A Scientist's Perspective

On Blogging, Comments … and Online Civil Discourse

A Minnesota engineering professor takes aim at what he considers vacuous arguments and what constitutes proper handling of a series of online comments and jags going beyond the point of fair and serious commentary and analysis.*

A recent posting on The Yale Forum on Climate Change & the Media website linked to a very long piece regarding climate change by Christopher Monckton.

As a practicing scientist, I recognize and value the role that The Yale Forum plays in furthering civil discussion on this topic. As a society, we have too few venues of this type where ideas can be discussed, solutions proposed, and our preconceptions challenged.

Commentary

It is not difficult to appreciate the dilemma faced by editors of sites like The Yale Forum when submissions such as that cited are offered, particularly when, as here, the respondent is addressing an earlier posting in which he or she was specifically named.

On the one hand, sites such as this want to encourage vigorous and candid debate. On the other, they must be mindful of the very extreme views taken by some participants in this discussion. Inclusion of the most extreme views may not advance the purpose of the site.

So, how does Monckton’s post fit into the category of extreme views? That, really, is the easy part.

For those readers who follow climate-contrarian cast members, Monckton is well known. He admits he has no scientific background, and he has never published a peer-reviewed scientific paper on any subject. That alone, of course, does not disqualify him from participating in public discussions.

But his post makes many outlandish claims about climate change that would cause great pause, even if they came from the mouth of an expert. Furthermore, when considering claims by those with a clear history of mistakes and factual errors, one should be very careful before granting the benefit of the doubt. In this case, many people have already addressed Monckton’s past mistakes here and here and in a series of videos here, here, here, and here. These are just a small sampling among many such examples.

Perhaps these past errors and misinterpretations stem from a nearly complete misunderstanding of climate science. It is this explanation I endorse.

But what of the latest Monckton submission to The Yale Forum? In the limited space here, let’s consider just a few clear errors. First, Monckton states that there are only 3,000 bathythermographs used for measuring ocean heating. Demonstrably false: There are many ocean temperature monitoring devices, and bathythermographs (commonly referred to as expendable bathythermographs) are just one type. In my own work in oceanography and with one research group, more than 3,500 devices have been deployed in just the first three months of this year. When all of the bathythermograph launches are added in a given year, the number greatly exceeds 3,000. Perhaps Mr. Monckton was confusing Argo Floats with bathythermographs? We may never know. (See two recent peer-reviewed papers here and here on this topic).

Make no mistake about it: the oceans are heating, despite claims to the contrary.

The next extraordinary claim Monckton makes is related to climate sensitivity, a much misunderstood issue. Readers are referred to this site for a recently published paper outlining mistakes in sensitivity estimation. So, how does Monckton err on this topic? First, it is important to recognize that some terms are used interchangeably. In some cases, the so-called “Planck Parameter” is the derivative of outgoing long-wavelength radiation with temperature. In other cases, the Planck Parameter is the inverse of this quantity. When discussing terms, we must all be on the same page, as they say.

Monckton claims that the Planck Parameter and Climate Sensitivity are unmeasured, immeasurable, unknown, and unknowable, but that simply is not the case. The Planck Parameter is the rate at which long wavelength radiation changes with the temperature of an object. It is a simple calculation that can be routinely performed, as undergraduates do each semester. It is this definition that Monckton first uses, and its corresponding value is approximately 3.75 W/m2C. If the alternative definition is the inverse of this, its value is approximately 0.3C/(W/m2).

Based on Monckton’s commentary, it appears that he switches his own definition of the Planck Parameter. He then suggests that the Planck Parameter may be off by 50 percent, an incredible and absurd assertion. If so, it means the equilibrium temperature of Earth would be either -73 C or 47C depending on whether the error revised the parameter upward or downward. Neither of these is realistic. Showing what is known as the Stefan-Boltzmann expression to be invalid would win one a Nobel Prize. Anyone thinking they can do so should submit their findings to a recognized science journal.

Monckton continues to make claims about net-negative feedbacks without supplying any references for readers to check. But the very few researchers who have argued for small climate sensitivity have been shown to have made significant errors in their work and corrections have already been made in the literature. There is no credible suggestion that temperature increases by 2100 will be as small as Monckton suggests.

What is interesting, however, is that later in his post, Monckton seems to concede a high Earth climate sensitivity when he suggests that by 2100, a temperature increase on the order of 1.5C will be observed.

There are many other elementary errors made in the document, some related to the climate equilibration time, others that there has been a long period without warming. And again, Monckton suggests that much of the recent warming from the past six decades is from the Earth’s “continuing recovery of global temperatures after the Little Ice Age”, as if Earth’s climate were a bouncing ball.

So, where does this leave us? Scientists and other frequent visitors to The Yale Forum site want to encourage candid debate. I congratulate the editors on their Herculean efforts to accomplish this. Part of candidness is giving voice to persons who disagree. On the other hand, there must be a standard of intellectual honesty, integrity, and expertise for those who submit to The Forum, a unique marketplace of ideas expressed through original reporting and by leaders in the field.

It would be a great disservice for the community if that marketplace were soiled with extremist, incorrect, and misleading commentary. I do not envy Forum editors, but encourage them to continue pursuing their mission and holding their contributors to a standard higher than that found around a bar stool.

One more thing: Make no mistake that climate scientists do, in fact, receive threatening mail and phone calls and e-mails, both at their work and at their homes. Some of it is humorous, but most of it is vile. My own experiences have taught me that letters having no return address are likely to be hate mail. Much of this hate mail results from climate change deniers having encouraged their followers to contact faculty members and their universities — to bully and intimidate them. There is no room for such behavior, and anyone encouraging or condoning threats to science researchers should not be afforded public venues to further this behavior.

AUTHOR
John Abraham, PhD., is on the faculty of the School of Engineering at the University of St. Thomas, in Saint Paul, Mn.

*Editor’s Note: This commentary brings to a close a series of exchanges that led the Editor of this site, for the first time, to end the comments period on a particular thread after offensive postings and submissions had become excessively repetitive and incendiary (see Comments Policy).

Bookmark the permalink.

31 Responses to On Blogging, Comments … and Online Civil Discourse

  1. RickA says:

    I find it amusing that a person who uses the derogatory term “climate change denier” lectures on “online civil discourse”.

    The vast majority of people labeled as “deniers” actually concede that the Earth has warmed and will warm further – but merely quibble with how fast and how much.

    I find the term denier very objectionable, and consider it name calling.

    • Eli Rabett says:

      The vast majority of people who deny (you object to Eli using the D word?) that we are causing the climate to change do not concede that the earth has warmed and it will warm further. Some do, watching the intellectual incoherence of their arguments is amusing. The others are even stranger

      b) people who send threatening email, telephone call and regular mail are only worthy of contempt.

    • Rick baartman says:

      A person who denies is a denier. It’s the way the English language works. A person who drives is a driver. I also am a denier about some issues; for example, I am proud to say that I am a flat-earth denier. C’mon. It’s pretty elementary. Get over it.

      • RickA says:

        Rick Baartman:

        What am I denying?

        I believe that the climate changes.

        I believe the Earth has warmed .8C since 1850.

        I believe some of this warming was due to human emitted CO2, but that some of the warming was also due to natural variation in the climate.

        I believe that it was warmer at periods during the last 1000 years than it is today (ditto for the last 3000 years and last 8000 years), and therefore the mere fact that it has warmed over the last 150 years does not prove all the warming is caused by human activity.

        I believe it will warm more by 2100 (just not as much as the IPCC – I am more in the 1.3C range myself).

        I believe the models are not validated, that they appear to be overestimating the amount of warming we can expect by 2100.

        I believe CS will turn out to be 1.5C or lower, once the data are in.

        Am I a denier?

        I don’t think so.

        • GWS says:

          RickA
          I tried to ping you previously on why you accept most of the science, but not that on climate sensitivity, CS. While the evidence points to a higher CS than the value you list, the only argument I saw you making for your believe so far is “lets wait and see”.
          In terms of the topic of this thread, and your question, I would not call you a denier. But I question your moral point of view on this. Ever watched the “The Most Terrifying Video You’ll Ever See” on youtube? I think it may describe the “wait and see” position you hold.
          I also think that position is becoming more and more marginalized in society (though it still is in the majority among politicians), as it is not in line with most people’s moral values. Why? Because the consequences of you being wrong, and the available evidence strongly suggests so, are long-term, mostly negative, and regionally dire for a large section of human population on earth. That is because the “wait and see” attitude can be equated with the “business as usual” scenario. Though that is current (US) reality, virtually nobody thinks that it is sustainable.

          Your opinion is what it is, but you realize it indirectly expresses a moral attitude that many people, especially on the left, find unpleasant, if not disgusting.

        • Eli Rabett says:

          The question as to whether you are denying science on these issues is what is the basis for your beliefs. You should be aware that the vast majority of people who study these things disagree with your belief system.

    • Susan Anderson says:

      Denial has a dictionary definition; I suggest people look it up. The objection to its use, citing holocaust implications, is a tried and tested PR technique for deflecting the conversation. The simple truth is deflected in many ways; this is one of them.

    • Barry Woods says:

      Online civil discourse – and usage of the term ‘climate change denier’ ?

      Calling people ‘climate change deniers’ is offensive to many, might I ask you not to do this, as it just helps perpetuate the polarisation and acrimonious debate. I have also done my utmost to encourage a more civil debate, and to condemn any such email abuse (that you mention) of anybody. Including writing to Marc Morano to try and persuade him to stop publishing any email addresses, because people I know and correspond/spoken with have been and may be on the receiveing end.

      It is the nature of the modern world, that some people will write rude, crude, abusive emails to people (on any topic) may I suggest that those that write about ‘deniers’ will inevitably get this type of email.
      As will those that write about ‘alarmists’, will also get similar stupid emails.

      I have seen emails, to BOTH climate scientists and sceptics from people that are rude,crude and abusive in the emails.

      ie Both Dr Katie Hayhoe AND Marc Morano have shown me an example of rude and abusive emails..
      Can we all not just say this is wrong, and focus on the real debate, rather than say, all sceptics are bad because of some emails, and vice versa.

      I’m offended by it mainly because those using it are trying to convey a message to others that the person or groups of people are either to bad, mad, stupid, or evil, and to tell people they should not be heard at all,

      rather than being offended by just what ever they link ‘denier’ to, truther, birther, creationist, anti-science, holocaust, AIDS denier, etc..

      Might I recommend Dr Tamsin Edwards thoughts here (posted at Bishop Hill)

      Dr Tamsin Edwards – extract:

      “I am an example of a consensusist who has stopped using denier directly because of Barry, Bish[Andrew Montford] and this forum.
      Name calling is ever so counterproductive. Today I was defending you lot to (particle physics) friends, yesterday to climate/stats friends, saying that denier offends and there is a spectrum of opinions anyway. ”

      http://bishophill.squarespace.com/blog/2011/9/28/dellers-on-reason.html?currentPage=3

      You might notice I’m having a disagreement with ‘some’ (inc James Delingpole) about the offensive use of the word ‘Watermelon’ and ‘Alarmist’ to describe (for want of a better description) the ‘climate concerned’ earlier in the comments.

      I do recommend Tamsin’s blog:
      http://allmodelsarewrong.com/all-blog-names-are-wrong/

      ‘denier’ does not help the civil discourse that Yale and others I’m sure wants.

      Am I to be a thought of as ‘denier’ ie a very ocassional guest author at WUWT (odd post at Bishop Hill as well)?

      Hopefully John might take a moment to consider Dr Tamsin Edwards thoughts and/or have a read of her blog –

      http://allmodelsarewrong.com/all-blog-names-are-wrong/

  2. Thank you John Abraham for you superb work in debunking Monckton.

    We also might note that this Forum is titled: Climate Change and the Media – Monckton is really more in the Media part of that. Because, when he wants to present climate science, Monckton tends toward the random and excitable – and that just ends up being distracting. Which may be his goal – to win the media points – not the science points – and this realization may trigger a few important questions:

    Why does the media fail to discuss much science? (because it will force a change in carbon capitalism)

    and why does the media deliver and promote such Monckton-ish crap? (because that is what delivers the audience to advertiser supported media)

    It might be more important to discuss media policy than to actually present a tag-team wrestling match between the climate scientist and the climate charlatan. “In this corner, a few pieces of science and over there is the glitter and grease-paint of a circus denialist.” Dr Abraham won that match long ago, and there is no need to rehash it.

    But more important, and still unanswered by this wonderful Yale Forum – who controls the media? And why?

  3. Jeremy Kemp says:

    Excellent article John Abraham. Thanks.

    It is a sad fact that any public discussion of climate change, and particularly any online discussion will, sooner rather than later, attract vocal anti-science denialists.

    As Diethelm & McKee point out in their brief but excellent 2009 article, denialism has a number of definable and identifiable characteristics, and together these mean that denialist rhetorical approaches consistently reject accepted ground rules for constructive debate and argument. As a result good-faith argument to evidence of the type that scientists are used to, and which is part of the bedrock of the scientific endeavour, is futile when trying to engage with denialists.

    “The normal academic response to an opposing argument is to engage with it, testing the strengths and weaknesses of the differing views, in the expectations that the truth will emerge through a process of debate. However, this requires that both parties obey certain ground rules, such as a willingness to look at the evidence as a whole, to reject deliberate distortions and to accept principles of logic. A meaningful discourse is impossible when one party rejects these rules.”
    Pascal Diethelm & Martin McKee. Denialism: What is it, and how should scientists respond. Eur J Public Health. 2009. 19 (1): 2-4.

    Interestingly, their paper is not about climate change denialism per se: it makes more use of examples from public health fields, such as HIV-AIDs. I’m probably teaching grandma to suck eggs saying this on the Yale forum, but their article should (IMO) be essential reading for anyone trying to address or understand climate ‘contrarianism’. As should the eye-opening book “Denying AIDS” by Seth Kalichmann, and various related papers by Natrass, Chigwedere, and others. Obviously these are not about climate change denialism, but the mindset and methods of anti-science denialism are entirely recognisable across these disparate fields.

    Both the Diethelm and McKee paper and the Kalichmann book, as well as other related publications, can be found online very quickly through a google search, and can be downloaded free.

  4. Albatross says:

    Bravo Dr. Abraham. I was hoping that someone would step up to the plate and debunk Monckton– again.

    It is extremely disappointing that The Yale forum decided to post not a different perspective on climate science (nothing wrong with that), but in contrast a Gish gallop by Chris Monckton. Monckton has been discredited too many times to recall, he is not even remotely qualified to speak to the science and he routinely attacks climate scientists. So having Monckton post here is counterproductive and not at all conducive for constructive scientific discussion. I was hoping for much higher standards and judgement from a prestigious group as Yale. The time has long past to take such individuals seriously, nevermind legitmize their misguided opinions and misinformation by providing them with a prominent platform.

    Because of this, hopefully temporary, lapse of judgement on the part of the editor, someone (in this case Dr. Abraham) has had to once again step up and spend their valuable time refuting recycled misinformation, myths and misleading commentary.

  5. Just a followup comment: it is exceedingly difficult to discuss the issues of climate change that face “scientists, journalists, and communicators”

    We might challenge the notion of what it means to have a civil discourse. That rule was broken long ago – when the carbon fuel industry funded PR campaigns and hired charlatans. In any case the issue is not well served by requiring polite language for the discussion.

    Deliberate denial, promoting disinformation and anti-science is not something that agents of denial should be invited to present. The stakes are too high, the hour is too late. And the representatives of climate misdirection are not appreciated – indeed it is not at all civil to indulge climate sociopaths.

    I salute your efforts, and look forward to thoughtful discussions of how the media is meeting that challenge – or failing to meet the challenge.

    • RickA says:

      Richard:

      Calling people “climate sociopaths” is not very civil.

      But I gather from your post that you think that is it civil to be uncivil.

      Or maybe the ends justifies the means?

      It really isn’t that difficult to discuss climate change.

      All you have to do is stick to the facts, and not exaggerate them in order to advocate a particular course of action.

  6. Erl Happ says:

    Eyewash.

    There is no evidence that the change in the composition of the atmosphere involving an increase in the microscopically small proportion of carbon dioxide is doing anything more than enhancing the growth of plants and greening the planet.

    On the other hand the temperature record indicates that the hemispheres warm and cool in an independent fashion. Given that observation, it is very likely that climate change is driven by polar processes involving coupling of the stratosphere and troposphere affecting ozone, surface pressure and cloud cover. To understand climate change we must understand the northern and southern ‘annular modes’ of inter-annual and inter-decade climate change.

    Observation and evidence trumps ideology.

    • Rickplanner says:

      Sounds like you are a case in point-listening to the denialist charlatans like Monckton, WattsUpWithThat and similar ilk rather than actually reading and trying to understand the science behind AGW. Your argument(s) have been long debunked by science.

    • Susan Anderson says:

      I hope you believe what you say as otherwise you would be being dishonest. I’d suggest that observation and evidence have long since trumped your opinion. A startlingly large majority of the world’s experts continue to produce more and more evidence, and the world around you is now providing plenty of consequences. Insurance companies and the military are not known for being radical, but they too are taking note.

  7. I’ve had some experience checking Monckton’s extraordinary claims for myself, and can confirm that the ones I’ve looked into are uniformly fabricated. For instance, Monckton has in the past gone about showing graphs purporting to show that the IPCC’s temperature and atmospheric CO2 projections were way off. I was at least the fourth scientist to point out that his version of the IPCC’s projections was not what they actually projected. I found that he had taken some inaccurate CO2 projection data, fed it into an equation not meant for the purpose he used it, and (unsurprisingly) gotten answers far different than the real projections. Details here:

    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2010/08/monckton-makes-it-up

    In Lord Monckton’s “response” he said,

    “Some have said that the IPCC projection zone on our graphs should show exactly the values that the IPCC actually projects for the A2 scenario. However, as will soon become apparent, the IPCC’s ‘global-warming’ projections for the early part of the present century appear to have been, in effect, artificially detuned to conform more closely to observation.”

    See http://wattsupwiththat.com/2010/08/14/monckton-why-current-trends-are-not-alarming/

    In other words, His Lordship absolves himself of any duty to honestly report what the IPCC actually projected because he thinks there was a conspiracy to manufacture false projections that are accurate in the near term. Well, if that’s what he thinks, he ought to say that rather than misrepresenting the IPCC’s actual claims.

    Note that I’m not accusing Lord Monckton of conscious dishonesty. I used to believe that was the explanation for his behavior, until it became clear that he really thinks he is a member of Parliament, no matter how loudly Parliament objects that he is not. Whatever his motivations, I agree that this forum should avoid posting anything written by a person with a proven track record of blatant misrepresentation.

  8. Lemon says:

    I guess only this engineer is allowed to use ad hominems by mentioning some he called “climate change deniers”. First of all no one denies that climate changes and second of all comparing those who don’t buy into a scientific theory holocaust deniers is a gross insult to millions murdered by Nazis, not to mention scientists who think the theory is bogus.
    Monckton is a celebrity commentator without specifically relevant credentials. Like Al Gore. Last I heard Al has a theology degree from Villanova, not an expert in anything.

    • Rickplanner says:

      But at least Mr. Gore tries to be accurate about the subject; a far cry from the denialist crowd such as Monckton, Heartland, etc.

    • “Denier – one who denies.” It’s a simple definition, Lemon. But if you don’t like it, perhaps you should make a choice from following list of synonyms:

      contradictor, decliner, disaffirmer, disavower, disowner, gainsayer, naysayer, negater, nixer, refuser, refuter, rejector, rejectionist, repudiator

      “Denier” is just a word used to describe someone who denies something, nothing more. Someone who refuses to allow his or her children to be vaccinated because of worries about mercury or autism is a vaccine denier, but that doesn’t mean that the person is being equated to a Holocaust denier. Claiming otherwise is ridiculous.

    • Tony Duncan says:

      Lemon,

      the word “Denier” means someone who is not interested in the actual science, but someone who will only look at and accept information that “disproves” ACC. this is to differentiate form people who are skeptics and are willing to change their mind and acknowledge mistakes in their understanding. In the case of The holocaust, the two words are almost exclusively used together. So it doesn’t have the authortly to take over the meaning of the word for such a precise purpose Someone who denies that HIV causes AiDS or denies that Evolution is the source of the multitude of species on Earth are all “deniers”. I would use the word for other irrational beliefs, such as believing in ghosts, or in crystal energy, but it is not semantically accurate. Generally “deniers” are people who have an irrational belief in a specific ideology. and are fanatics who have some deep need for their ideology to be absolutely correct. The climate change denier, Evolution denier, and crustal healing denier are all more committed to their belief system than the they are to reality. that is why cliamte change deniers are almsot exclusively libertarian, or very right wing in teh US, and evolution deniers are almost exclusively fundamentalists, and proponents of Crystal healing almost exclusively commtted new agers. it is not a question of left or right ( sorry Chris Mooney), but of a need to have ones world view not be contradicted, or even appear to be contradicted. 9/11 truthers are an interesting group since it contains possible similar percentages of extreme right and extreme left, becuase both extremes have a deep faith in the idea of grand conspiracies.
      I consider myself a skeptic. I value soem of the information on what i call “denier” blogs mostly because they force me to learn more about related issues, but i find very very few people who frequent them to actually be interested in anything other than disproving ACC, as is made quite clear by the minimal amount of critique given to any argument as long as it points away from ACC.

    • IANVS says:

      re: “I guess only this engineer is allowed to use … “climate change deniers”.

      No, lemon, even climate change deniers call themselves deniers. Some even sing it out loud & proud.

      “Denial” is the term preferred even by many deniers. “I actually like ‘denier.’ That’s closer than skeptic,” says MIT’s Richard Lindzen, one of the most prominent deniers. Minnesotans for Global Warming and other major denier groups go so far as to sing, “I’m a Denier!”.

      So ask yourself, Why Is It Called Denial?

      Or ask Harrison Schmitt.

  9. Mike Roddy says:

    His Lordship Christopher Monckton no longer deserves an audience on any media outlet. Abraham’s work settled that one once and for all.

    The role of the Yale Forum on Climate Change and the Media should be to present Monckton for what he is- a circus act, suitable for humorous treatments only. Providing him a forum plays into his hands, since he is a better communicator than most scientists, or even scientificially literate journalists.

    Scientists need to find writers on this subject who can speak in the public vernacular, since their normal and quite careful means of discourse subconsciously implies condescension and elitism. Yale as a university is especially vulnerable to that charge- it can produce a Bush, but never a Bukowski. This more direct and honest approach can be done in the context of scientific accuracy. Schmidt occasionally lets his hair down and does this effectively on Realclimate, but it goes against his nature.

    We are, after all, dealing with liars and frauds here, and very dangerous ones at that. Step up like men, and spank them.

  10. Leif Knutsen says:

    First to Erl Happ: Disregard climate disruption for a moment and read about ocean acidification, the flip side of CO2 that is not “doing anything”. Just down the road oyster farms now have to buy sprat as natural spawning is failing due to ocean acidification caused by that very “microscopically small amount of CO2″! That evidence is conclusive as is the warming effect of CO2.

    Secondly: There is every reason to address CO2 as well as the auxcillery toxins spewed into the commons by the ecocidal fossil industry for no other reason than ethically and morally. Humanity must attack pollution of the commons. Corporation are “People” NOW, how come they get to pollute the commons for profit where as I get fined ~$100+ for throwing a paper cup out the car window? Try walking down the street with a broken CFL and make like you are dumping mercury on the neighbors lawn and report back your findings. (You might want to officially sanitize your bulb for your defense.) Coal has dumped far more than your implied efforts on the lawns of every square block of the planet. For their effort they receive cheep land, lax regulation of even existing law, tax breaks and even my tax money for subsidies! Go figure. The GOP do not fund abortion, how come my tax must subsidize the ecocide of Earth’s life support systems?

    The very foundation of Western Capitalism is the ability to pollute the commons for profit. The richest Corpro/People in the world for the most part are the receipts of that disparity and fully expect to take that money to their private accounts and gated communities as humanity is forced to deal with rising seas, polluted mammies, acidified oceans and global climatic disruption that Corpro/People refuse to acknowledge is their problem in spite of over whelming international scientific evidence to the contrary. So the question is still: How come Corpro/People get to pick the “people” laws that suit them and not the time tested civil law of not trashing your neighbors property or being? It is past time that capitalism recognize the value of earth’s life support systems to the commons, of which they have now become part of, and learn to play nice with their elders. Stop profits from the pollution of the commons. All else will follow…

    That’s my story and I am sticking to it…

    • Thomas Colnot says:

      Leif,

      speaking of “ecocidal fossil industry” and “Western Capitalism” means adding a lot of value-laden baggage to the discussion. Big part of climate-denial and climate-skepticism is due to the ‘allergic reaction’ many in the Western world have when listening to ecocentric do-gooders and anti-capitalists who pretend sacrificing life as we know it for forcing us into a stone-age-like lifestyle. Of course you are right, the fossil industry has to bear its share of blame (but who obliges you to use your computer and internet, both of which would not exist without coal-powered energy?). CO2 emissions do not happen only in capitalist countries, in fact the former socialist countries in Eastern Europe emitted much more carbon than do the newly formed capitalist societies over there.

      If you want to convince societies in the western hemisphere to do something about climate change, you will have to address the citizens’ concerns for maintaing their lifestyle. Extremist green positions will not contribute much to genrating a true change of course. On the other hand, if we’d start talking about how we might adapt to the (by now) inevitable change that lies ahead, and how we might succeed in making compatible our current lifestyle with a less carbon-intensive industry, we might actually win the battle for the hearts of the citizens-consumers. Focusing on radical emissions-reductions as the only alternative for tackling climate change is a position just as extremist as the climate deniers position.

  11. Susan Anderson says:

    I’m surprised that people interested in taking down this article fail to notice it is excessively polite and careful to stick to facts. Lord Monckton appears to be willing to descend to any depth to discredit his opponents. The contrast is rather startling.

    I’d suggest people visit the excellent video including his former boss Margaret Thatcher on the subject, and then reflect on the undoubted fact that the Viscount Lord Monckton claimed to be her adviser, but she had never heard of him. He appears to have a very thin relationship to the truth, and a very fat one to the considerable fees he earns telling people what they want to hear in despite of the facts:
    http://www.yaleclimatemediaforum.org/2012/05/margaret-thatcher-others-neither-murderers-tyrants-nor-madmen/

    (just precedes this article)

  12. Martin Lack says:

    Despite the entirely spurious nature of the feigned-indignation-response to use of the term “denier”, many like James Hansen use the term “contrarian” to avoid such facile fact-avoidance in the mind of the reader.

    Professor Abraham is very gracious in ascribing Viscount Monckton’s repetitious nonsense as entirely the result of “nearly complete misunderstanding of climate science”. Having researched climate change scepticism in the UK last year, I reached the conclusion that, although the arguments favoured by differing professions (e.g. scientists, economists, politicians, and journalists), the underlying reason for denying the reality of climate change – and all other environmental problems human activity is causing – is pre-existing prejudical adherence to libertarian ideology.

    However, I think the former World Bank economist Herman E Daly was spot-on when he suggested that the “growthmania” of free-market economics was effectively “treating the Earth as if it were a business in liquidation”.

    Until economists and politicians all around the World admit to themselves – and us – that infinite growth in a closed system (i.e. on a finite planet with finite resources) is unsustainable, we will not begin to solve the problem of anthropogenic climate disruption (or any other Limits to Growth phenomenon).

  13. Charles says:

    Thank you, Dr. Abraham, for yet another cogent reply to Mr. Monckton’s work. Not only has Monckton’s work been shown to be faulty on numerous occasions, by a number of scientists such as yourself, he also resorts to ad hominem while claiming only others do so; his personal attacks on you and your institution were particularly offensive.

    Mr. Happ’s claim here that there is “no evidence that the change in the composition of the atmosphere involving an increase in the microscopically small proportion of carbon dioxide is doing anything more than enhancing the growth of plants and greening the planet” is clearly mistaken: there is sufficient empirical evidence that increases in atmospheric CO2 do influence climate and there is also evidence that the increases we have seen in recent decades have a significant anthropogenic component.

    Lemon’s claim that the use of “deniers” is somehow linked to denial of the holocaust is a spurious and rather disgusting claim. My experience has been that people like Mr. Monckton continually deny the scientific evidence that is put before them; they refuse to engage that evidence and with those who present it and they continue to present their own, tired, discredited arguments.

  14. Charles says:

    Just a couple of points with regard to arguments raised by Mr. Monckton in the essay hosted on the Yale forum that responded to Dr. Scott Denning.

    Monckton claims consensus is not a basis for policy. And yet he lists a series of questions designed to establish whether the consensus has merit. So perhaps he does see value in consensus. As to the questions, my responses would be as follows:

    Are there many of them?

    Yes, just about every scientific body on earth has supported the AGW argument.

    Do they say what they are said to say?

    Yes. There is an abundance of literature from these organizations; the validity and reliability of their pronouncements is well established.

    Are the people eminent and the societies learned?

    Yes. Plenty of evidence to support that.

    Are their reputations justified?

    Certainly more than Mr. Monckton’s with regard to contributing to the development of policy.
    Even if so, are they acting accordance with their reputations?

    Seems so to me. I see no evidence that they are not.

    Are they in fact qualified in relevant disciplines?

    Yes. Abundantly so.

    Even if so, do they really have any rational, scientific basis for what they say?

    The consensus argument is well established, both theoretically and empirically.

    Are they – objectively speaking – right? On the evidence – and that means real-world evidence, obtained by the careful measurement and observation upon which al-Haytham rightly insisted in his great treatise on optics – is what they say true?

    The empirical evidence supports the theoretical claims.

    Mr. Monckton then castigates Dr. Denning for his “his ‘shiningly sincere’ belief in impending manmade climatic apocalypse.” I don’t find the phrase “impending manmade climatic apocalypse” in the scientific literature on climate change. The use of such a phrase suggests an error in logic–surprising for one who claims to be brought up in the Classical tradition.

  15. Paul Matthews says:

    There is a long and tedious history of bickering between Monckton and Abraham, with both calling the other an extremist. This contributes nothing to “Civil Discourse” so I am glad to see the editor’s comment that this will be the last.

    • Susan Anderson says:

      Equating the two is just nonsense. One uses falsehood and insult; the other is excessively polite and takes the trouble to delve into the facts.

      It is tragic for our future that these are treated as equal. Pretending falsehood is “another side” is just wrong.