American think-tank finances Swindle and Apocalypse No! for UK and US students*October 27, 2007 at 6:11 am | Posted in Apocalypse No!, Bookshop, Cambridge, Cambridge University, Cambridge University Press, Children as pawns, Citizenship, Climate contrarians, Education, Gate of Honour, Geography, Gonville and Caius, Honour, IPCC, My photos, Oxford Union, Oxford University, Propaganda, Schools, Science, Senate House, Stanford University, Students, Teachers, TGGWS, UK, US | 3 Comments
Cambridge University Press publishes reports by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). This year, it is publishing the IPCC Climate Change 2007 Fourth Assessment Report (AR4), and has already published contributions from the three working groups:
Climate Change 2007 – The Physical Science Basis
Working Group I Contribution to the Fourth Assessment Report of the IPCC
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
IPCC Fourth Assessment Report on scientific aspects of climate change for researchers, students, and policymakers.
Climate Change 2007 – Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability
Working Group II Contribution to the Fourth Assessment Report of the IPCC
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
IPCC Fourth Assessment Report on climate change impacts, adaptation and vulnerability for researchers, students, policymakers.
Climate Change 2007 – Mitigation of Climate Change
Working Group III Contribution to the Fourth Assessment Report of the IPCC
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
IPCC Fourth Assessment Report on the mitigation of climate change for researchers, students, and policymakers.
With its bookshop situated in the heart of this world-renowned medieval university town, recognised for its world-class scientific institutions, why am I drawing your attention to Cambridge University Press now?
Well, Cambridge University has recently been the site of a battle for hearts and minds: climate change deniers, Lomborg and Monckton, spoke twice at the Cambridge Union Society this month (October 2007).
Monckton’s speech to students was sponsored by the Science and Public Policy Institute (SPPI), according to The Cambridge Union Society, who billed the event thus:
Christopher Monckton, 3rd Viscount Monckton of Brenchley is strongly critical of mainstream scientific opinion on climate change, which he regards as a controversy catalyzed by “the need of the international left for a new flag to rally round” following the fall of the Berlin Wall. Although he has acknowledged that global warming is real, he has cast doubt on its provenance and the underlying science. Viscount Monckton worked as a policy advisor to Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s.
He invented the geometric Eternity puzzle, the hardest jigsaw puzzle ever, for which a prize of £1m was given to two Cambridge mathematicians who solved it after 18 months. The first solver of the new Eternity II puzzle will receive $2m.
This event will be filmed. Please arrive in good time to ensure a seat. Sponsored by the Science and Public Policy Institute, Washington.
Date: Mon 8th October, 2007 at 7:30pm
The student newspaper reported the event here. I added relevant links in the copy below, after trying, and failing, to find ‘Varsity Science’ or this article in any Varsity paper edition or online. I have written to BlueSci, which describes itself “BlueSci is Cambridge’s popular science magazine, produced by students of the University of Cambridge”, to request permission to reprint here:
Contributed by James Shepherd and Hannah Price
Viscount Monckton spoke out last Monday against what he called the “new religion of climate change.”
(Article written for Varsity Science, and republished in BlueSci with permission)
Monckton addressed the Cambridge Union with the message “the amount of warming we are causing is near-vanishingly small … we are no longer the problem, and therefore we are not the solution”. Condemning governments and climate change policy worldwide, he warned that the policy of attempting to limit CO2 emissions in developing countries was “condemning them to die in their tens of millions” by stunting their ability to extend their country’s average life-expectancy.
Monckton, who worked as a policy advisor to Margaret Thatcher, criticised the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (the panel that led to the formulation of the Kyoto Protocol), saying that they presented conclusions “regardless of the scientific truth”. He accused them of “bigging up the problem” of climate change to elevate their self-importance, claiming that they had added errors to their reports including moving the decimal point of one figure to ten-times overestimate the effect of temperature rise on the melting of the Greenland ice-sheet. He added that the scientists had been misled and that this error was left out of the draft they were told to check.
He went on to blame the BBC of “open, systematic bias”, saying they had lost “any semblance of objectivity”, and called Al Gore’s film on climate change An Inconvenient Truth “astonishingly inaccurate” delivering a point-by-point dismissal using scientific literature. In particular he discounted Gore’s claim of a 20 foot rise in sea level over next 200 years as a 9000% exaggeration. He contested the very basis of science to make such definite and profound statements as those made in Gore’s film, suggesting that the climate was too chaotic to have a model built of it from which accurate predictions could be made. He added that the data we do have regarding the climate is “largely inadequate” to the extent that we cannot predict anything with certainty.
Monckton claimed his approach to the problem, which he likened to that of the famous scientists Huxley and Arrhenius, was “one of enquiry” saying that he was trying to present a “fair, reasonable and balanced argument”. He suggested the reason for the recent rise in global temperatures, which he did not contest, was sun-spots, stating “the Sun is most active now … since the end of the last ice age”.
In what could have become quite a heated scene, Stephen Stretton of the Cambridge Zero Carbon Society stood up uninvited before the talk and warned the audience that the film would be used “to deny the reality of climate change”. He went on to say “he [Monckton] is a peer, he is a journalist … he is not a scientist” before members of the audience started shouting at him and he sat down.
After the talk the audience response was more mixed: some people got up to thank Monckton for his perspective on the matter, with others challenging the scientific validity of what he had said. Since the event, A Response to Monckton has been made on Zero Carbon.
Responding to Monckton’s claims that global warming was not predominantly man-made, Professor John Pyle, Director of the Centre for Atmospheric Science in Cambridge, spoke to Varsity saying that “Monckton was completely and utterly wrong … [he] goes completely against the prevailing wisdom of atmospheric scientists as expressed through the IPCC” adding that he has no regard for “the authority of hundreds and hundreds of scientists” who work in this area. When asked what we should do when confronted with such people, Pyle said “we have to slap them down”.
WagTV, who made The Great Global Warming Swindle (aired on Channel 4) were filming at the event, and there are hopes that the talk will be made into a short film.
Speaking exclusively to Varsity, Robert Ferguson of the Science & Public Policy Institute (Washington), the film’s sponsors, said the purpose of the film would be educational and sent out free to home-schooling programs in the US.
Ferguson emphasised “we don’t need Al Gore making $100,000 a speech, and getting stinking rich by scaring our children” warning “in America, a lot of the kids have been forced to watch this [An Inconvenient Truth] in the schools on the condition that they will not pass their grade if they do not watch it”. He added that teachers frequently asked “is there anything out there that gives us balance?” and hoped that his film would provide the answer to this.
When asked why the scientists could not provide this balance, both he and Monckton warned that scientists were being gagged by the fear of losing their funding. During his talk, Monckton recalled responses to his article in the Sunday Telegraph challenging the validity of climate change, attributing to Margaret Beckett the sentiment that “anyone who dared to question the proposed consensus should be treated as if he or she was an Islamic terrorist … [and] banned from any platform”.
When asked why the Cambridge Union had given someone with such extreme views platform, its President, Roland Foxcroft, stated “as a charity, we can’t have a political view, but I think it’s very, very important that we are controversial … [and] challenge the status quo”. When asked whether he thought he was lending credibility to Monckton, he responded that Monckton’s credibility came from the fact that worked for Margaret Thatcher and was hugely successful businessman adding that “he could have filmed this in a huge number of places” but chose the Union.
In an emotional closing argument, Monckton posited that there were better ways to spend our money, including on the HIV/AIDS epidemic where he argued for the isolation of HIV-positive individuals so that they would not infect others, and the controlled use of DDT, an insecticide, to tackle malaria. He implored that the economically less developed “look to us” for support saying “we have failed them, and failed them before, we must not fail them again”.
Update: There’s another student report in The Cambridge Student, Global warming: fact or theory?, written by Josh Hardie. In this, we are informed:
Viscount Monckton’s speech, televised at the Union on Monday, drew a standing ovation from the Union president and much of the audience. …
Monckton claimed figures in the media, politics and science had decided to deliberately exaggerate the dangers of climate change, quoting Stephen Schneider, a Stanford University climatologist, as claiming “Unless we announce disasters, no-one will listen” …
It was a relevant and thought provoking evening, demonstrating that the controversy is far from over.
I have no knowledge as to whether these opinions reflect the true feeling, but I expect they do. My hunch is based partly on my own experiences attending speeches and debates as a member of the Oxford Union, where it appeared to me that scientists and engineers in the audience have been regularly well-outnumbered by non-scientists. However, awareness of climate change is so high in Oxford, I do not think SPPI, Monckton, Durkin & Co. could have staged this stunt there. A good head of PR would naturally and necessarily choose a setting conducive to filming, preferably within hallowed halls (look how Hogwarts has encouraged visitors to Christ Church College, for example!), with an undeniably well-educated audience who behave in a positive manner to provide the best ambience for visiting television cameras.
Bjørn Lomborg spoke at the Cambridge Union Society the previous week:
As author of “The Skeptical Environmentalist” and “Cool It”, Bjørn Lomborg has made a name for himself as a global warming skeptic. Time Magazine rated him in 2004 as one of the world’s 100 most influential people; in 2005, Foreign Policy and Prospect magazine put him as the 14th most influential academic in the world, and in the same year, the World Economic Forum nominated him a ‘Young Global Leader’.
Lomborg is former director of Denmark’s Environmental Assessment Institute, the current Director of the Copenhagen Consensus Center and Adjunct Professor of the Copenhagen Business School.
Please note that this event is free for non-members.
Date: Wed 3rd October, 2007 at 7:00pm
- a letter to the editor ~ An Incomplete Argument
- an article ~ ‘Doomsday is not nigh‘ online, and
- an interview with Lomborg the following week in the paper edition dated Friday October 12 2007, pages 15-16, headed Environmentally Sound. It kicks off with a photo shoot that beats the socks off competitors anyday!
So here we have two prominent climate change sceptics hosted at Cambridge Union Society as speakers in less than a week. They are addressing the next generation of potential British ‘leaders’, and Monckton’s backers are taking advantage of these students to sell their misleading opinions about science to a far wider audience, through the filming of Monckton’s speech by Durkin’s WagTV, to pupils in British secondary schools and thereafter to students in American home-schools.
To be fair to the student press, earlier this year, after the WGI report was released, the mainstream scientific view was represented in an article in Cambridge students’ Varsity weekly newspaper, under the heading Global warming “man-made” says professor in which Professor Nigel Weiss, Emeritus Professor in Mathematical Astrophysics at Cambridge supports the findings of the IPCC. (Note the quotation marks!)
I think it’s about time the Cambridge University students were treated to a deluge of mainstream science speakers, to slap down these influential mendacious speakers, don’t you?!
*according to the following article by Michael McCarthy, “The filming and editing of the Monckton film is being financed by a right-wing American think-tank, the Washington-based Science and Public Policy Institute (SPPI), to which Lord Monckton is an adviser.”
This was published in the Independent last week, but will be relevant for some time to come, in both Britain and in America. (Please read the section I emboldened below, if nothing else.)
Climate deniers to send film to British schools
By Michael McCarthy, Environment Editor
Published: 15 October 2007
Secondary schools across Britain are to be sent copies of the controversial television film The Great Global Warming Swindle, as the polemical battle over climate change heats up in the wake of last week’s Nobel Peace Prize award to former US vice president Al Gore and the UN’s climate change panel.
The much-criticised film is to be distributed by the small but vociferous climate change denial lobby, as a direct riposte to the Government’s own distribution to schools of Mr Gore’s film on global warming, An Inconvenient Truth.
The main figure behind the move is Viscount Monckton, the journalist and former policy adviser to Margaret Thatcher, who is likely to couple the Swindle film, made by radical television producer Martin Durkin and aired on Channel 4 in March, in a package with an anti-climate change film of his own entitled Apocalypse No!.
Shot last week before at audience of 400 students at the Cambridge Union, it features Lord Monckton, the brother-in-law of another well-known climate change sceptic, The Independent columnist Dominic Lawson, giving a long presentation intended as a mirror-image of that given by Mr Gore in An Inconvenient Truth – but from a completely sceptical point of view.
Lord Monckton, who as Christopher Monckton was an adviser to Mrs Thatcher when she was prime minister in the late 1980s and was one of the first people to draw attention to global warming, now thinks the dangers are being grossly exaggerated by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and other scientists. He accepts that the world is warming, and that some of the warming is being caused by human actions, but denies that this could lead to catastrophe – in contrast to the views of the vast majority of the climate science community.
The filming and editing of the Monckton film is being financed by a right-wing American think-tank, the Washington-based Science and Public Policy Institute, to which Lord Monckton is an adviser. The peer said yesterday his film would feature 300 slides proving that fears about climate change were grossly exaggerated, each one accompanied by a reference to a scientific paper – so people could make up their own minds.
It would be sent out for peer review by independent scientists so it did not contain inaccuracies, he said, although the scientists were unlikely to be British, and he hoped this process would be finished by Christmas. The completed film will be offered to film companies in the US for distribution as a feature film to rival Mr Gore’s, and if it needed reshooting, a 5,000-seat auditorium was available for the purpose in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
But first it would be sent to all secondary schools in Britain, “so people everywhere can get a first chance to have both sides of the story and see that there is much greater division in the scientific community about climate change than we are led to believe by politicians.”
Asked if he thought people would object to schools being sent material funded by a right-wing US think tank, he said: “What about propaganda being sent into schools by a left-wing British government?”
Lord Monckton declined to reveal who was funding the schools distribution exercise, but he said that accompanying Apocalypse No! on the same CD sent to schools would be The Great Global Warming Swindle, which has been the subject of fierce criticism for alleged inaccuracy and distortion since its broadcast.
Two of the scientists who took part, Eigil Friis-Christensen, the director of the Danish National Space Centre and Carl Wunsch, professor of physical oceanography at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, have publicly said that their contributions were distorted, and it has been the subject of many other complaints by scientists.
Lord Monckton accepted yesterday that the original Martin Durkin film “contained a few errors” but said that what would be sent out was “a corrected version”.
His move is part of a continuing offensive by Britain’s climate change denial lobby, which scored a widely publicised success last week when a High Court judge ruled that there were a series of errors in the An Inconvenient Truth, and forced the Government to alter guidelines sent out with it, making it clear it was a polemic and not a documentary. (However, Mr Justice Burton said that in its presentation of the causes and likely effects of climate change, it was “broadly accurate”.)
Leading figures in campaign to deny climate change
* Viscount Monckton
As Christopher Monckton, before he inherited his father’s title in 2006, he was well-known as a senior journalist for many years (he was chief leader writer of London’s Evening Standard), and was an adviser in Margaret Thatcher’s Downing Street Policy Unit from 1982-1986. Produced two widely-read articles in the Sunday Telegraph a year ago attacking the science of climate change in detail. Read classics at Cambridge, but says he has “a mathematical background.” The brother of Rosa Monckton, who is married to Dominic Lawson, former editor of The Sunday Telegraph and columnist for The Independent
* Robert Durward
A Scot who is chairman of The New Party, a hitherto little-known grouping which backed the successful High Court case against An Inconvenient Truth. Based in Lanark, in professional life he runs a quarrying business and is Director of the British Aggregates Association, set up to defend the interests of the quarrying industry. He has long been a critic of environmentalists, once describing himself as “a businessman who is totally fed up with all this environmental stuff.” He helped found The Scientific Alliance, a pressure group set up to provide counter-arguments to the green lobby, which now publicises the global warming denial agenda.
* Stewart Dimmock
The man who brought the High Court case against the Government-sponsored showing of An Inconvenient Truth in Britain’s schools. A lorry driver from Dover, with children aged 14 and 11, he was initially presented as a lone David taking on the Goliath of a government, but it later emerged that he had very powerful backers for his very expensive court case, including The New Party – of which he is a member – and Viscount Monckton, who gave a statement supporting his case. Has unsuccessfully stood as an independent in local elections in Dover.
P.S. Three different sticky mood-notes for my different audiences follow:
Monckton & Co. are indeed planning to distribute DVDs including The Swindle (TGGWS) and Apocalypse No! to British schools. U.S. release will follow, targetting home-schoolers, after the package has been ‘tested’ on British pupils.
It would be interesting to hear when these so-called climate change packages start arriving in your English pigeonholes.
I think you were wise not to bother wasting your time watching TGGWS when it was offered after classes at school. I agree, you have far more fruitful ways to spend your spare time. In any case, the most important lesson you can learn from all this is that it is not just grades that count. Honour is paramount. Below is my photo of the Gate of Honour at Gonville and Caius; the path through this gate takes you to the Senate House where (when it’s not closed for ceiling refurbishment) degree ceremonies take place and honours are conferred.
This is not simply a post about climate change sceptics versus scientists. It hinges on identifying and supporting honourable endeavours. You have to learn to assess who to trust, even when you do not understand the details of a scientific issue.