Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Monckton's Truth Trumps Consensus

Monckton meets Hinshelwood, Photo by: Tash Impey, ABC South East SA

Last night's Monckton encounter was reported today by the ABC. I've got to say, I wish I'd prepared a more delicate soundbyte - I didn't expect to be interviewed. Is it normal to feel this sort of media-anxiety? Listening to the recording now.

While I endorse the ABCs coverage, I would have liked to have seen a paragraph detailing just how many experts have reviewed the IPCC documents and agree with their conclusions.

So here's the rundown:

Climate Sceptic Party president (and my long-term personal sparring partner) Leon Ashby introduced Mr Monckton and spoke a bit about his history in agriculture. Stand-out quote: "The world needs more freethinkers - individuals who aren't bound by rules about 'how to think'". Yikes! I think the subsequent presentation was an excellent demonstration of this ideal in practice.

I must give Mr Monckton credit for being a public speaker of the highest calibre. He opened with confidence and good humour, immediately establishing a strong rapport with his audience (which I guess wasn't too hard, after a show of hands early on revealed that the audience was mostly populated by farmers).

He made the mistake of trying to establish his authority right off the bat - a method that he would later condemn - and declared that he is a Lord, a former policy adviser to Margaret Thatcher (he used to suggest he was her science adviser before this claim took too much heat) and that he had a published article in the peer-reviewed literature. I suggest you follow the links, and yes, this is an ad hominem attack. For my justification of this, see my previous article on the subject.

I was forced to show my cards when Monckton asked us to declare, by show of hands, which of us thought that a Carbon Tax was a good idea. I was the only one to do so, as I was again later when we were asked "who thinks that the IPCC consensus has any weight". On each occasion I was asked to explain myself, and I think I did a pretty good job. I was dealing with science denialism at its most brazen. Despite dedicating at least an hour to pure denialism, Mr Monckton did not provide a source of information to compete with thousands of IPCC scientists - except for his own authority.

It was a barrage of straw men, false dichotomies, misquotes, misconstruals, contradictions, exaggerations and calls for the imprisonment of scientists, all wrapped up in a theme of McCarthyism. His misunderstanding of the DDT controversy of the 60s and 70s was particularly jarring.

At the end of the talk we had the opportunity to ask questions of Monckton. Needless to say I had several. I asked Mr Monckton if - given that the majority of climate scientists endorsed the view of the IPCC - his tour had more to do with a commitment to laissez-faire capitalism than with any genuine problems with the science or economics. Before I could ask another question, I was directed to the back of the line to make way for the important question "How close are we to a one-world government and a one-world economy?" (the answer is "as far as is humanly possible").

When I again reached the front of the line, not knowing if I'd get another chance, I decided to go for the more hard-hitting questions. I asked him about his miracle cure invention. He cut me off halfway, declaring to the audience that "The man is a communist. He's taken the communist party line. And he's just closed his mind to anything else..."

[insert rant, where Monckton describes his miracle cure, which will be the subject of another article later]

"... If you dare to try [repeating] these snivelling ad hominem points because you are totally incapable or uninterested in arguing the science then know this; you may not care that people are suffering and dying from some of the nastiest diseases on the planet, but I do, and if I can cure them then I will".

He's certainly right about me being incapable and uninterested in arguing the science - I'm not a scientist, and nor is he - that's the point. In any case, I was subsequently lead off stage by Leon Ashby, who declared his intention to check my questions before allowing me to ask any more. I was unwilling to proceed on those terms.

Monckton concluded his talk by reminding the audience that it was important not to make climate change a political issue and to stick to the science. I really wish he would take his own advice.

It's a shame I didn't get to ask my next question:

"You said earlier that 'where there is clear fraud, it is a criminal matter' and implied that you would like to see certain scientists imprisoned. If I can prove that you have undertaken fraud in this talk, will you give yourself up?"

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