Question: What does leading climate change denier Lord Christopher Monckton have in common with Armageddon forecaster David Meade?
Answer: They’ve both been proved wrong about the core aspects of their beliefs.
But instead of shelving their outlandish views and admitting they were completely wrong, they’ve adopted new theories.
Meade was adamant that the world would end on September 23 this year. Instead of admitting on September 24 his theory was rubbish he merely said he just got the date wrong and the end of the world would start on October 15.
Monckton has been faced with an equally embarrassing demonstration that his core belief is total nonsense.
Until two years ago Monckton claimed the world had not warmed for a record 18 years and nine months.
It was by far the biggest argument he used to support his denial of the global scientific consensus of potentially disastrous man-made climate change. It was the main feature on his website.
He even claimed on Nights With Steve Price that a glacier was forming on Ben Nevis which is less than 200 metres higher than the tip of Queensland’s Granite Belt.
He said: "In Ben Nevis now we have a glacier beginning to form for the first time in 9,000 years and eventually this weight of evidence from all round the world that (global warming) is not happening as (climate scientists) said it would, is mounting up to the point where even they no longer believe it."
In talking of temperature records being set, he was adamant: "You will get 100 year records set with exactly the same frequency they always have…What you can’t say is that it is getting any worse."
But well-publicised and widely-accepted 100-year global temperature records have been broken almost every year this century so why would anyone believe this rubbish?
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) have announced 2016 was the third year in a row to set a new record for global average surface temperatures, with 16 of the 17 warmest years on record occurring since 2001.
Of great concern to scientists is that most of the global warming has occurred in the past 35 years.
But, like Meade, instead of accepting he was completely wrong, Monckton, whose sole educational qualifications according to Wikipedia are a master’s degree in classics and a diploma in journalism studies, has performed a violent U-turn.
After nearly two decades of telling the world the earth was not warming, this cardinal proponent of the climate denying movement, whose skewed views seem to be accepted as gospel by broadcaster Alan Jones and columnist Andrew Bolt, is now admitting temperatures did increase over that same period.
But instead of deciding the vast majority of the world’s climate scientists and nearly 200 worldwide scientific organisations are right and he’s wrong, he is now claiming that the world isn’t warming fast enough.
He says his “evidence” of the rate of warming shows predictions have been “flagrantly and baselessly exaggerated” and all action to deal with climate change should be abandoned..
Monckton created a diagram on his website which claims that in 1990 the IPCC (International Panel on Climate Change) predicted a warming rate of 4.2 degrees Celsius per century.
By chance, Monckton’s website seems to have temporarily disappeared, leaving a screen with only the web address on it. But his diagram survives on other deniers’ websites.
The diagram claims to show a real increase in global temperatures between January 2001 and April 2016 equivalent to 0.47 degrees per century instead of the predicted 4.2.
So there’s the headline: Monckton says the earth is warming – but not fast enough to meet predictions.
Let’s examine the figures he has used.
I have checked the IPCC’s First Assessment Report from 1990 which predicted global warming of about 1.1 degrees celsius between 1990 and 2030.
It clearly predicts an increase of 0.3 degrees per decade (with an uncertainty range of up to 0.5 degrees per century) which would give an increase of 3 degrees in a century – not 4.2.
But his figure of a rise of 0.47 degrees per century is not “observed reality”. It is the result of his mathematical prestidigitation which involves averaging monthly satellite readings and determining the “least-squares linear-regression trend on their mean”.
(And, yes, you’re right, it’s usually the climate change deniers who allege that scientists mess with figures!)
NASA publishes an interactive graph of annual global surface temperatures on the internet. The 2000 average temperature is 0.42 degrees above a baseline comprising the average temperature between 1951 and 1980. The 2016 average temperature is 0.99 degrees above the baseline.
A simple subtraction (no complicated maths necessary) shows the actual warming was 0.57 degrees.
So, on that basis far from Monckton’s claim that the world is not warming as fast as predicted it is actually warming faster.
In addition to the NASA statistics, two scientists, David Frame and Daithi Stone, measured all available data for warming between 1990 and 2011 – being about the halfway point between 1990 and 2030 which was the period of the original IPCC prediction period.
Physics.org reported the scientists produced two sets of averages amounting to warming of 0.35 degrees and 0.39.
It said: "The researchers then added what they called an adjustment to the numbers to reflect naturally occurring fluctuations in global temperature averages and found that the results fit almost perfectly with the predictions made 22 years ago."
That figure was 0.55 degrees.
We should not be surprised by Monckton’s U-turn on warming.
Climate scientist Ed Hawkins has posted a copy of a 1988 London Evening Standard column written by Monckton on the internet.
Monckton wrote that he not only believed that mankind was ruining the climate but also that alarming rises in sea levels needed to be tackled.
Here’s what he wrote: "Too much carbon dioxide is dangerous because it traps heat from the sun in the atmosphere. It is known as the ‘greenhouse effect’…So the world gets warmer.
…the extra warmth in the atmosphere could have calamitous effects.”
He posed the question: would this “strange weather” cause serious damage” His answer: “Yes”.
And writing of the prediction that sea levels would rise dramatically, he said: "Which is why eight years ago I bought a house halfway up Richmond Hill. Those of you down below had better learn to swim."
Presumably Lord Lawson, whose Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF) provides him with a platform for his claim that it would be economically crazy to try to prevent climate change, had not caught up with his colleague’s change of heart about the pause in warming when he was interviewed by the BBC in August this year.
He told the BBC that official figures showed: ",,,during the past 10 years, if anything, mean global temperature, average world temperature, has slightly declined."
The foundation later apologised for the “mistake”. It seems It had done what many deniers do and believed what was presented on one of the denialist sites created by the Koch Brothers and fossil fuel interests.
Independent reported the GWPF: "...has now revealed the source of these supposedly “official” figures was a meteorologist who works for a libertarian think tank, the Cato Institute, founded by US billionaire and leading climate sceptic, Charles Koch."
Oh, and the glacier on Ben Nevis?
Like Monckton’s denial of climate change, it was nothing of any substance.
It was reported this year: "The highest mountain in the British Isles is currently without snow – and researchers believe permanent white mountain tops could soon be a thing of the past."
NB Three paragraphs were removed from this blog on November 8 2017 to remove an error which compared a temperature rise over 16 years to a per-century figure.