Monckton vanquishes Union College “Greens too yellow to admit they’re really Reds”
Guest post by Justin Pulliam
THE NEWS that Lord Monckton was to give his “Climate of Freedom” lecture at Union College in Schenectady, New York, had thrown the university’s environmentalists into a turmoil. The campus environmentalists set up a Facebook page announcing a counter-meeting of their own immediately following Monckton’s lecture. There is no debate about global warming, they announced. There is a consensus. The science is settled. Their meeting would be addressed by professors and PhDs, the “true” scientists, no less. Sparks, it seemed, were gonna fly.
Traveling with Lord Monckton on the East Coast leg of his current whistle-stop tour of the US and Canada, I was looking forward to documenting the Schenectady showdown. I have had the pleasure of listening to His Lordship at previous campus events. He is at his best when confronted by a hostile audience. The angrier and more indignant they are, the more he seems to like it.
The Union Collegians for a Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT) sponsored the lecture, which was video streamed by CampusReform.org (where a video recording is available). The afternoon of the event, Lord Monckton appeared on the CFACT leaders’ hour-long weekly show on the Union College radio station. As a result, that evening 200 people packed a campus lecture theater to hear Lord Monckton speak.
As they filed in, Lord Monckton was chatting contentedly to a quaveringly bossy woman with messy blonde hair who was head of the college environmental faction. Her group had set up a table at the door of the auditorium, covered in slogans scribbled on messy bits of recycled burger boxes held together with duct tape (Re-Use Cardboard Now And Save The Planet). “There’s a CONSENSUS!” she shrieked.
“That, Madame, is intellectual baby-talk,” replied Lord Monckton. Had she not heard of Aristotle’s codification of the commonest logical fallacies in human discourse, including that which the medieval schoolmen would later describe as the argumentum ad populum, the headcount fallacy? From her reddening face and baffled expression, it was possible to deduce that she had not. Nor had she heard of the argumentum ad verecundiam, the fallacy of appealing to the reputation of those in authority.
Lord Monckton was shown a graph demonstrating a superficially close correlation between CO2 concentration and temperature over the past 150,000 years. Mildly, he asked, “Which came first, the chicken or the egg? Was it CO2 concentration that changed first, or temperature that changed first, driving the changes in CO2 concentration?”
The student clutching the graph mumbled that it was impossible to tell, and nobody really knew.
At Lord Monckton’s elbow, an elderly lady – presumably on faculty at Union College – said, “Perhaps I can help. It was temperature that changed first.”
“Exactly,” said Lord Monckton.
“However,” she continued, “CO2 then acted as a feedback, amplifying the temperature change. That’s one way we know CO2 is a problem today. And what,” she said, turning noticeably acerbic in a twinkling of Lord Monckton’s eye, “caused the changes in temperature?”
“Well,” said Lord Monckton, “we don’t know for certain, but one plausible explanation …”
“… is the Milankovich cycles!” burst in the venerable PhD, anxious not to have her punch-line stolen.
“Yes,” Monckton agreed imperturbably, “the precession of the equinoxes, and variations in the eccentricity of the Earth’s orbit and in the obliquity of its axis with respect to the plane of the ecliptic. Actually, it is arguable that the cycles were first posited by an autodidact university janitor, a Mr. Croll.” The yakking crowd of environmentalists grew more thoughtful. Their propaganda had made him out to be an ignorant nincompoop, and they had begun to realize they had made the mistake of believing it.
Lord Monckton moved into the auditorium and began with his now-famous, exuberantly verbose parody of how the IPCC might describe a spade. This elegantly hilarious gem, delivered from memory, is rumored to be longer than the Gettysburg Address. Then he said that, unlike the IPCC, he was going to speak in plain English. Yet he proposed to begin, in silence, by displaying some slides demonstrating the unhappy consequences of several instances of consensus in the 20th century.
The Versailles consensus of 1918 imposed reparations on the defeated Germany, so that the conference that ended the First World War (15 million dead) sowed the seeds of the Second. The eugenics consensus of the 1920s that led directly to the dismal rail-yards of Oswiecim and Treblinka (6 million dead). The appeasement consensus of the 1930s that provoked Hitler to start World War II (60 million dead). The Lysenko consensus of the 1940s that wrecked 20 successive harvests in the then Soviet Union (20 million dead). The ban-DDT consensus of the 1960s that led to a fatal resurgence of malaria worldwide (40 million children dead and counting, 1.25 million of them last year alone).
You could have heard a pin drop. For the first time, the largely hostile audience (for most of those who attended were environmentalists) realized that the mere fact of a consensus does not in any way inform us of whether the assertion about which there is said to be a consensus is true.
Lord Monckton then startled his audience by saying it was settled science that there is a greenhouse effect, that CO2 adds to it, that CO2 is increasing in the atmosphere, that we are largely to blame, and that some warming can be expected to result. But these facts had been established by easily-replicable and frequently-replicated measurements first performed by John Tyndall in 1859 at the Royal Institution in London, “just down the road from m’ club, don’t y’ know” (laughter). Therefore, these conclusions did not need to be sanctified by consensus.
The audience were startled again when Lord Monckton showed a slide indicating that the rate of warming since 1950 was equivalent to little more than 1 Celsius degree per century, while the rate of warming the IPCC predicts for the 21st century is three times greater. His slide described this difference as the “IPCC credibility gap”.
Next, Lord Monckton baffled his audience, including the professors and PhDs (whose faces were a picture) by displaying a series of equations and graphs demonstrating that, while it was generally accepted that a doubling of CO2 concentration would cause 1 C° of warming in the absence of temperature feedbacks, the real scientific dispute between the skeptics and the believers was that the believers thought that feedbacks triggered by the original warming would triple it to 3.3 C°, while the skeptics thought the warming would stay at around 1 C°.
He moved on to show that the principal conclusions of each of the four IPCC “gospels” were questionable at best and downright fraudulent at worst. The 2007 gospel had concluded that the rate of warming was itself accelerating and that we were to blame, but this conclusion had been reached by a bogus statistical technique. By applying the same technique to a sine-wave (which the audience had agreed exhibits a zero trend), it is possible to show either a rapidly-accelerating uptrend or a rapidly-plummeting downtrend, depending on the choice of endpoints for the trend-lines on the data.
The 2001 IPCC gospel had abolished the medieval warm period by another piece of dubious statistical prestidigitation that was now under investigation by the Attorney-General of Virginia under the Fraud against Taxpayers Act 2000 (gasps of gaping astonishment from some of the environmentalists, who seemed not to have been told this before).
The 1995 gospel had been rewritten by just one man, to replace the scientists’ five-times-expressed conclusion that no human influence on global climate was discernible with a single statement flatly (and incorrectly) to the contrary.
The 1990 gospel had claimed to be able to predict temperature changes for 100 years into the future. Yet an entire generation had passed since then, and the warming over that generation had turned out to be below the lowest estimate in the IPCC’s 1990 gospel and well below its central estimate. For eight years, sea level has been rising at a rate equivalent to just 1.3 inches per century. Worldwide hurricane activity is almost at its least in the 30-year satellite record. Global sea-ice extent has scarcely declined in that time. Here, the message was blunt: “It. Isn’t. Happening.”
Next, Lord Monckton turned to climate economics and demonstrated that the cost of acting to prevent global warming is many times greater than the cost of inaction. The example of Australia’s carbon dioxide tax showed why this was so. Australia accounts for only 1.2% of global CO2 emissions, and the government’s policy was to reduce this percentage by 5% over the ten-year life of the tax. On the generous assumption that the entire reduction would be achieved from year 1 onward, the fraction of global emissions abated would be just 0.06%. Because this fraction was so small, the projected CO2 concentration of 412 ppmv that would otherwise obtain in the atmosphere by 2020 would fall to 411.987 ppmv. Because this reduction in CO2 concentration was so small, the warming abated over the 10-year period of the tax would be just 0.000085 C°, at a discounted cost of $130 billion over the ten-year term.
Therefore, the cost of abating all of the 0.15 C° of warming that the IPCC predicted would occur between 2011 and 2020 by using measures as cost-effective as Australia’s carbon dioxide tax would be $309 trillion, 57.4% of global GDP to 2020, or $44,000 per head of the world’s population. On this basis, the cost of abating 1 C° of global warming would be $1.5 quadrillion. That, said Lord Monckton, is not cheap. In fact, it is 110 times more costly than doing nothing and paying the eventual cost of any damage that might arise from warmer weather this century.
Australia’s carbon dioxide tax is typical of the climate-mitigation measures now being proposed or implemented. All such measures are extravagantly cost-ineffective. No policy to abate global warming by controlling CO2 emissions would prove cost-effective solely on grounds of the welfare benefit from climate mitigation. CO2 mitigation strategies inexpensive enough to be affordable would be ineffective; strategies costly enough to be effective would be unaffordable. Focused adaptation to any adverse consequences of such future global warming as might arise would be many times more cost-effective than doing anything now. “If the cost of the premium exceeds the cost of the risk, don’t insure,” Monckton advised.
In any event, said Lord Monckton, the West is no longer the problem. Its emissions have been rising very slowly, but emissions in the emerging economies are rising many times faster. China, in particular, was opening one or two new coal-fired power stations every week. She was right to do so. The most efficient way to stabilize a growing population was to raise its standard of living above the poverty line, and the cheapest way to do that was to give the population electricity generated by burning fossil fuels.
Lord Monckton ended, devastatingly, by showing that a sufferer from trichiasis, a consequence of trachoma that causes the eyelashes to grow inward, causing piercingly acute pain followed eventually by blindness, can be cured at a cost of just $8. He showed a picture of a lady from Africa, smiling with delight now that she could see again. He said that the diversion of resources away from those who most urgently and immediately needed our help, in the name of addressing a non-problem that could not in any event be cost-effectively dealt with by CO2 mitigation, must be reversed at once for the sake of those who needed our help now.
Both in the Q&A session that followed Monckton’s address and in the counter-meeting held by the environmentalists (in which Lord Monckton sat in the front row taking notes), the questions flew thick and fast. Why, said a professor of environmental sciences in a rambling question apparently designed to prevent anyone else from getting a question in, had Lord Monckton not cited peer-reviewed sources? He had cited several, but he apologized that the IPCC – which he had cited frequently – was not a peer-reviewed source: indeed, fully one-third of the references its 2007 gospel had cited had not been peer-reviewed.
Why had Lord Monckton said that from 1695-1735 the temperature in central England had risen by 2.2 degrees (implying 0.55 degrees of warming per decade) when he had gone on to say that the warming rate per decade was 0.4 degrees? He explained that the warming rate was correctly calculated on the basis of the least-squares linear-regression trend, giving 0.39 degrees, which he had rounded for convenience.
Did Lord Monckton not accept that we could quantify the CO2 feedback? This point came from the professor. “Well,” replied Lord Monckton in one of his most crushing responses, “perhaps the professor can quantify it, but the IPCC can’t: its 2007 gospel gives an exceptionally wide range of answers, from 25 to 225 parts per million by volume per Kelvin – in short, they don’t know.”
Why had Lord Monckton said that we could learn about temperatures in the medieval warm period from the foraminifera on the ocean floor, when the resolution was surely too poor? Read Pudsey (2006), said Lord Monckton: the paper showed that the Larsen B ice-shelf, which had disintegrated a few years ago and provided a poster-child for global warming in Al Gore’s movie, had not been present during the medieval warm period, indicating that those who said the warm period applied only to the North Atlantic might not be right. He added that Dr. Craig Idso maintains a database of peer-reviewed papers by more than 1000 scientists from more than 400 institutions in more than 40 countries establishing that the medieval warm period was real, was global, and was at least as warm as the present and was probably warmer.
What about the methane from cattle? Should we give up eating meat to Save The Planet? The professor thought so. Lord Monckton, as always, had the data to hand. In the past decade, he said, methane concentration had risen by just 20 parts per billion, which might cause 1/350 C° of warming. This was too little to matter. Leave the cows alone.
What about peak fossil fuels? Should we not start cutting back now? No, said Lord Monckton. The recent discovery of vast and now-recoverable reserves of shale gas meant that we had several hundred years’ supply of fossil fuel. The professor agreed that shale gas had a contribution to make: it produced more energy per ton of CO2 emitted than oil or coal.
Why had Lord Monckton cherry-picked the Australian carbon dioxide tax as his economic example? He said that in a short lecture he could only take one example, so he had taken the Australian case because all other mitigation policies were quite similar to it. It was between 10 and 100 times more costly to try to make global warming go away today than to let the warming occur – even if the warming were at the rate predicted by the IPCC, and even if the cost of inaction was as high as the Stern Report had imagined – and to concentrate on focused adaptation when and where and only if and only to the extent that might be necessary.
Was not dendrochronology now so sophisticated that we could distinguish between the broadening of annual tree-rings caused by warmer weather and the broadening caused either by wetter weather or by more CO2 in the air? The Professor said this was now indeed possible. Lord Monckton replied that it was not possible. From 1960 onwards, the tree-ring series, even after all the complex adjustments made by the dendrochronastrologists, had showed global temperatures plummeting, while the thermometers had showed them soaring. That was why the Climategate emailers had spent so much time discussing how to “hide the decline” in the tree-ring predictions of temperature change from 1960 onward. This precipitate “decline” cast precisely the doubt upon the reliability of tree-ring temperature reconstructions that the IPCC had originally had in mind when it recommended against the use of tree-rings for reconstructing pre-instrumental temperatures. The professor had no answer to that.
The professor said he was emotional about the damage caused by global warming because in Peru and Ecuador he had seen the collapse in the water supply caused by the melting glaciers. Lord Monckton said that in nearly all parts of the world it was not the glaciers but the snow-melt that provided the water supply. Data from the Rutgers University Snow and Ice Lab showed no trend in northern-hemisphere snow cover in 40 years. He added that in the tropical Andes, according to Polissar et al. (2006), the normal state of all but the very highest peaks had been ice-free; therefore, it could not be said for certain that our influence on climate was causing any change that might not have occurred naturally anyway.
Why had Lord Monckton bothered to deal with the science at all, if the economic case against taking any action to address global warming was so overwhelming? Lord Monckton replied that it was necessary to understand that there was no scientific case for action either, and that it was necessary for policymakers and governments to realize that key elements in the IPCC’s scientific case – such as the supposedly “accelerating” warming that had been arrived at by the bogus statistical technique he had demonstrated with a sine-wave – were downright false.
The professor then asked the students in to raise their hands if they agreed with him that the IPCC’s use of the statistical technique questioned by Lord Monckton was correct. Dutifully, fearfully, about two-thirds of the hands in the room went up. Lord Monckton turned to the professor and told him he should not have done that. He then turned to the students who had raised their hands and asked them how many of them were statisticians. Just one student began to raise his hand and then – apparently realizing that admitting he was a statistician was to admit he had knowingly raised his hand to endorse a manifest statistical falsehood – slowly lowered it again, blushing furiously.
Another student asked, in that shrill tone beloved of environmental extremists everywhere, whether Lord Monckton was a statistician. No, he said, and that was why he had taken care to anonymize the data and send them to a statistician, who had confirmed the obvious: since the same technique, applied to the same data, could produce precisely opposite results depending upon a careful choice of the endpoints for the multiple trend-lines that the IPCC’s bureaucrats had superimposed on the perfectly correct graph of 150 years of temperature changes that the scientists had submitted, the technique must be defective and any results obtained by its use must be meaningless.
Lord Monckton, sternly but sadly, told those who had raised their hands: “You know, from the plain and clear demonstration that I gave during my lecture, that the IPCC’s statistical abuse was just that – an abuse. Yet, perhaps out of misplaced loyalty to your professor, you raised your hands in denial of the truth. Never do that again, even for the sake of appeasing authority. In science, whatever you may personally believe or wish to be so, it is the truth and only the truth that matters.”
That pin, if you had dropped it, could have been heard again. Many young heads were hung in shame. Even their professor looked just a little less arrogant than he had done throughout the proceedings. Quietly they shuffled out into the darkness.
That night, the Gore Effect worked overtime. Temperatures plummeted to 14° F. The following morning, as we drove through the snowy landscape of upstate New York towards the next venue the following morning, I asked Lord Monckton what he had thought of the strange conduct of the professor, particularly when he had abused his authority by asking his students to assent to the correctness of a statistical technique that he and they had known to be plainly false.
Lord Monckton’s reply was moving. Gently, and sadly, he said, “We shall lose the West unless we can restore the use of reason to pre-eminence in our institutions of what was once learning. It was the age of reason that built the West and made it prosperous and free. The age of reason gave you your great Constitution of liberty. It is the power of reason, the second of the three great powers of the soul in Christian theology, that marks our species out from the rest of the visible creation, and makes us closest to the image and likeness of our Creator. I cannot stand by and let the forces of darkness drive us unprotesting into a new Dark Age.”
Justin Pulliam is the Northeast Regional Field Coordinator for CampusReform.org. He graduated Cum Laude with University Honors from Texas A&M University in December 2011, where he led the local Collegians for a Constructive Tomorrow Chapter. He can be reached at email@example.com.
A Ustream video recording of the event is available here