.
The IPCC doesn’t really make predictions of how atmospheric CO2 will evolve over time. Rather, the IPCC has produced various “emissions scenarios” that represent estimates of how greenhouse gas emissions might evolve if humans follow various paths of economic development and population growth. The IPCC’s report on emissions scenarios states, “Scenarios are images of the future, or alternative futures. They are neither predictions nor forecasts. Rather, each scenario is one alternative image of how the future might unfold.” Lord Monckton explained via e-mail that he based the IPCC prediction curves “on the IPCC’s A2 scenario,which comes closest to actual global CO2 emissions at present” (2). In his “Monthly CO2 Report” he added, “The IPCC’s estimates of growth in atmospheric CO2 concentration are excessive. They assume CO2 concentration will rise exponentially from today’s 385 parts per million to reach 730 to 1020 ppm, central estimate 836 ppm, by 2100,” which is consistent with the A2 scenario. In other words, Monckton has picked one of several scenarios used by the IPCC and misrepresented it as a prediction. This is patently dishonest.
Monckton’s misrepresentation of the IPCC doesn’t end here, however, because he has also botched the details of the A2 scenario. The IPCC emissions scenarios are run through models of the Carbon Cycle to estimate how much of the emitted CO2 might end up in the atmosphere. A representative (i.e., “middle-of-the-road”) atmospheric CO2 concentration curve is then extracted from the Carbon Cycle model output, and fed into the climate models (AOGCMs) the IPCC uses to project possible future climate states. Figure 3 is a graph from the most recent IPCC report that shows the Carbon Cycle model output for the A2 emissions scenario. The red lines are the output from the model runs, and the black line is the “representative” CO2 concentration curve used as input to the climate models. I digitized this graph, as well, and found that the year 2100 values were the same as those cited by Monckton. (Monckton calls the model input the “central estimate.” )
Figure 3. Plot of atmospheric CO2 concentrations projected from 2000-2100 for the A2 emissions scenario, after the emissions were run through an ensemble of Carbon Cycle models. The red lines indicate model output, whereas the black line represents the “representative” response that the IPCC used as input into its ensemble of climate models (AOGCMs). Taken from Fig. 10.20a of IPCC AR4 WG1.
Now consider Figure 4, where I have plotted the A2 model input (black line in Fig. 3), along with the outer bounds of the projected atmospheric CO2 concentrations (outer red lines in Fig. 3). However, I have also plotted Monckton’s Fantasy IPCC predictions in the figure. The first thing to notice here is how badly Monckton’s central tendency fits the actual A2 model input everywhere in between the endpoints. Monckton’s central tendency ALWAYS overestimates the model input except at the endpoints. Furthermore, the lower bound of Monckton’s Fantasy Projections also overestimates the A2 model input before about the year 2030. What appears to have happened is that Lord Monckton chose the correct endpoints at 2100, picked a single endpoint around the year 2000-2002, and then made up some random exponential equations to connect the dots with NO REGARD for whether his lines had anything to do with what the IPCC actually had anywhere between.
Figure 4. Here the black lines represent the actual A2 input to the IPCC climate models (solid) and the upper and lower bounds of the projected CO2 concentrations obtained by running the A2 emissions scenario through an ensemble of Carbon Cycle models. This data was digitized from the graph in Fig. 3, but a table of model input concentrations of CO2 resulting from the different emissions scenarios can be found here. The red lines represent Monckton’s version of the IPCC’s “predicted” CO2 concentrations. The solid red line is his “central tendency”, while the dotted lines are his upper and lower bounds. Monckton’s data was digitized from the graph in Fig. 1.
John Nielsen-Gammon also pointed some of this out, but Lord Monckton responded:,
[Nielsen-Gammon] says my bounds for the 21st-century evolution of CO2 concentration are not aligned with those of the UN. Except for a very small discrepancy between my curves and two outliers among the models used by the UN, my bounds encompass the output of the UN’s models respectably, as the blogger’s own overlay diagram illustrates. Furthermore, allowing for aspect-ratio adjustment, my graph of the UN’s projections is identical to a second graph produced by the UN itself for scenario A2 that also appears to exclude the two outliers.
It is fair enough to point out that Fig. 10.26 in IPCC AR4 WG1 has a plot of the projected A2 CO2 concentrations that seems to leave out the outliers. However, Monckton’s rendition is still not an honest representation of anything the IPCC ever published. I can prove this by blowing up the 2000-2010 portion of the graph in Fig. 4. I have done this in Fig. 5, where I have also plotted the actual mean annual global CO2 concentrations for that period. The clear implication of this graph is that even if the A2 scenario did predict atmospheric CO2 evolution (and it doesn’t,) it would actually be a good prediction, so far. In Figures 1 and 2, Lord has simply fabricated data to make it seem like the A2 scenario is wrong.
Figure 5. This is a blow-up of the graph in Fig. 4 for the years 2000-2010. I have also added the annual global mean atmospheric CO2 concentrations (blue line), obtained from NOAA.
Monckton claims that “for seven years, CO2 concentration has been rising in a straight line towards just 575 ppmv by 2100. This alone halves the IPCC’s temperature projections. Since 1980 temperature has risen at only 2.5 °F (1.5 °C) per century." In other words, he fit a straight line to the 2002-2009 data and extrapolated to the year 2100, at which time the trend predicts a CO2 concentration of 575 ppm. (See the light blue line in Fig. 1.)
It is impossible to distinguish a linear trend from an exponential trend like the one used for the A2 model input over such a short time period.
I pointed out to Lord Monckton that it’s often very hard to tell an exponential from a linear trend over a short time period, e.g., the 7-year period shown in Fig. 2. He replied,
I am, of course, familiar with the fact that, over a sufficiently short period (such as a decade of monthly records), a curve that is exponential (such as the IPCC predicts the CO2 concentration curve to be) may appear linear. However, there are numerous standard statistical tests that can be applied to monotonic or near-monotonic datasets, such as the CO2 concentration dataset, to establish whether exponentiality is being maintained in reality. The simplest and most direct of these is the one that I applied to the data before daring to draw the conclusion that CO2 concentration change over the past decade has degenerated towards mere linearity. One merely calculates the least-squares linear-regression trend over successively longer periods to see whether the slope of the trend progressively increases (as it must if the curve is genuinely exponential) or whether, instead, it progressively declines towards linearity (as it actually does). One can also calculate the trends over successive periods of, say, ten years, with start-points separated by one year. On both these tests, the CO2 concentration change has been flattening out appreciably. Nor can this decay from exponentiality towards linearity be attributed solely to the recent worldwide recession: for it had become evident long before the recession began.
In other words, the slope keeps getting larger in an exponential trend, but stays the same in a linear trend. Monckton is right that you can do that sort of statistical test, but Tamino actually applied Monckton’s test to the Mauna Loa observatory CO2 data since about 1968 and found that the 10-year slope in the data has been pretty continuously rising, including over the last several years. Furthermore, look at the graph in Fig. 5, and note that the solid black line representing the A2 climate model input looks quite linear over that time period, but looks exponential over the longer timeframe in Fig. 4. I went to the trouble of fitting a linear trend line to the A2 model input line from 2002-2009 and obtained a correlation coefficient (R2) of 0.99967. Since a perfectly linear trend would have R2 = 1, I suggest that it would be impossible to distinguish a linear from an exponential trend like that followed by the A2 scenario in real, “noisy” data over such a short time period.
Atmospheric CO2 concentration wouldn’t be treated as such a big deal if it didn’t affect temperature; so of course Lord Monckton has tried to show that the Fantasy IPCC “predictions” of CO2 concentration he made up translate into overly high temperature predictions. This is what he has done in the graph shown in Fig. 6.
Figure 6. Lord Monckton’s plot of global temperature anomalies over the period January 2002 to January 2009. The red line is a linear trend line Monckton fit to the data, and the pink/white field represents his Fantasy IPCC temperature predictions. I have no idea what his base period is. Taken from the Feb. 2009 edition of Lord Monckton’s “Monthly CO2 Report.”.
FANTASY #3. Lord Monckton uses graphs like that in Fig. 6 to support his claim that the climate models (AOGCMs) the IPCC uses to project future temperatures are wildly inaccurate.
Monckton didn’t actually get his Fantasy IPCC predictions of temperature evolution from AOGCM runs. Instead, he inappropriately fed his Fantasy IPCC predictions of CO2 concentration into equations meant to describe the EQUILIBRIUM model response to different CO2 concentrations.
Monckton indicated to me (5) that he obtained his graph of IPCC temperature predictions by running his Fantasy CO2 predictions (loosely based on the A2 emissions scenario) through the IPCC’s standard equation for converting CO2 concentration to temperature change, which can be found here.
The problem is that the equation mentioned is meant to describe equilibrium model response, rather than the transient response over time. In other words, they take the standard AOGCMs, input a certain stabilized CO2 concentration, and run the models until the climate output stabilizes around some new equilibrium. But it takes some time for the model systems to reach the new equilibrium state, because some of the feedbacks in the system (e.g., heat absorption as the ocean circulates) operate on fairly long timescales. Therefore, it is absolutely inappropriate to use the IPCC’s equation to describe anything to do with time evolution of the climate system. When I brought this up to Lord Monckton, he replied that he knows the difference between equilibrium and transient states, but he figures the equilibrium calculation comes close enough. But since the IPCC HAS published time-series (rather than just equilibrium) model output for the A2 scenario (see Fig. 7,) why wouldn’t he just use that?
Figure 7. Ensemble AOGCM output for the A2 emissions scenario, taken from Fig. 10.5 of IPCC AR4 WG1.
The answer is that if Lord Monckton had used the time-series model output, he would have had to admit that the IPCC temperature projections are still right in the ballpark. In Fig. 8, I have digitized the outer bounds of the model runs in Fig. 7, and also plotted the HadCRUT3 global annual mean temperature anomaly over the same period. The bottom line is that Monckton has put the wrong data into the wrong equation, and (surprise!) he got the wrong answer.
Figure 8. The blue and green lines represent the upper and lower bounds of the global average temperature anomaly from AOGCM output for the A2 emissions scenario during the 2002-2010 period. The black line represents the HadCRUT3 global temperature anomalies for that timeframe, normalized to the same base period.
I have shown here that in order to discredit the IPCC, Lord Monckton produced his graphs of atmospheric CO2 concentration and global mean temperature anomaly in the following manner:
- He confused a hypothetical scenario with a prediction.
- He falsely reported the data from the hypothetical scenario he was confusing with a prediction.
- He plugged his false data into the wrong equation to obtain false predictions of time-series temperature evolution.
- He messed up the statistical analyses of the real data.
These errors compound into a rather stunning display of complete incompetence. But since all, or at least nearly all, of this has been pointed out to Monckton in the past, there’s just no scientifically valid excuse for this. He’s just making it up.
665 Responses to "Monckton makes it up"
Thank you for this cogent analysis.
As your figure 4 demonstrates, Monckton’s CO2 projections are almost exactly the same as the IPCC projections.
So what, exactly, is the point you are trying to make?
I would like to have seen the point made that for Monckton to try to represent the the IPCC stated he’d have to include all scenarios from all GCMs used and plot against that. Instead, he uses the worst case scenario and misrepresents it as what the IPCC said.
Anyone have a graph that shows all IPCC IV scenarios that real data could be plotted against? My guess is it would show reality as being at the upper bound of scenarios, completely obliterating the argument is overstating, and prove that, if anything, IV was quite conservative.
Paul A says
He is incompetent, he fabricates, but he is also been extraordinarily successful. Monckton is a classic example of a demagogue preaching “doctrines he knows to be untrue to men he knows to be idiots”. (to quote HL Mencken).
Guess I should have had my coffee first. There were a number of mistakes in that last. Please delete and use this:
I would like to have seen the point made directly that for Monckton to try to represent what the IPCC stated, he’d have had to include all scenarios from all GCMs used and plot against that. Instead, he uses a worst case scenario and misrepresents it as the totality of what the IPCC produced.
Anyone have a graph that shows all IPCC IV scenarios that real data could be plotted against? My guess is it would show reality as being at the upper bound of scenarios, completely obliterating the argument is the IPCC is overstating the case, and prove that, if anything, the IPCC IV was quite conservative.
Roger Romney-Hughes says
He’s just making it up.
And one suspects he knows that full well. See our discussion‘On Bullshit’.
Hot Rod says
I don’t think you’ll get much disagreement from intelligent sceptics that Monckton is not a reliable or dispassionate witness, more a polemicist. And he certainly suffers from the same disease as many – inability to admit fault, leading to consequent loss of credibility.
Which is why I’m curious as to the purpose of this post – which readers of Realclimate need convincing that Monckton is not reliable?
Matt Camp says
Monkton is succeeding because of an age old marketing principal. If you can’t sell your product as the best product, sell it as the alternative/opposite than the best product.
Monkton doesn’t need to be right or present the facts, he just needs to be the opposite of realClimate. And there is a large population of people who disagree with global warming who are looking for someone to back up their feelings and opinions.
Barry Bickmore says
If you want to get your head around the extent of Monckton’s tendency to fabricate, see “Lord Monckton’s Rap Sheet” here:
Where is RomanM and CA to complain about the
“appallingly commonplace misuse of statistical methodology in
climate science“skeptics”/contrarians”? [quote from RomanM’s blog]
The double standard of certain self-proclaimed citizen “auditors” and their following is incredible.
But if he has no training, why has he become so influential among climate change contrarians?
Because no one competent was available to lie about climate science? Seems obvious.
Monckton has since exploded into hysterics and is threatening to sue everyone who points out he’s lying, so I don’t think his act has much of its fifteen minutes left.
G. Thomas Farmer says
Monckton is a fraud. He is not a \Lord\ and has never been a member of the House of Lords, which is required for the title of Lord in the U.K. He is not only a fraud, he is pandering to people who don’t know better and are so ignorant they don’t know they’re ignorant.
Climate scientists and others knowledgeable about global climate should go after this guy to have him prosecuted for fraud.
[Response: Your information on what constitutes Lordship and membership in the House of Lords is precisely backwards (look it up, please). However dishonest he may be about his claims about science, there is no evidence of any dishonesty about his title. In any case, it’s quite irrelevant. Please stick to substance.–eric]
Bickmore is grasping at straws here. Firstly he sets Monckton up as the authority for the anti-AGW camp. Monckton certainly is prominent and vocal but he is just one of many commentators, including a swath of well qualified and experienced scientists who do not accept the IPCC belief that the bulk of warming in recent years is due to man made CO2 emissions. Bickmore has a problem with Monckton’s prominence because he is not climate science qualified. The fact is, many scientists on both sides of the debate are not climate scientists, they are earth scientists, astrophysicists, palaeontologists, economists, statisticians, and here in Australia, one of the most vocal pro-AGW commentators is a professor of psychology. But I don’t hear the pro-AGW camp telling him he’s not qualified to talk on climate science. The pro-AGW camp didn’t seem to have a problem with the college drop-out unqualified Al Gore taking a prominent position on climate change, and accepting a Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts. In fact it is a real pity that Bickmore and his ilk didn’t critique Al Gore’s ‘An Inconvenient Truth’ because that had more holes in it than a Swiss cheese. Had they done so, they may well have earned themselves some credibility. Instead, many pro-AGW scientists kept quiet simply because Al Gore was supporting ‘their side’ . Finally Bickmore wants to criticise Monckton for using the IPCC reports ‘hypothetical scenarios’ and calling them predictions. So where were Bickmore and all the other pro-AGW scientists when the media were clearly citing the IPCC’s upper end ‘hypothetical scenarios’ predictions? How many took time to correct the commentators pointing out that the extreme scenarios used to whip up support for draconian climate change policies were merely hypothetical, and at the upper end of hypothetical? Finally Bickmore gleaned some sense of satisfaction by claiming the IPCC projections are ‘still right in the ball park’. In fact HadCRUT3 global temperature anomalies are at the very low range of the IPCC scenarios, (had we been using a ball park it would have been called a foul having bounced outside the diamond), and shows little sign of moving anywhere near the upper range. The fact is if the lower range results are typical of future temperatures then not only do we have little to fear, but we may actually reap some benefits from a climate more conducive to higher world agricultural productivity. All Bickmore has done in trying to be ‘clever’ is prove Monckton more right than wrong, and the IPCC hypothetical scenarios more wrong than right.
[Response:I agree with you that it is not relevant whether Monckton is ‘qualified’ (except insofar as the point has to do with the notable absence of people that *are* qualified who agree with him.) Nevertheless, you are really grasping at straws to suggest that he is right. And your are wrong about your claim of lack of balance. RealClimate has many posts pointing out where the media has hyped things, for example here.–eric]
Monckton’s 2002 – 2009 graph was a nonsense anyway, regardless of what slope it shows, since 7 years of data can’t possibly give us the trend in global temperatures. It can only show us the natural fluctuations due to the solar cycle, ocean circulation and so on. To see any real trend at all, we have to average over a long enough period to have some chance of reducing the ‘noise’ of natural fluctuations substantially below the ‘signal’ of a long-term warming trend, and that means at least two solar cycles – i.e. 22 years at a bare minimum, and preferably 30.
So, rather than being challenged on how it was constructed, the 2002 – 2009 graph should have been just dismissed as completely worthless for its advertised purpose, which it is. There is no ‘global cooling’ at all, despite Monckton’s caption – the globe is warming at about 0.18°C per decade and has been for several decades, with no sign of even a slowdown in this warming, let alone a halt or reversal. That is what needs to be pointed out in response to Monckton’s arrant nonsense.
Barton Paul Levenson says
I have offered to debate this charlatan four times now. No reply yet.
Barry Bickmore says
James (Comment #12),
It wasn’t me who set up Monckton as an authority. I would say it was people like the members of the U.S. Congress who twice invited Monckton to testify about climate science. Even that would be fine with me if he didn’t fabricate his facts.
Doug Bostrom says
Pink Portcullis in Peril:
The House is currently taking steps with a view to ensuring that Lord Monckton does not in future either claim to be a member of the House or use the parliamentary emblem or any variant thereof.
Bob (Sphaerica) says
It’s my own belief that Monckton is successful because he is preaching to the choir, or rather, the denial choir. Anyone with any sense should look at him and shake their head, and yet there are any number of people who will eagerly believe what they want to hear, and they are the sheep that flock to his call. That this includes a member of the U.S. senate is simply embarrassing, but fortunately I am not from the state of Oklahoma and so can personally avoid any blame for that particular ignominy.
At the same time, as far beneath mention as someone like Monckton should be, particularly on a site such as this, I think that properly debunking his and other ridiculously blatant lies is an important if tedious task. The more that the truly absurd, and easily and unarguably recognized, lies of the leaders of the denial movement can be exposed for what they are, the more ordinary people will recognize the difference between the skeptical claims of lies (such as “the hockey stick” or “hide the decline”) and actual, laughable fabrications… which invariably come from the denial camp, in droves.
Re #12 Eric, from what Bickmore wrote Monckton is closer to being right in saying that the IPCC’s own temperature scenarios are not predictive, than the IPCC is in getting almost all of their temperature scenarios close to actual results. You also can’t claim balance by pointing to one or two articles on this site which attacked ridiculous claims. Where have you analysed ‘An Inconvenient Truth’ and separated fact from fiction? Or attacked the many outrageous claims made regarding possible sea level rise, extreme weather events and the like? I stand by the points I made regarding the use of the extreme scenarios to drive policy without any clarification that they are both hypothetical and at the extreme end of the range. You only have to read any number of newspaper articles on Climate Change to see what I have said is true. If we try to panic policy makers into action by claiming hypothetical extremes then we risk having the baby thrown out with the bathwater when those extreme scenarios don’t appear to be eventuating. I agree with the new tack being taken by many environmental activists, lets deal with the facts we are sure of and make policy based on that. Protect forests, reafforestation projects, reduce particulate pollution, sulphates and methane emissions, maximise renewable energy and so on.
Bob (Sphaerica) says
I’m sorry, I would agree, if it weren’t for the fact that Monckton testified before Congress. That means that he established himself as “an authority for the anti_AGW camp.” It also makes him fair game for examination and dissection, and in fact makes it necessary that someone do so.
That the U.S. Congress was foolish and ignorant enough to allow the testimony of such a character is another issue, and makes one stop to think (and sweat, and tremble).
I don’t see anyone telling anyone that they aren’t qualified to talk about the issue, or should not do so. The topic of this post is not about his right to speak, but rather a clear and unarguable exposition of the lies that he has presented.
All Bickmore has done in trying to be ‘clever’ is prove Monckton more right than wrong
Except for the part where performing the test Monckton himself proposed shows that Monckton was wrong? You really ought to read before commenting.
and the IPCC hypothetical scenarios more wrong than right.
It seems you have failed to grasp the meaning of the word “scenario,” abusing it in precisely the way Monckton has while lying about climate science.
I stand by the points I made regarding the use of the extreme scenarios to drive policy without any clarification that they are both hypothetical and at the extreme end of the range.
Again the the scenarios thingy? Claiming that something is misleading because you insist on getting it wrong is really a new low.
Bob (Sphaerica) says
Okay, this is just downright silly. Your point amounts to two things:
1) “Other people have been wrong, too, therefore it is wrong to point out that Monckton blatantly lies.”
2) “If you are going to be fair, you have to argue the other sides case to an equal degree. If you don’t then you aren’t being fair in the debate.”
Are you serious?
[On a separate note, can you actually point to (link to) any of the “outrageous claims” that you claim to have heard? Nothing vague. Be specific. Deniers constantly say things like this and yet I myself never see any real evidence of it… and I myself don’t live only in the sealed off echo chamber of the denial blog world.]
>These errors compound into a rather stunning display of complete incompetence. But since all, or at least nearly all, of this has been pointed out to Monckton in the past, there’s just no scientifically valid excuse for this. He’s just making it up.
I think if he’s that bad why are you focusing a full post and energy on him? I say this as a part skeptic/denier but still I do have respect for RC and follow and enjoy the blog but Monkton is more a topic for ranting at Climate Progress or Watts up. This blog should avoid something if he is as you say “Just making it up” but why is he making it up, have you established a specific motive? Have a great day!
His title is irrelevant, however, his claim to be a member of the House of Lords and his use of its parliamentary emblem is. He has, for instance, introduced himself to the US Senate as being such, and in a way that would lead the casual observer to believe he was appearing in a quasi-official role. He trades on his supposed membership in the Lords in order to inflate his importance.
This is, I believe, relevant. You may, of course, disagree.
Or you may decide this is relevant, but off-topic, another kettle of fish entirely.
From Barry Bickmore’s blog:
James apparently can’t be bothered to search the site for its critique of “An Inconvenient Truth”. Why not, James?
Of course, if he does, he’ll realize that working climate scientists largely agree with most everything stated in the film or book, and that will be more proof for James that climate science is really climate fiction, because if James believes something is fiction, it *must* be fiction, right?
And your are wrong about your claim of lack of balance. RealClimate has many posts pointing out where the media has hyped things, for example here.
The commenter’s demand for “balance” is actually a complex question fallacy, much like “have you stopped beating your wife?” In fact, there is no figure on the other side of this issue with the same reach, exposure, and systemic mendacity who could be compared to Mr. Monckton.
The demand that you expose such a person is dishonest, and seems to be a desperate attempt to distract from yet another denialist meltdown.
George Robinson says
It is not surprising that Monckton is so popular in the States, first he is a “Lord”, and second he is a Marty Feldman look-a-like. Then of course the average American is so gullible they believe almost anything, anyone tells them, this could be the reason as to why so few Americans travel abroad, as they still believe that the world is flat, and that the capital of Europe is IKEA
Tom Scharf says
The professed “real” upper and lower bounds in figure 5 are ridiculous. This range makes the graph effectively unfalsifiable for decades.
Anybody can look at the graphic and state that the most recent CO2 data is not trending as expected in the predictions. This may change over the longer term, or may even require long term data. But stating everything is going as the predictions expected is equally false to saying it has been falsified at this point.
I have the same problem with the global temperature simulations, the most recent measured data (12 years) is not trending as the models predicted. It is still technically within the error bars, but the error bars are so wide that a minimal rise in temperature over 30 years would still result in “success”.
I comprehend the noisy data and the need for long term averaging. But defending that the models are “working” does not pass the smell test.
This is a two way street folks, and it is fair. If the error margins are large, then we are going to have to wait 30 or more years to see if the model is really working, and to also have high confidence in the model. Because it may take that long for the model to fail. Big error margins indicate lack of confidence in the predictions, and that should be clearly stated.
If small error margins are used (not that error margins can be set just anywhere), then the model will be falsifiable a lot earlier. However you can also claim success with higher confidence earlier.
Tight margins and I’ll trust the models sooner, large margins and I’ll trust the models a lot later. Draw the margins wherever they belong, and I will judge results and confidence accordingly.
[Response: You misunderstand the sources of prediction uncertainty. Some of it, related to chaotic weather dynamics are likely to be irreducible for any short time period, and so the best you can do is characterise that uncertainty (using ensemble forecasting for instance). Demanding unacheivable forecast spread before you take anything seriously sounds just a tad too convenient. – gavin]
Edward Greisch says
For a classics major and journalist, Monckton is rather good with math. Not correct, but good enough to look like he is doing the same things that real scientists are doing. Since very few people have the mathematical talent and training required, he is able to fool a lot of people. That is what makes him dangerous, and that is why it is necessary for RC to point out the differences. Some of those differences may appear to be nit picking to most people.
Where did Monckton learn his math?
reCaptcha is getting difficult for humans sometimes. Could you get it to stick to correctly spelled words? My computer underlines “scarrate” indicating that it is misspelled.
Tom Scharf says
And one more thing that really bothers me about climate model predictions that is rarely discussed around here, and kind of swept into the closet, which is prediction skill.
We all know that prediction skill is effectively a measure of the correctness of a model, but that is not the whole story, or even most of the story. Prediction skill is also based on how it compares to other models, and importantly, to basic mathematical predictions.
The first step in skill here is “Can you beat a seventh grader?”. A seventh grader who knows nothing of the physics of the climate can lay down a ruler and draw an estimate (i.e. linear interpolation) based on the general trend.
If the seventh grader has better results, it indicates that all the hard earned knowledge and super tech physical simulation models have bought you exactly zero. They are not (in the form they are implemented) providing anything useful what so ever.
Think about that the next few times you analyze climate model performance. Right now the seventh grader is winning.
[Response: Not true at all. Julie Hargreaves has a new paper out on this precise question and shows that the early model simulations had substantial skill compared to any naive model. – gavin]
Ray Ladbury says
While I agree with James that looking for evidence of mendacity from Monckton is like shooting fish in a barrel with a stinger missile, unfortunately, James has decided not to name names for his “swath of well qualified and experienced scientists”. Nor does he tell us how many scientists constitute a swath.
He also doesn’t seem to understand that the criterion for admission to the rank of card-carrying climate scientists is publication on the subject of climate in peer-reviewed scientific journals that regularly carry articles on the subject. Monckton regretably does not meet this standard. However, looking at the pitiful output of scientists in the denialist camp, it’s kind of hard to argue that any of his “swath” meet it either. Oh dear, could it be that James is BSing in a manner similar to Monckton.
Cue James post on climategate in 5…4…3…2…
steven mosher says
Some of us at CA have repeatedly criticized Monkton for his bad work. He should correct his mistakes.
He should do so openly and without caveat. His misrepresentations and errors cannot be excused as mere ignorance going forward. No arm waving, no silent updates to his website. no claims that it doesn’t matter.
He needs to correct the mistake. Period.
Rattus Norvegicus says
James, you might have tried looking at the right hand sidebar. Hint: it’s the link titled “Al Gore’s Movie”.
Where have you analysed ‘An Inconvenient Truth’ and separated fact from fiction?
RealClimate’s ‘first impression’ is here, if you’re really interested. I’m not sure if Bickmore has personally critiqued it (Barry, it’d be nice if your blog had a search feature!), but this whole question brings up a side issue: Is Monckton doing the same thing Al Gore did? Apparently not, since Gore’s movie, book, and traveling road show are generally praised by scientists for accuracy with some nitpicking thrown in, while Monckton’s continuous output is generally panned by scientists for his willful and mendacious avoidance of accuracy. If you compare the bulk of scientists’ appraisals of their output then Gore comes out much, much better than Monckton. You may as well try to compare Bill Nye the Science Guy with Ken Ham. Sure, neither one is a scientist, but who deserves more criticism: someone who gets it mostly right, or someone who gets it mostly wrong?
[Response: In fact, Bill Nye is a scientist (well, he was formally trained as a mechanical engineer at Cornell–but close enough: he’s studied physics, math, etc.). He’s also an all around good guy (I got a chance to hang out w/ him out at an event at google last week). Bill’s site is here for anyone interested in seeing what he’s up to these days. -mike]
Hot Rod (#7)
The reason this sort of post is necessary on RC is to give those of us who sometimes confront people who think that Monckton reaches NY by walking from London, a good solid debunking reference. Not that there are not others, but as most of us know, having to search for them, however little time it takes, is still time taken and the true deniers (unbelievable optimists) are many.
Thank You RC.
Scott A Mandia says
Let us not forget the outrageous and childish remarks by Monckton directed toward Dr. Abraham and his University after Abraham eviscerated Monckton’s presentation. Those remarks by Monckton along with threats of legal action preclude him from any further respect.
Anybody who defends this man now should be embarrassed. If you are anti-AGW you need to pick a new horse to ride.
Patrick 027 says
Re Tom Scharf –
1. Don’t forget about the ~100 years or so prior to the last 12 years. I don’t think the last 12 years in isolation could provide much evidence to confirm or falsify models (which do produce internal variability, hence the wide spread in short term trends), but taking those 12 years in comparison to the 12 before, and the last 24 years in comparison to the 24 before that, etc, and paleoclimatic evidence, etc, and model behavior is at least generally supported.
2. Climate models generally are based on physics and specifically not ‘tuned’ to reproduce any trends, so a match to trends is a real test. This might not have much to do with your point except that you mentioned a seventh grader doing a linear interpolation, which sounds like you mean fitting a linear trend to the data, as opposed to prediction. Or did you mean linear extrapolation? – in which case, that’s a statistical model prediction, which, at least in this context, we shouldn’t rely on – if we actually know some things about how the climate works then it makes more sense to use that knowledge.
Ray Ladbury said:
> James has decided not to name names for his “swath of well qualified
> and experienced scientists”
Well, he wouldn’t want to draw up a blacklist, would he?  Henceforth skeptics are excused from ever naming all the great scientists they claim support their position, but who must operate in total secrecy to protect themselves from persecution by the climate science establishment that is the modern equivalent of the Spanish Inquisition. 
 Baffled? See the previous thread on “Expert credibility”.
 That is, they might be subjected to the Comfy Chair, or even (shudder) the Soft Pillow.
You didn’t quote my favorite two Monckton snippets:
185: Would it not have been fairer if you had admitted that you simply have no idea how the IPCC actually calculates its temperature projections, and that – as will be evident from the above questions – I know enough about it to produce accurate and reliable graphs?
186: Why did it not occur to you, as it did to me, that, since the IPCC’s projections of future exponential CO2 growth and logarithmic temperature response necessarily produce a straight line, the IPCC’s detuning of its own projections to reduce the projected temperature change to just 0.2 C°/decade over the first couple of decades of this century has no basis in scientific reality or method?
185: You don’t know how the IPCC calculates temperatures. I do.
186: In fact, I know how to calculate IPCC’s temperatures _better_ than the IPCC!
185: I know IPCC.
186: I have no clue about IPCC.
richard pauli says
Finally, a persistently misinformed, anti-science performer is correctly rejected by science.
But when his delusional exercises continue to be accepted by Congress, mass media and denialists as science – well then, somebody else is joining the show.
It is never surprising to see that there is a confederacy of lunatics. But it is horribly disturbing to see that they are supported and nurtured by otherwise rational people. The stupid supporting the crazy.
I have no idea what his base period is.
The index is the mean of a varying pool of temperature anomalies, which started out as HadCRUt3, NCDC, RSS, and UAH in January 2009 and was thinned down to the satellite data sets. In addition, the index is zeroed to the minimum value within the time period it is plotted, so the offset may change from plot to plot.
I have compiled the details here:
Steve Metzler says
Thanks for sharing that with us. What are the SPPI going to do when they discern a problem with their last remaining source of temperature data? Will they… start making stuff up? Oh, wait.
Ron Taylor says
James, your criticisms of “An Inconvenient Truth” follow a pattern that I have observed over the years. Namely, generalizations with no specific information about what the problem is. Whenever specific quotes by Al Gore in the film have been criticized, it has turned out that the quotes simply were not there, but were mistaken impressions of what he had said. The film was accepted and respected by many because it was developed in consultation with climate scientists. He said nothing that had not been vetted with experts. He never claimed expertise, but presented himself simply as a communicator. Perhaps you can share with us the specific problems to which you refer.
Wouldn’t it just be simpler if the IPCC was clear about what the predictions are. Almost everyone has different impression about what the models (together with the assumptions) are predicting – short and long-term. Credibility could be achieved by meeting a 2015 prediction for example.
Having said that, it looks like the A1B scenario has been the best CO2 assumption to date but it looks like it might be a little high for 2100 taking into account the trends / acceleration to date. The Methane assumptions are also too high since it looks to reach a plateau soon.
I need some help understanding the first point. IPCC makes some assumptions (aka creates a scenarios) about future emissions (in this case the A2 set of assumptions). It feeds those into a model to forecast the impact these assumptions might have on future CO2 concentrations (note the concentrations are forecasts based on assumptions about the emissions).
As I read Chapter 10.4.1 of AR4 WG1 it is addressing the uncertainty introduced by carbon cycle feed backs into those predictions. It does this by comparing multiple model runs that give the range in Fig. 3 above. Correct?
The actual uncertainty in the forecast (i.e. stepping from emissions to concentrations) is of course much much higher than the range shown by model runs for at least two reasons. The models don’t by any means capture the uncertainty in their forecasts, and their are a large number of other sources of uncertainty in the models used to forecast emissions from concentrations). Correct?
Both proponent and critic seem to be missing the main point, namely that which was alluded to by Tom Scharf comment 31.
I note in passing the Wiley site is currently down for maintenance so Hargreaves is not accessible – however from the diagram that can be seen it looks as though the null hypothesis was “no change in temperature” rather than showing it “had substantial skill compared to any naive model. – gavin”.
[Response: They looked at “no change” and also linear trend extrapolation over various time periods. The “no change” model was the best predictor of changes in the historical data, and so would have been the best naive model in 1988. But the hansen simulation still has higher skill than any justifiable linear fit of the earlier data. -gavin]
John Mashey says
As absurd as it was to have the Viscount testify, lall it takes to invite someone to testify is for the relevant senior member of either party on some committee to ask them… Given Barton & Inhofe, one can guarantee that folks like Monckton, Happer, or Crichton get to testify now and then. That they ask Monckton indicates bottom-of-barrel-dom, akin toe the way he got offered the chance to write for the APS FPS 2 years ago. [The editors had a list of 5-6 names, but everyone else said no..]
(but while I’m here, thinking about amazing speaking invitations, go look at What have Wegman and Said done … lately? @ Deep Climate and join the discussion there (not here). You might be surprised to find that a June Interface meeting (statistics & computer science, some sponsorship from 2 sections of American Statistical Society)had invited talks by Fred Singer, Jeff Kueter (George Marshall Institute) and Don Easterbrook … reprising talks from last 2 Heartland conferences. Yasmin Said discoursed on evils of Climategate.
RE # 13, 16, 19, 21, 23, 26, 27, 32, 34, 35, 37 and 39. Sorry if I missed anyone.
Those who pointed out I hadn’t responded to criticisms of my post as some sort of victory for them, or back down by me clearly aren’t clever enough to realise there is a great time difference ‘here in Australia’ compared to their local time and I do have to sleep! In any event, my life is not this blog, if I don’t respond, it may be because I have other things to do.
Some people are clearly not aware that English, as taught in England and here in Australia varies in some areas to the English taught in the US. The differences are not particularly critical, but if you are going to draw attention to a supposed error with [sic], you need to know that many English words are actually spelt with an ‘s’ not a ‘z’, though I don’t get upset that Americans made some changes to the English language. In fact I think many of the changes to more phonetic spelling are sensible, but it doesn’t make my use of English wrong. So ‘analysed’, or ‘sceptic’ are quite correct where I come from.
[Response: Please no spelling arguments. That is the definition of tedious. -gavin]
My understanding of the scientific use for scenario is clear, my point is that while they are hypothetical, they are reported as predictions in the popular press. In fact all the scary hypothetical scenarios seem to be taken as absolute truths by The Greens Party here in Australia and many environmental activists groups around the world and the silence from the climate science community correcting this misinterpretation is deafening.
In saying Monckton was more right than wrong, I was referring to the comparison of the IPCC scenarios for temperature anomalies compared to actual results over recent years. Bickmore’s own graph showing the temperature anomaly results had actually landed outside the ball park before dribbling back in demonstrates that the bulk of the IPCC scenarios are in the upper extreme and the modelling used should be reconsidered. Otherwise we could continue coming in at the ‘harmless’ scenario projections while making policy to fit the extreme unrealistic scenarios.
Contrary to assumptions made by some, I did read this site’s review of the Gore movie when it was first posted and re-read it again recently. It is a generous, glossy review which missed critical areas and does not amount to a critique. You should all be aware of the critiques done since then.
[edit – Al Gore it OT]
While I accept the definition of a climate scientist being used on this site is someone who has published on the subject, I certainly do not accept that those who haven’t are not able to make a judgement about the state of the science. In my field of expertise I am well regarded and have acted in important roles for government committees and academic institutions. But I have never had a paper published in my area of expertise simply because I didn’t go down the academic and research track. It doesn’t mean I am incapable of analysing research done in my area of expertise. When concern was raised about the ozone layer and the harm being done by CFC’s, the world acted relatively quickly. The science was clear and demonstrable and scenario projections modelled matched actual results. The case for man made CO2 emissions being the primary cause of climate change is yet to be made to that level of clarity. It is not sufficient for scientists to then say well we have some hypothetical scenarios which indicate if we don’t drastically reduce CO2 emissions the world is going to end. More work needs to be done on the science and contrary scientific views need to be investigated too instead of trying to make everything fit the one suspect when there are still many suspects which could be acting individually or together. I’m sorry if that is too tiresome a task for climate scientists, but that requirement applies to any profession.
I’ve been asked to list the outrageous claims I refer to.
[edit – sorry, but please stay on topic. If every thread devolves into a list of every claim that has ever been made, no discussion is possible]
For enthusiasts, I have provided a list of 94 ‘climate-gates’ here, (http://pgosselin.wordpress.com/2010/08/03/climate-scandals-list-of-94-climate-gates/). I actually thought this article’s approach a little childish, particularly the insistence on listing everything as a ‘gate’, but it has provided as good a list as any of some of the more outrageous climate claims made.
I know some of these points are a stretch, but exaggeration clearly sits comfortably on both sides of the fence when it comes to debating climate change.
I am not going to stand up and support every point made in those references, firstly because I don’t, secondly because I am not qualified and finally because the whole point of my initial post was to demonstrate that the side which claims to be on the side of the ‘science’ , is demonstrably uncritical of anything which supports their view. In addition, there is a great reluctance to admit there have been errors made. In the end, climate science has lost credibility because of this lack of scientific scrutiny and will continue to haemorrhage unless that changes.
I apologise for not knowing how to embed hyper-links which makes the text a little clumsy.
I also apologise that one of the links I submitted above has not been hyper-linked because I missed a space. As I have commented before, such errors would be picked up if this site had a ‘preview’ button.
#44 Ron Taylor – my response above should cover your assertions. I don’t think the UK Court made it’s finding on generalised statements which were not found in ‘An Inconvenient Truth’.
reCAPTCHA sucks, I can’t even read some of the ‘words’ especially when punctuation symbols are used.
[Response: The whole point of reCAPTCHA is for you to read words that can’t be read by OCR and in so doing, improve the transcriptions of old documents. Plus it really cuts down on spam. Please be patient with it. – gavin]
Vendicar Decarian says
$$$ is Monckton’s motivation. He is raking in millions in lecture fees as he spreads his lies through Conservative America.
I can think of nothing more abhorrent than to seek to profit through the promotion of global scale biosphere destruction.