Christopher Monckton

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The Monckton equation

My last few posts have been on some examples of dubious scientific publications. Some publishers are bad actors. Some authors are naively over-confident and have found naive editors or publishers to match. Sometimes it can be hard to tell. The last case I'm going to look at here is perhaps the worst situation - where the authors are clearly behaving badly, and somehow made it through some form of peer review. This is the sort of thing that gets reported regularly on Retraction Watch, and also similar to the Gerlich and Tscheuschner case except that the journal in question is slightly more prestigious (G&T's journal, IJMP-B, has an impact factor of less than 0.5). And once again the topic is climate change.

The paper this time is Why models run hot: results from an irreducibly simple climate model by Christopher Monckton, Willie W.-H. Soon, David R. Legates, and William M. Briggs, published in Science Bulletin by Science China Press and Springer-Verlag. Given that Springer is about to merge with Nature, the break-down of reasonable peer review in this case indirectly reflects badly on one of the most prestigious journal brands in all of Science (Springer is of course also highly regarded).

Monckton and friends' paper has been widely criticized already by ... and Then There's Physics, Jan Perlwitz in two articles and from Roz Pidcock at the Carbon Brief who quotes various other scientists on the topic. Since the essential argument is barely changed from Monckton's 2008 Physics & Society (P&S) article that I found full of errors I thought it deserved a bit of post-publication attention from me also. It really is astonishing that this work was approved by an editor for what looks like a reasonable scientific journal.

At first sight this article isn't as obviously nutty as some of those I've discussed here previously - the graphics and tables seem to be well designed, the reference section looks fairly substantive. The mathematics is once again pure algebra with not a sign of an understanding of the calculus invented by Newton and Leibniz a few hundred years back - and we'll get back to that. But other than the overly simplistic math, the paper may not strike the experienced editor immediately as absurd.

The hiatus is over!

No, I'm not talking about how last year was the hottest (globally) on record. It's been almost two years since my last post here, but I'm intending to end the silence. I have actually been doing a lot of reading and listening of one form or another, along with a few comments here and there, especially on twitter. One reason I haven't felt an urgent need to write has been a couple of excellent new entrants in the climate blogosphere:

Gadding with Ghouls: adventures with Christopher W. Monckton

Since becoming a Viscount in June 2006, Christopher Monckton seems to have transformed into a climate crusader, with "Lord Monckton" heralded by conservative politicians and demagogues from Canada to Australia, even recently by the Tea Party here in the US. His first official foray seems to have been this November 2006 article in the UK Daily Telegraph, full of his characteristic pseudo-science, quickly shown to be wrong in almost every respect. July 2008 saw his "Physics and Society" article, again full of nonsense, prompting myself among many others to put some effort into showing the many things he had gotten wrong. I also responded with a shorter and more formal article to the newsletter, copying Monckton as a courtesy, a kindness which he and his associates promptly abused.

In general, Monckton's pronouncements on climate have been so ridiculous that no climate scientist or other prominent member of the climate community has wanted to even appear with him to lend him any credibility. However, this past February Tim Lambert of the Deltoid blog finally agreed to a debate - note Lambert is a computer scientist whose interest in climate is personal, not associated with his work. The resulting discussion was quite respectful - the full debate is viewable here on YouTube - and despite the Monckton-friendly audience and moderator showed Monckton exactly for the pompous clown he has become.

Now Peter Sinclair (greenman3610) has put together two brilliant video debunkings of Monckton's fantasies on YouTube, the second featuring Lambert and a great set of quotes from Margaret Thatcher, who Monckton proudly claims to have worked for in the 1980s:

Denialism defined

Thanks to a link (twice removed) from Tim Lambert, I just discovered a wonderfully cogent summary of the common characteristics of (professional?) anti-evolutionists, global warming "skeptics", medical cranks, and many of the other purveyors of anti-science or unhistorical illogic in our modern world. The Hoofnagle's and co-writers for the past couple of years have been pointing out the foibles particularly of medical cranks. As they write on some of the latest examples:

Cranks believe in something contrary to observable reality. They will do anything to prove it. When reality gets in their way, they ignore, subvert, lie, cheat, or obfuscate to create confusion. And when it's proven beyond all doubt they're wrong? That's when the conspiracies come out.

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