Climate scientists respond to Monckton's misinformation

Climate Scientists respond to MoncktonOn May 2010, Christopher Monckton testified to the U.S. Congress, where he argued there was no need to take quick action to address climate change. Monckton made a number of assertions about CO2 warming, the benefits of elevated CO2, ocean acidification, temperature trends and climate sensitivity. Recently, a group of 5 scientists solicited responses to Monckton's testimony from more than 20 world-class climate scientists. Each climate scientist examined the part of Monckton's testimony related to their particular area of expertise and summarised their responses in the report Climate Scientists Respond. The result is thorough, methodical and devastating. Monckton’s assertions are shown to be without merit, demonstrating a number of obvious and elementary errors and based on a thorough misunderstanding of the science.

Climate Scientists Respond refutes Monckton's testimony in 9 major areas.

  1. Monckton misunderstands how carbon dioxide (CO2) played a role in lifting the Earth from a cold 'snowball' state, treating the events as if they were contemporaneous.
  2. He incorrectly argues that the present rapid increase in CO2 is harmless to coral, ignoring the vast difference in the rate of change of CO2 levels compred to millions of years ago
  3. Monckton claims a single benefit of higher CO2 levels – increased yields on selected crops – but fails to mention the wide-ranging negative consequences for plant species and agriculture.
  4. Monckton's claim that CO2 is not causing ocean acidification provide a compelling example of his lack of understanding of ocean chemistry.
  5. Despite Monckton’s assertions, compilations of global temperatures show that the late 20th century was exceptionally warm compared with the last 1500 years, with an exceptional rate of warming.
  6. His assertion that 'global warming ceased in 2001' is contradicted by recent, record-breaking global mean temperatures.
  7. Monckton ascribes the recent rise in global temperature to global brightening, citing a 2005 paper by Dr. Rachel Pinker. As the responses demonstrate, and indeed as Dr. Pinker herself has stated, his conclusions are based on a misunderstanding and misapplication of that work.
  8. Monckton argues climate sensitivity is low, based on his misinterpretation of the Pinker paper, as well as on a recent paper by Lindzen and Choi. Two recently published papers discussed in this report thoroughly discredit the paper by Lindzen and Choi, as well as Monckton’s conclusions.
  9. Monckton argues that “global warming is a non-problem”, and the correct response is “to do nothing”. This report states that a “decision to delay action to reduce greenhouse emissions is not a decision 'to do nothing'. It is a decision to continue emissions of CO2...committing the world to higher levels of global warming...with associated adverse impacts.”

As you read through the document, it becomes apparent why so many scientists were involved in this effort. For each of Monckton's claims, there are responses from a number of different scientists. The striking feature is each scientist addresses and explains a different error. Monckton's testimony is so riddled with errors, it takes a number of scientific expert to debunk all the disinformation!

This is an immensely useful, fascinating and important document. I would strongly recommend to any place where Monckton is public speaking that copies of this document are handed to the people attending the talk. I have one criticism. Why wasn't this done years ago?

Scientists who contributed to Climate Scientists Respond

  1. Dr. James Annan: Member of the Global Change Projection Research Program within the Research Institute for Global Change
  2. Dr. David Archer: Professor, Department of Geophysical Sciences, University of Chicago
  3. Dr. Ken Caldeira: Senior Scientist, Department of Global Ecology, Carnegie Institution, California
  4. Dr. David Easterling: Chief, Scientific Services Division, NCDC, National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration (NOAA)
  5. Dr. James Hansen: Director, NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies
  6. Dr. Ove Hoegh-Guldberg: Professor of Marine Studies, University of Queensland, Australia.
  7. Dr. James Hurrell: Senior Scientist in the Climate Analysis Section and Chief Scientist for Community Climate Projects at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, Colorado
  8. Dr. David Karoly: Professor, School of Earth Sciences, University of Melbourne, Australia
  9. Dr. Jeffrey Kiehl: Senior Scientist, Climate Change Research Section, National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, Colorado
  10. Dr. Nancy Knowlton: Holds the Sant Chair in Marine Science at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History
  11. Dr. Lee Kump: Professor of Geosciences, Pennsylvania State University
  12. Dr. Norman Loeb: scientist at the NASA Langley Research Center
  13. Dr. Michael MacCracken: Chief Scientist, Climate Change Programs with the Climate Institute in Washington DC
  14. Dr. Peter Reich: Regents Professor and Distinguished McKnight University Professor, University of Minnesota’s Department of Forest Resources
  15. Dr. Reto Ruedy: Scientist at the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies
  16. Dr. Benjamin Santer: Research Scientist, Program for Climate Model Diagnosis and Intercomparison (PCMDI), Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
  17. Dr. Gavin Schmidt: Climate Scientist, NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies
  18. Dr. Pieter Tans: Senior Scientist, NOAA Earth System Research Laboratory, Boulder, Colorado
  19. Dr. Kevin Trenberth: Senior Scientist and Head, Climate Analysis Section at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, Colorado
  20. Dr. John Veron: Professor, University Center for Marine Studies, University of Queensland
  21. Dr. Bruce Wielicki: Senior Scientist Radiation Sciences, NASA Langley Research Center

The five scientists who organized the report were: Drs. Ray Weymann, Barry Bickmore, John Abraham, Michael Mann and Winslow Briggs.

Climate Scientists Respond: the full PDF report

Press Release

UPDATE 22/9/2010: The UK Guardian published an article about Climate Scientists Respond. Monckton sent a characteristically unhinged reply where he labels the climate scientists as either criminal, serial liars, mentally disable or having had their emails stolen in Climategate (good to see he still eschews ad hominem attacks). Barry Bickmore responds to Monckton's response.

Personal prediction: Monckton will follow this up in a few weeks with another Monckton Gallop of hundreds of questions.

Posted by John Cook on Wednesday, 22 September, 2010


Creative Commons License The Skeptical Science website by Skeptical Science is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.