On the 19th of July in 2011 the National Press Club of Australia held a debate on climate change. In this video I will be analysing the claims Monckton made during the debate and if they are correct or not.
The reason I’m doing this is that Monckton challenges his critics to check his sources, or like he put it in this debate “to do your homework”. I’m going to follow him up on this to see if the scientific literature, and other available sources, corroborate what he’s saying.
On the 19th of July in 2011 the National Press Club of Australia held a debate on climate change. I will be analysing the claims Monckton made during the debate and if they are correct or not.
Here Monckton makes the claim that he has published a paper in the peer-reviewed literature. I'll be looking into this paper, if it was peer-reviewed and the history surrounding this paper.
Next question from Jennifer Bennett.
Hello. Jennifer Bennett from Campus Review. A question for Lord Monckton.
You're often critical of climate change scientists, because they don't like to go head to head with you in a public debate. Australian scientists have told us that a debate forum doesn't allow the time and format necessary for communicating complex information. If you're so certain of the facts, why not debate the scientists on their own terms? Why won't you submit the research you say you've undertaken, to a quality peer review journal to be assessed?
I wonder why it is that Professor Tim Flannery, who knows no more about climate science than I do, is never asked that question.
[Laughter and applause]
Why Al Gore, is never asked that question. Why Professor Stafford [sic] is never asked that question. Any may I, perhaps, refer the honourable lady to Physics and Society for July 2008, where you will find an article entitled: Climate Sensitivity Reconsidered. The author is Christopher Walter Monckton of Brenchley and the article was, indeed, reviewed by Professor Alvin Saperstein, the Professor of Physics at Wayne State University and also the review editor of the journal concerned
…at the time.
The American Business Society, yes, that's right.
And so [indistinct] case that it's not peer review.
Indeed, it does. So why don't you check with Professor Saperstein to find out whether he, in fact, reviewed it. Have you done that?
Why would [indistinct]…
[Interrupts] No, I didn't think you had. Once again, please will you do your homework.
What I'm saying is if you take a preconceived position on this question and, therefore, you don't check both sides of what you're told, rather than only checking my side because you're on the other side, then you will not get a balanced view on this question.
The fact is that I am under no more obligation to publish in the peer review literature on this, than anyone else. I have published in the review literature. They try to say it wasn't peer review now, but they were perfectly happy to say it was peer review at the time. They were leant upon. This happens. You know, we too are sometimes victims of the other side going too far and putting too much pressure on.
The two editors of that journal were sacked for publishing that paper. They shouldn't have been. It was a perfectly acceptable paper. There's not a lot wrong with it scientifically. And so read that if you want to see what my opinion is on climate sensitivity. It contains 30 relatively clear equations, each one of which the professor required me to justify, in order that they could be included in the paper. It was a very thorough scientific review.
Let me start by pointing out that if you try to explain what the science says to a laymen audience to the best of your ability, like for example Al Gore, then you don't need to be peer-reviewed on these statements. What you're basing your arguments and statements on already is peer-reviewed. And if Al Gore would get the basis for it wrong he will be criticised for it, as would anyone else, and rightly so.
However, if you argue against scientific findings and propose something different then you need to go through the literature to state your case. Monckton isn't doing that, he makes his case in debates like these and outside of the peer-reviewed literature. So this is a valid point of criticism towards Monckton.
But he does say that he has published a peer-reviewed paper. The article he is referring to is “Climate Sensitivity Reconsidered” and was published in the Newsletter of the American Physical Society. And due to Monckton constantly claiming this article is peer-reviewed they saw the need to add the following statement.
The following article has not undergone any scientific peer review, since that is not normal procedure for American Physical Society newsletters.
They even went further than this disclaimer on Monckton's article. All subsequent submissions that are published in the newsletter section contain variants of the following statement:
This contribution has not been peer-refereed. They represent solely the view(s) of the author(s) and not necessarily the views of APS.
Mind you, similar statements have also been added to Newsletter editions that were released prior to the article Monckton submitted. Quite the act to do if these newsletters contain peer-reviewed articles. This would have caused an uproar in the scientific community if papers suddenly were marked as non-peer-reviewed. But nobody, besides Monckton, raised objections to these changes.
One of the pieces of evidence Monckton uses to show that his submission was peer-reviewed is a feedback document. If you read this document it becomes apparent that the review was done by someone who isn't familiar with the subject as shown by the following comment:
I don't know the difference between "forcing" and "feedback". If "forcing" is not just external energy flux, than I would assume it includes "feedback". What do you mean?
The reviewer apparently doesn't know how a feedback and forcing work in our climate system. Which is something a peer-reviewer would know.
The document also shows it's just one reviewer, peer-review is normally done by multiple reviewers. Everything points to this just being an editorial review to make it readable and understandable for the target audience
The article also has some very big flaws that would have been caught during peer-review. These flaws would have then been the reason the article would have been rejected for publication. Potholer54 did a good rundown on one of the errors in the article:
Monckton Bunkum Part 2 - Sensitivity - 1:27 to 2:50 and 6:27 to 8:07
First let me explain some terms that you will hear a lot. Put simply forcing is the amount of
warming caused by whatever might be warming the earth. It could be the sun, or a greenhouse gas, or a light reflective surface turning into a darker one. The amount of forcing, or warming, due to a doubling of CO2 levels is pretty much agreed on by all climatologists
Richard Lindzen, the skeptic everyone likes to quote, says this figure is about three point
five watts per square meter. As noted in the last three IPCC scientific assessments. The IPCC actually puts the figure three point seven watts per square meter. But there's a margin of error so we're in the same ballpark.
When forcing increases the average global surface temperature rises until it reaches the stage where the amount of energy leaving the earth is about the same as the amount of energy being pumped in by the forcing. This is called the equilibrium temperature. And in its most basic form it's very easy to work out: temperature equals forcing times lambda, which is the earth's sensitivity. It's usually written as Delta T to denote a change in temperature in response the Delta F, a change in forcing.
So forcing is like a heater in a cabin and sensitivity tells us the final temperature the cabin will reach in response to that heat. It's important to understand the difference between forcing and sensitivity because, as we'll see in a minute, Monckton gets them completely mixed up.
In his piece in the forum of physics and society newsletter Monckton gives yet another figure for temperature rise, null point five eight degrees centigrade. Which one Monckton decides to settle on really doesn't matter because will see that his calculation method is nonsense anyway.
He laid it out in the APS newsletter piece. I'm not going to go over the whole thing
because people far better qualified than me have already done that. I'll just point out one of the most egregious errors that even the most scientifically illiterate can grasp.
It concerns the figure for forcing, which Monckton initially puts at three point four oh five watts per square meter. Okay this is lower than the accepted estimate of three point five to three point seven. But never mind, that's small beer compared to what he does
next. He divides it by three. So he now gives us a forcing of just one point one three five watts per square meter. Monckton says this is to take account of the observed failure of the tropical mid-troposphere to warm as projected by the models, citing a paper by Richard Lindzen.
But whether the tropical mid-troposphere warms as projected or not this isn't forcing, it's sensitivity. Nowhere in the cited paper does Lindzen cut forcing. In fact Lindzen specifically says in the same paper that forcing us three point five watts per square meter for a doubling of CO2. Nowhere near Monckton's one point one three five.
Surely no one who testifies to congress on the subject of climate could possibly mix-up sensitivity and forcing, especially in what he claims is his peer-reviewed paper. That would be like confusing time and distance, or pressure and volume, they are two completely different things.
Despite Monckton claiming his article is reviewed it's definitely not, even his own documents don't support the peer-review claim. I doubt his article would have even passed peer-review if it had been submitted.
- APS - Monckton - Climate Sensitivity Reconsidered
- APS - Concern About Monckton Article
- APS Newsletter October 2007 – After non-peer-review disclaimer addition
- APS Newsletter October 2007 – Before non-peer-review disclaimer addition
- Wayback Machine: Newsletters page
- Monckton letter with editor feedback
- A detailed list of the errors in Monckton's July 2008 Physics and Society article
- Monckton Bunkum Part 2 - Sensitivity