Thursday, June 3rd 2010, 8:10 AM EDT
Professor John Abraham's withering scrutiny reveals how the gurus of climate scepticism repeat a pattern of manipulation
Another one bites the dust. Every so often, someone with a strong stomach and time to spare volunteers to devote weeks or months of their life to a grisly task: investigating the claims of a person who dismisses the science or significance of man-made climate change. Dave Rado did it with Martin Durkin's film, the Great Global Warming Swindle. Howard Friel did it with Bjørn Lomborg. Ian Enting did it with Ian Plimer.
It involves slow, painstaking work, following the sources, checking the claims against the science. But the result in all cases has been the same: a devastating debunking of both the claims and the methods of the people investigated.
Now another fallen idol of climate change denial must be added to the list: Viscount Monckton's assertions have been comprehensively discredited by professor of mechanical engineering John Abraham, at the University of St Thomas in Minnesota.
Abraham, like the other brave souls who have taken on this thankless task, has plainly spent a very long time on it. He investigates a single lecture Monckton delivered in October last year. He was struck by the amazing claims that Monckton made: that climate science is catalogue of lies and conspiracies. If they were true, it would be a matter of the utmost seriousness: human-caused climate change would, as Monckton is fond of saying, be the greatest fraud in scientific history. If they were untrue, it was important to show why.
Updated below with John Abraham link
As Abraham explains at the beginning of his investigation, his scientific credentials didn't mean that he was automatically right, any more than Monckton's lack of scientific credentials meant that he was automatically wrong. Every claim Monckton made would be judged on its merits. Where Monckton gave references, Abraham would follow them up, seeking to discover whether he had accurately represented the papers he cited, or whether the authors of those papers agreed with his interpretation. Where he did not give references, Abraham would see whether Monckton's claims were consistent with published scientific data.
One of the difficulties with tasks like this is that it takes only a minute to make a claim, but can take hours, even days, to investigate it. So if people are making lots of claims, exposing them requires a great deal of work. Judging by the outcome of all the investigations I've mentioned, the gurus of climate change denial appear to expect that no one will have the time and energy to question them.
The results of Abraham's investigation are astonishing: not one of the claims he looks into withstands scrutiny. He exposes a repeated pattern of misinformation, distortion and manipulation, as he explains in the article he has written for the Guardian. Some of Monckton's assertions are breath-taking in their brazen disregard of facts. He has gravely misrepresented papers and authors he refers to, in some cases he appears to have created data, graphs and trends out of thin air: at least that was how it appeared to Abraham when Monckton gave no references and his graphs and figures starkly contradicted the published science.
The lecture, like all those Monckton gives, looked and sounded like science: lots of charts and graphs, plenty of numbers and citations, all delivered with an air of authority and finality. Abraham's hard grind demonstrates that it was a long concatenation of nonsense.
Monckton has already been exposed for falsely claiming that he is a member of the House of Lords (the UK's upper legislative body). Now that his claims about the science have been exposed to such withering scrutiny, it's hard to see how he can bounce back in the eyes of anyone other than his ardent disciples. But among them, I doubt that this exposure will make a jot of difference.
Such is the strength of their belief, that if Monckton were to claim that he is in fact the risen Christ, some of them would still go along with it. Given his past pronouncements, it's probably only a matter of time, so we should soon be able to test this proposition. Even if he somehow managed to alienate his followers, they would simply move on to the next charlatan, as climate change denial groupies have done many times already.
The problem is that people like Lord Monckton, Ian Plimer, Christopher Booker and James Delingpole act as an echo-chamber for each other's discredited beliefs. However nutty their views are, they will be affirmed by other members of the closed circle. Speaking and listening only to each other, as we saw at the Heartland Institute conference last month, their claims become ever weirder and more extreme as they isolate themselves from reality. In circumstances like this, it doesn't matter how comprehensively they are discredited, they will merely dig their holes even deeper.
Click source to read more of this RANT from George Monbiot with links
Click to see Monckton takes scientist to brink of madness at climate change talk
by John Abraham