Saturday, 24 January 2015

How deniers debate - Number 1: Lord Monckton

See update at end

Over at Thought Fragments there is a bit of a ding dong involving the eminent climate science denier, Lord Christopher Monckton, and a cast of several who are not buying his paper, published in the detritivore realm of Science Bulletin, a pretty much unknown journal from China (impact factor 1.36). 

Since Monckton has emerged from the woodwork to defend (sic) his paper, it gives us a very good opportunity to examine the way that Monckton responds to critics.  So let's have a look.

After AndThenThere'sPhysics makes a comment, CB says this:
"Lord" Christopher Monckton is known to suffer from Graves' disease, which can cause dementia in some patients.
Examples are below...
The good Lord then weighs in with:
Don't be childish
This is his latest catchphrase.  We know this because he repeats it ad nauseam, until he comes up with some variations, of which more later.  Here's an example:
Don't be childish. NASA has had to row back on its press release about the supposed "warmest year", admitting that there is only a 38% chance of that. And what is quite clear is that, even if that 38% chance is true, the rate of global warming is half of what the IPCC had predicted in 1990, and a third of what James Hansen predicted in 1988. 
You will note that the second sentence, the one after the catchphrase, is just not true.  But it is the story being used by deniers to muddy the waters over what was, by just about every measure, the hottest year of the instrumental record.

For a while, however, the enticement of this new catchphrase is ignored.  Instead, when asked for a citation, Monckton uses the boring old catchphrase beloved of deniers (lest they might let the cat out of the bag):
Do your own homework.
 Of course, that's the way science and, indeed, all of academia works.  Not.  Since Monckton makes an assertion, it is his duty to support it with evidence, not the questioner's.  Monckton knows this, but giving too much away, like evidence, is not how denial works.  It can't, because denial is a card con  trick and we know that those depend on sleight of hand.

It is now that Monckton chooses to unveil a second debating trick.  It looks as if he is redirecting the debate back to the main point, the science of his tatty paper, but in reality it is nothing of the kind.  It is another means to distract the eye and avoid having to make substantial points.  Witness:
Let us stick to the science. My passport says I'm a Lord - or, specifically, a Viscount.
Well, having checked the UK passport application form, you could put any title on it.  I might suggest I am a Time Lord next time I renew.  I wonder if it would get through?  But we know Monckton is a Viscount.  It is by the by.
Fiat lux

Here is the meat:
In summary, Monckton of Brenchley et al. present a paper in which every element sourced from the pre-existing literature is explicitly acknowledged and close to 60 references are, therefore, cited. It is self-evident that our model is distinct in several respects from that of Budyko. And, as far as we have been able to discover, no model identical to ours exists anywhere. Indeed, some of the equations we derived and presented in the paper have never appeared anywhere before, as far as we can discover.
One of the chief values of our paper is its discussion of the appropriate values or intervals for the key parameters. Another value is in its condensing the process for determining climate sensitivity into the shortest possible compass capable of giving tolerably robust results.
To make a snide suggestion that we had done what had already been done before, but without acknowledgement, is accordingly inappropriate. But it would perhaps be best if anyone who wished to verify the position rather than relying on a tendentious blog were to download the paper for himself from Just click on the Current Issue link and then find our paper: Why models run hot: results from an irreducibly simple climate model. 
"To make a snide suggestion...", that's not scientific and that comes from someone who accused academic John Abraham of acting in an academically non-professional manner.   Just read George Monbiot to realise how "bonkers" Monckton's response was.  And how over the top.  And how typical.  And how often used by deniers of other stripes.  Abraham responded to Monckton's over the top 99 page rant in a thoroughly modest manner.  Abraham's crime, in Monckton's view, was to have questioned him and checked some facts.  Well, lots of facts.  And found Monckton wanting.  This was all a few years ago, but Monckton is not the sort of leopard that willingly changes his spots.

AndThenThere'sPhysics cuts to the chase:
And, as far as we have been able to discover, no model identical to ours
exists anywhere. Indeed, some of the equations we derived and presented
in the paper have never appeared anywhere before, as far as we can
You do realise that if you change the letters in the equations, it doesn't become a new model?
And how does the good Lord respond.  You guessed it, with his new favourite catchphrase:
 Don't be childish. If you have a scientific point to make, make it.
But of course, there is a scientific point here.  A new equation is not new because you have written it differently to the way it has been written before (if it is, then look at this P = QxF where P = force, Q = mass and F = acceleration).   But Monckton doesn't respond to that point.  He just resorts to childish insult.

To whit.  Fragmeister12 says:
So far as I can tell, plenty of scientific points have been made. You usually answer them with don't be childish. Then you make a point about not having a scientific point. I don't have a scientific point to make, just an observation of how you operate. Your rhetorical flourishes might sound good in the common room of the Upper Sixth at Harrow. Here they just look, well, childish.
 And Monckton responds:
If you have a grown-up scientific point to make about the paper, please make it. Otherwise, why bother to post here. Go and get a life!
Rich, as I am sure you will agree.
Monckton pointing at something childish

Anyway, during the too and fro, Monckton replies to himself and unintentionally (perhaps) gives us both a confession and a belly laugh:
Then behave like a grown-up scientist. Don't opine till you've seen the evidence
I couldn't agree more.

A bit later he says this:
Science is childlike curiosity and adult rationality. 
 Yes, and it needs both halves to work.  Which is Monckton forgetting?  (Spoiler alert: both.)

It couldn't be too long before the spectre of irrational conspiracy ideation raised its head, could it?  Of course not.
Totalitarian science made it appear that the climate would change far more than it has. The growing discrepancy between prediction and observation shows that the adoption of a climate-Communist or thermo-Fascist official line on climate science was a grave and expensive mistake.
I think at this point we can be sure that Monckton has lost the thread, the plot and the debate.  He is having a tantrum and we know where those lead.  In his case, once teddy has exited the pram, it is nanny telling him to go to bed with no tea. Bless.

Having claimed that his paper is being downloaded by the barrowload, Fragmeister12 asks:
"Meanwhile, thousands of scientists have downloaded our paper and I expect that most of them are looking at the scientific arguments in it with a clear and unprejudiced eye."
Will you still be saying they used an unprejudiced eye if they agree with the post upon which we comment and say that you are wrong? Or will you call them climate communists and thermofascists?
Monckton got straight to the point:
Don't be infantile. If you have a scientific point to make, write a rebuttal to our paper and send it to the Science Bulletin for peer review.
No, of course he didn't.  He resorted to insults and, shock horror, a plea that the debate returned to the point.  That would be the point he didn't really want to talk about earlier.

As you should know by now, this nonsense is circular and Monckton is such an experienced practitioner that he can keep it going forever.  I wonder if he knows what he is doing or, like a five year old lying about eating a sweet, he is just programmed to keep wasting everyone's time, most of all his own.

But, something amazing happened.  Eventually Monckton seems to have had enough.  Really.  He takes his bat and ball home with him and stops responding.  Instead, he sends his clerk, a man called James Rowlatt:
His Lordship is engaged on other business. It would perhaps be better if the commenter were to read the paper to which His Lordship has referred to him. It is no longer than the usual scientific paper and, no doubt, the commenter will find the plain statement by Mr Hansen to which His Lordship has referred. - James Rowlatt, Clerk to His Lordship 
This brings Anders to something approaching boiling point:
James Rowlatt, Clerk to His LordshipIs this serious? Has his Lordship seriously sent his Clerk to respond to my comment? That's absolutely hilarious, if so. Maybe His Lordship should get off his high horse and point out where in this very short paper I can find what he is referring to. When His Lordship is not longer engaged on other business, of course. Yours in waiting patiently.

 So now we know what Monckton does when he finally gets skewered.  He goes for a crap, or a lie down, or out for a curry or anything but engage with the science.  And he sends his paid troll to do his business.  If Monckton wasn't for real, we might have to make him up.

Oh, somebody already did.

Update: James Rowlatt shares an emollient writing style with his boss. They could be mistaken for one another. But sending your batman into bat for you is like sending Baldrick in to cover for Lord Blackadder. Shameful.


  1. Perhaps we now know the real name of the wrinkled retainer.

  2. I think it is amazing, but typical, that Monckton sent a paid employee to defend him. Monckton wasn't doing very well in the exchanges, being condescending, patronising and insulting. Losing would sum it up.

    1. I have my doubts about this paid employee. There's an interesting post (close to the end at the moment) by "monckton" that reads:

      His Lordship is now engaged on other business and has asked me to reply for him. It is not easy to discern any scientific point - or indeed any point at all - in the anonymous commenter's posting.

    2. I think there is a good chance that Monckton had had enough of being whipped and decided to hide. By coincidence, Rowlatt had no Disqus presence until after his boss had supposedly left to do something else. As someone put it, he was at stool.