Filed by Erika Engelhaupt
This morning as I sat bleary-eyed in the press room, a flyer landed on my desk with the provocative title, “The IPCC’s Scientific Fraud.” The IPCC is the scientific body that informs the UN on climate change, and they were scheduled hours later to present their comprehensive 2007 climate report to be entered into official record for consideration during the Bali negotiations.
The flyer went on to request the pleasure of my company at a briefing by The Viscount Christopher Monckton of Brenchley (photo, above), a British climate skeptic who was involved in the recent court case which attempted to ban Al Gore’s movie “An Inconvenient Truth” from UK schools. Lord Monckton, as he is known formally, vigorously denies that humans are changing the climate.
Curious, I headed to Monckton’s talk to see what he would say at a conference filled with thousands of professionals devoted to stopping climate change. He spoke in a small conference room outside the official meeting venue. A handful of fellow skeptics (some scientists prefer to call them deniers) had gathered with several scientists and journalists.
Monckton introduced himself as a mathematician, saying “I don’t have any special knowledge of climate science, but it has been my job in the past to investigate scientific fraud on the part of Her Majesty’s government.” He went on to charge the IPCC with blatantly moving decimal points and changing numbers to make global climate change appear more alarming. He said the IPCC exaggerated sea level rise by tenfold and the effect of CO2 on global temperature by 20-fold. His rationale for these statements involves details of climate science that are difficult to follow at best, so for now I will provide this copy of his presentation (monckton_cop13.ppt) and refer interested readers to the blog RealClimate.org for more information from climate scientists on sea level rise and climate sensitivity to CO2.
Many of his scientific arguments will be familiar to those who follow climate science closely; for example, he says that Greenland is gaining ice overall and attributes any melting of ice there to natural changes in ocean currents. He also claimed that global temperatures “have remained static for 7 years.” Asked what temperature data sets he examined, he cited the National Climatic Data Center and the Hadley Centre.
Richard Betts, a climate scientist at the Met Office of the Hadley Centre, happened to be in the room (photo, right). Betts was a lead author on the IPCC’s chapter on radiative forcing of CO2 (its warming effect, in essence) and replied to Monckton that he was misusing Hadley’s data. Climate is influenced by both natural variability and by rising greenhouse gases produced by human activity, he said, and the important trend is the long-term rise in global average temperature, not short-scale fluctuations.
I asked Monckton what motivation scientists would have to perpetuate a fraud as he claims they are doing. He replied that he cannot judge their motives, but implied that they may be protecting their careers. I also asked him about his own funding, and he said that he “has no financial stake” in climate change and accepted no money to speak today. He did note, though, that he would normally charge 20,000 pounds sterling to speak and has spoken before for fossil fuel industry groups, which “pay handsomely.”
Monckton said he came to Bali to say that the UN is wasting resources on climate change. “The correct solution to a non-problem is to do nothing about it,” he said.
Betts told me later, “I thought it was important to come [to the talk] because I knew he’d make scandalous statements [about IPCC] and I needed to refute them.” He said Monckton was recycling tactics of “half-truths, old data, and quotes taken out of context” and was relieved to see nothing new for scientists to refute. The IPCC received many criticisms from Monckton during an open review process, Betts said. “We’ve gone through all of them and responded,” he added. “It’s frustrating, because we know we’ve done a very thorough job.”
Back at the conference center, scientists presented the major elements of the 2007 IPCC Fourth Assessment. Yvo de Boer, the Executive Secretary of the UN FCCC, said of the report that it “paves the way for decision making.” He added, “It has a clear message for politicians: first, that climate change is happening.” Rajendra Pachauri, chair of the IPCC, finished the session by saying, “There is no key uncertainty that would keep us from moving forward,” and that “the findings are strong enough for us to take actions for the future.”