Monday, 7 June 2010

A Preliminary Response to John Abraham — The Extremists Join the Climate Debate at Last!

By: Christopher Monckton of Brenchley

ONE of the numerous artifices deployed by the now-retreating climate-extremist movement has been the careful avoidance of any debate with anyone on the skeptical side of the case who happens to know anything about climate science or economics.

As the extremists lose the argument and become more desperate, that is changing. John Abraham, a lecturer in fluid mechanics at a college in Minnesota has recently issued – and widely disseminated – a hilariously mendacious 83-minute attempted rebuttal of a speech by me about the climate last October in St. Paul, Minn.

So unusual is this attempt actually to meet us in argument, and so venomously ad-hominem are Abraham’s artful puerilities, that climate-extremist bloggers everywhere have circulated them and praised them to the warming skies.

As usual, though, none of these silly bloggers makes any attempt actually to verify whether what poor Abraham is saying actually has the slightest contact with reality.

One such is George Monbiot, a scribbler for the British Marxist daily propaganda sheet, The Guardian. What is Monbiot’s qualification to write about climate science? Well, like Abraham, he is a “scientist”. Trouble is, he’s a fourteenth-rate zoologist, so his specialism has even less to do with climate science than that of Abraham, who nevertheless presents himself as having scientific knowledge relevant “in the area”.

Here’s the thing. All of the sciences are becoming increasingly specialized. So most scientists – like Abraham and, a fortiori, the accident-prone Monbiot among them – have no more expertise in predicting or even understanding the strange behavior of the complex, non-linear, chaotic object that is the Earth’s climate than the man on the Clapham omnibus.

They pretend otherwise, of course. Almost four years ago, when I wrote a 2500-word article in the Sunday Telegraph pointing out that the notion of a very large climate warming attributable to future increases in CO2 concentration was scientifically ill-founded, Monbiot wrote a scathing 1800-word response in the Guardian, in which he made a dozen laughably elementary scientific errors.

Monbiot made the mistake of pretending that he understood the fundamental equation of radiative transfer, of which he had plainly not previously heard.

Here it was I who had the advantage: before writing the article in the Telegraph I had spent three months tracking the equation down, because – though it converts changes in the flow of radiation at a planetary surface to changes in temperature, and is therefore essential to discovering how much warming a given increase in CO2 concentration will deliver – the IPCC’s 2001 and 2007 climate assessment reports do not mention it once.

And why not? Well, put simply, the equation shows that at the temperatures prevailing on Earth you need a very large increase in radiative flux to achieve a pathetically small increase in temperature. That’s not the sort of thing the climate-extremists want known, so they carefully don’t mention it, which is one reason why Monbiot hadn’t heard of it.

Ever since I compelled the Guardian to publish a letter from me correcting Monbiot’s invincible ignorance of elementary planetary physics and undergrad math, Monbiot has seized every chance to have a go at me whenever one of his climate-extremist Comrades asserted that I’d gotten something wrong.

And how he crows at the news of Abraham’s “evisceration” of my Minnesota speech.

Abraham’s approach is novel. He’s saying not that I got one thing wrong but that I got just about everything wrong. And how plausible is that? A couple of pointers. First, it’s now June 2010, and I spoke in October 2009, almost eight months ago. I’ve made a lot of speeches since. Why has it taken Abraham so long to cobble together his ramblings?

The answer – and, as I shall show, it is the right one – is that his deliberately dishonest personal attack on my integrity and reputation is an ingenious fiction, he knows it, and he has therefore had to go to some elaborate and time-consuming lengths to do his inept and socially-inadequate best to conceal the steps he has taken to hide the truth and make his nonsense look plausible.

Secondly, during the eight months of “investigation” (Abraham’s word) that he carried out, at no single point did he ever contact me to ask me to clarify one of the numerous references which, he said over and over again, were not clear in my slides.

That failure on his part to check with me when he could not find the sources of my data was clearly deliberate. He didn’t want to give me any advance notice that he was planning to launch a widely-disseminated attack on me, because otherwise I might have pointed out his errors to him in advance, and that would have made it a great deal more difficult for him to get away with publishing them.

In a short space I won’t have time to cover more than a representative selection of Abraham’s errors. Let’s begin, though, with the question of sources.

“Monckton’s data don’t even agree with themselves”

Abraham says I displayed two graphs, both citing NOAA as the source, showing the downward global mean surface temperature trend since 2001, but – by an elaborate point-by-point comparison – he shows that the two graphs are slightly different from one another. Why, he asks, can’t I even make sure that my own data agree with themselves? His implication is that presenting temperature data is something that laymen really can’t be expected to get right.

What Abraham has done, here as elsewhere, is to wrench my data deliberately out of the context in which I actually (and accurately) presented them, and then to lie about it.

The truth is that the first graph, plainly labeled “”, is the SPPI’s well-known global-temperature index, compiled monthly from four separate global-temperature datasets, as Abraham well knew because I explained in my talk. It was not a NOAA graph, and was not labeled as such. Naturally, therefore, it differed at some points from the NOAA graph.

Abraham went on and on about how a graph shouldn’t have been labeled with the name of an institution such as “” unless it was that institution that had compiled the graph. That, of course, as he could have discovered if he had bothered – or, rather, dared – to check, was indeed the institution that had compiled the graph, taking the arithmetic mean of the global-temperature anomalies from the HadCRUt, NCDC, RSS, and UAH datasets.

But – and this was the point I made, though Abraham was remarkably careful not to say so – I had showed the SPPI’s four-sources graph in testimony before Congress, to show that there had been global cooling for seven or eight years, and Tom Karl, the director of NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center, who had been present, had failed to admit after questioning from a leading Congressman that global temperatures had indeed been falling for the best part of a decade. He had wriggled and waffled.

So the Congressman had asked me to write proving my result, and I had done so by preparing the second graph, from Tom Karl’s own NCDC (it was labeled as such), which had also showed a pronounced downtrend in global temperatures.

Abraham knew this, because I had said so in my talk. But he also knew that practically no one watching his 83-minute presentation would go to the lengths of looking up what I had actually said. He believed that he could get away with flagrant and deliberate misrepresentations – provided that at all points he was careful never to consult me while planning and circulating his attack.

“Monckton’s data are not properly sourced”

Even when the source is in fact plainly stated on my slides, Abraham is prone to say I have not provided the source. I had shown a graph, which I had said was compiled by satellite, of temperatures at the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro, where there has been no warming for 30 years.

The graph was plainly labeled “UAH”, which – as a mere Bible-College lecturer in fluid mechanics might not know, but anyone with any real knowledge of climate science would of course know – is the University of Alabama at Huntsville, one of only two organizations producing regularly-published satellite-based global temperature records.

Another instance: Abraham said I had done a search because I was bored, and had found that between the beginning of 2004 and the beginning of 2007 just 539 papers containing the search phrase “global climate change” had been published, and that not one of them had provided any evidence for any catastrophic consequence of any anthropogenic warming anywhere. However, he had searched Google Scholar and had found 628,000 references, a few of which, he said, showed catastrophic consequences of “global warming”.

The truth is entirely different. First, I am never bored when I am present. What I actually said in my talk – and Abraham knows this, because he spent eight months trying to take it apart – was that “I’m boring that way – I check things”. And I had checked the climate-extremists’ claims of catastrophe by consulting a paper by Klaus-Martin Schulte, published in 2008. The extract from the paper was labeled “Schulte, 2008” on my slide, in quite large letters.

It was not I but Schulte who had done the search, as I had said in my talk. It was not Google Scholar (most of whose sources are not peer-reviewed papers) but the ISI Web of Science database of peer-reviewed, learned journals that Schulte searched, as I had said in my talk. It was not the “containing all of the words” search option that Schulte had used, though that is the option Abraham used, but the “exact-phrase” option, which returned only 539 papers.

If Abraham had had the courtesy to check either with me or by looking up Mr. Schulte’s paper on the Web of Science database, to which his Bible College subscribes, he would have found that Mr. Schulte used this phrase because Naomi Oreskes, a science historian, had previously used the same phrase in researching climate papers up to the end of 2003. Schulte had carried her research forward to mid-February 2007, and his paper had been published in 2008.

Abraham then trots out various papers he found in his Google Scholar search, one of which says that the world is warming because of human activities: but that was not the point made in my slide. My point was that not a single one of the 539 papers searched by Schulte had provided evidence for catastrophe.

Abraham also mentions a paper he found that talks about extinctions that are predicted as a result of “global warming”. But – though he may perhaps not have understood this, for many of his political stamp do not – prediction is not the same thing as evidence. The fact is that most of the predictions of the climate-extremists and their overworked X-Box 360s and Playstation Vs have proven to be spectacular exaggerations.

“Gore was right and Monckton wrong about sea level”

The first slide of mine that Abraham criticizes is one in which I show the table of contributions to observed sea-level rise from various sources as published in the IPCC’s 2007 report, and draw from it the conclusion that the measured contribution of the Greenland and West Antarctic ice sheets to “global warming” is 6 cm/century, while Al Gore’s film predicts 610 cm (20 feet) of imminent sea-level rise.

Abraham again artfully distorts or carefully omits what I actually said. First, he says that the IPCC predicts 20-50 cm of sea-level rise this century, not 6 cm. Well, yes it does, but the reason for the difference is that the IPCC’s figure (which still amounts to below 2 feet, not 20, and it’s actually rising at just 1 ft/century at present, if that) is for sea-level rise from all sources, chiefly thermosteric expansion, not just from ice-melt.

But Gore’s prediction of a 20 ft sea-level rise is, as his movie makes quite clear, based on ice-melt alone. Abraham says Gore was right to worry about a very large rise in sea level because the IPCC specifically excludes ice-melt from its calculations, saying it cannot yet be quantified. No, the IPCC specifically includes ice-melt in its calculations, as the table on my slide showed, but it does add that “dynamic” effects of unpredictable but theoretically-possible large-scale failure on the ice sheets are not taken into account.

Abraham says that if either Greenland or the West Antartic ice sheet were to melt sea level would indeed rise by around 20 feet, and that, he says, is where Gore got his figure.

Just two problems with that. First, the IPCC also says, on the very page quoted by Abraham, that even if there were a major collapse of the ice the Greenland ice sheet would not entirely disintegrate for millennia, a phrase that was also used in the IPCC’s 2001 report, where it was made plain that surface temperatures at least 2 Celsius degrees higher than today’s would have to persist for several millennia before either the Greenland or the West Antarctic Ice Sheet could melt away.

True, the British Antarctic Survey disagrees with the IPCC and maintains that the WAIS is in imminent danger of collapse, but so far even the IPCC has not bought that alarmist story.

Secondly, as I said in my talk, but as Abraham very carefully failed to point out in his, both sides of this particular argument have been carefully heard in the impartial forum of the British High Court. The British Government, unsuccessfully attempting to defend Gore on this point, had eventually been compelled – when confronted with what the IPCC actually says about several millennia – to concede that Gore’s 20 feet of sea-level rise was a flagrant exaggeration.

And the judge’s finding could not have been blunter: “The Armageddon scenario that he [Gore] depicts is not based on any scientific view.” And that quotation, too, was on one of my slides, but Abraham carefully failed to mention it, or to check with me to find out how it was that the judge had come to that conclusion.

Nor, of course, did Abraham mention the slide in which I showed a picture of the St. Regis Tower, San Francisco, with a map showing it to be just feet from the allegedly-rising ocean at Fisherman’s Wharf, and a statement that in 2005, the very year in which Gore was making up his alarmist movie, he had spent $4 million buying a condo there. Would he have bought that condo if he had seriously thought sea level would imminently rise by 20 feet? That, as my Latin Grammar would put it, is “a question expecting the answer ‘No’”.

Well, I could go on. And on and on. And on and on and on. Just about every one of the 115 slides presented by Abraham contains serious, serial, material errors, exaggerations, or downright lies. All I have been able to do here is to give you some flavor of how unscientific, inaccurate, and deliberately mendacious Abraham is.

Keep an eye out at There, in due course, will appear the letter I am now drafting to Abraham, asking him several hundred pertinent questions designed to make him and anyone who may think of relying upon him understand that academic dishonesty and deliberate lying on this scale and with this amount of public circulation is just not acceptable, and will not be tolerated.

If Abraham wishes to present himself as “a scientist” – as he does throughout his talk – then it is as a scientist that he will be judged, found lamentably wanting, and dismissed. He may like to get an apology and retraction in early: for I am a Christian too, and will respond kindly to timely repentance.

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