Friday, June 04, 2010

Dr. John Abraham Debunks Lord Monckton's Global Warming Denialism

"I wrote to these authors and I read their papers. It turned out that none of the authors or papers made the claims that Monckton attributed to them. This pattern of misinterpretation was becoming chronic."---Dr. John Abraham in The Guardian (6-3-10)

Dr. John Abraham, a professor in the School of Engineering at the University of Saint Thomas in St. Paul Minnesota, has published an article in the U.K. Guardian (6-3-10) and has posted a very informative slide show with audio and links to his sources. [The presentation is also on youtube, and Planet Climate has an entry titled Abraham Presentation with an overview and all the cited papers.]

Dr. Abraham demonstrates that the global warming denialist Lord Christopher Monckton mischaracterizes the evidence of climate scientists and even fabricates evidence.

Dr. John Abraham writes in the Guardian (6-3-10):

Monckton takes scientist to brink of madness at climate change talk

An angry professor who listened to Monckton's speech at a US university demolishes the wild claims made by the climate denier

George Monbiot: Viscount Monckton, fallen idol of climate denial
Read John Abraham's reply to Christopher Monckton in full

It takes a lot to make a scientist mad – even today, when it seems that science and scientists are under siege, particularly over the topic of climate change.

But everyone has a breaking point, one straw too many that inspires them to act.

For me, that time came last October when I learned about a British import we have had the displeasure of experiencing here in the United States.

That import, Christopher Monckton, Viscount Monckton of Brenchley, had given a rousing speech to a crowd at Bethel University in Minnesota, near where I live.

His speech was on global warming and his style was convincing and irreverent. Anyone listening to him was given the impression that global warming was not happening, or that if it did happen it wouldn't be so bad, and scientists who warned about it were part of a vast conspiracy.

I know a thing or two about global warming. I have worked in the field of heat transfer and fluid mechanics and I have published more than 80 papers on these topics.

I am a university professor and also an active consultant in the energy and environment industry. What I heard in his talk surprised me.

Monckton cited scientist after scientist whose work "disproved" global warming.

He contended that polar bears are not really at risk (in fact they do better as weather warms); projections of sea level rise are a mere 6cm; Arctic ice has not declined in a decade; Greenland is not melting; sea levels are not rising; ocean temperatures are not increasing; medieval times were warmer than today; ocean acidification is not occurring; and global temperatures are not increasing.

If true, these conclusions would be welcome. But there is a problem with this kind of truth – it is not made by wishing.

So I began a journey of investigation (the full results of which you can view here).

I actually tracked down the articles and authors that Monckton cited. What I discovered was incredible, even to a scientist who follows the politics of climate change. I found that he had misrepresented the science.

For instance, Monckton's claims that "Arctic sea ice is fine, steady for a decade" made reference to Alaskan research group (IARC).

I wrote to members of IARC and asked whether this was true. Both their chief scientist and director confirmed that Monckton was mistaken.

They also pointed me to the National Snow and Ice Data Centre (NSIDC) for a second opinion.

A scientist there confirmed Monckton's error, as did Dr Ola Johannessen, whose work has shown ice loss in Greenland (Monckton reported that Johannessen's work showed that Greenland "was just fine".)

Next, I investigated Monckton's claim that the medieval period was warmer than today. Monckton showed a slide featuring nine researchers' works which, he claimed, proved that today's warming is not unusual – it was hotter in the past.

I wrote to these authors and I read their papers. It turned out that none of the authors or papers made the claims that Monckton attributed to them. This pattern of misinterpretation was becoming chronic.

Next, I checked on Monckton's claim that the ocean has not been heating for 50 years. To quote him directly, there has been "no ocean heat buildup for 50 years".

On this slide, he referenced a well-known researcher named Dr Catia Domingues. It turns out Domingues said no such thing. What would she know? She only works for the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) in Australia.

In one last, and particularly glaring example, Monckton referred to a 2004 statement by the International Astronomical Union (IAU) which stated that solar activity has caused today's warming and that global warming will end soon.

The president of the IAU division on the sun and heliosphere told me that there is no such position of the IAU and that I should pass this information on to whomever "might have used the IAU name to claim otherwise".

After learning all of this, and much more than can be written about in this limited space, I felt like Alice who fell down the rabbit hole and emerged in an alternate reality.

How can such misrepresentations be made without public recourse? I cannot answer that. I can say that scientists are listening and though our voices are small, we will use them to hold people like Monckton and others to account for their public claims.

The science community is slowly learning that if we don't perform this service, no one will.

Tough decisions are going to have to be made and the public deserves accurate information about the science so they can help make those decisions.

John Abraham is associate professor in the School of Engineering at the University of St Thomas in Minnesota


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