Monckton launches vitriolic – but harmless – attack on critic


Update: Abraham response appended below

University of St. Thomas Professor John Abraham has drawn blood.

Abraham has been getting a lot of attention for his devastating deconstruction of a presentation by Christopher Walter, the Third Viscount Monckton of Brenchley. And while Monckton first (and wisely) declined to respond, the appearance of Abraham’s work in the Guardian this week, and the praise rendered there by columnist George Monbiot, pushed the lurid Lord over the edge, giving rise to a vicious, petty and insulting rejoinder that is all-but-entirely free of substance.

Oh, it’s true that Monckton tries to cherry pick a few weaknesses in Abraham’s thorough exercise in discreditation. For example, Lord Chris attacks Abraham’s criticism of two graphs that Monckton had patched together from data apparently originating with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Abraham complains, quite rightly, that Monckton is not sufficiently forthright with his sourcing and sloppy (or, one might speculate, deliberately mischievous) with his data.

Monckton howls back that one of the graphs in question was clearly sourced to “the SPPI’s well-known global-temperature index, compiled monthly from four separate global-temperature datasets.” And what, pray, is the SPPI? Well that would be the SPPInstitute – the oily Science and Public Policy Institute, of which Christopher Monckton is the Chief Policy Advisor. So, Lord Chris makes up a sloppy graph at the SPPInstitute, references it inadequately in his talk and then defends himself on the basis that he is using “well-known” sources.  A perfectly closed, perfectly fallible loop.In another reference, Abraham called Monckton to account for a badly researched “survey” of scientific papers on climate change. Monckton denies responsibility for the survey, crediting one Klaus-Martin Schulte. And yes, that would be the same “Dr.” Schulte whose time is better spent serving as Monckton’s endocrinologist. The survey has been decisively discredited on at least one other occasion.

And so it goes. While lauding his own competence as a climate expert, Monckton questions Abraham’s scientific bona fides  because the later is “a lecturer in fluid mechanics.” So, one of these two gents has a PhD in a related field and a job at Minnesota’s largest private university, while the other studied classics before concluding his academic career with a diploma in journalism. (Regrettably, Monckton’s wiki bio offers to hint as to where he got his expertise in creative fiction.)

The funniest part of Monckton’s outburst is he has “initiated the process of having Abraham hauled up before whatever academic panel his Bible College can muster.” Aside from the cheap (and given his own Catholicism, inexplicable) shot at the status of the Catholic University of St. Thomas, Monckton is – what’s the expression? – blowing smoke. If he had an ounce of evidence for his own outrageously disingenuous position, he’d be headed to court for a libel finding. As it is, any fair reading of Abraham’s own quite gracious , and incredibly carefully documented critique will clear up permanently which of these two should be up before an ethics board.

* This apparently means that Mockton is two generations removed from any family member who has actually earned honour before the Crown.

Prof. John Abraham responds:

Dear Mr. Monckton,

Thank you for taking the time to comment on my presentation. I encourage people to view both of our arguments and make their own conclusions.  I stand by my work and welcome judgment by the public and the scientific community.  My intention as a professional scientist is to help provide a public disclosure of your scientific methods.  I continue to believe that your work seriously misrepresents the science upon which you rely.    

I would like to briefly address some matters which you raised.  First, I will address your comments about my credentials.  To begin, let me identify some of the subjects which are critical to understanding our world’s climate.  Climate processes involve radiation, convection, and conduction heat transfer.  In addition, fluid mechanics governs the flow of the atmosphere and the oceans.  Chemistry is critical to understanding chemical reactions which take place in both the oceans and the atmosphere.  Quantum mechanics deals with the interaction of airborne molecules and photons (radiation).  Geology and its related subjects are important for many reasons, including the study of past climate (paleoclimatology).  Skills in numerical simulation are essential for the creation and operation of models which allow scientists to predict climate change.  There are other subspecialties which are also important; this is only a partial list.

I am a tenured professor at the University of St. Thomas, a private, Catholic university in Minnesota.  I have taught courses in heat transfer, fluid mechanics, numerical simulation, and thermodynamics.  Topics in my courses include radiation, convection, and conduction, the same physical processes which govern energy flows in the climate.  My PhD thesis dealt with combined convection and radiation heat transfer. My thesis is held in the library at the University of Minnesota, it is available to the public.

My published works span many topics including convective heat transfer, radiative heat transfer, fluid mechanics, and numerical simulation.  My work on numerical simulation is at the very forefront of computational fluid dynamic (cfd) modeling.  I am an expert in non-linear fluid simulations. My background does not span the entire range of topics related to climate change (no one is able to claim this), it does cover many of the essential subtopics. 

In addition to academic research, I am an active consultant in industry.  I have designed wind turbines, built and tested geothermal cooling systems, studied the potential of biofuels to replace petroleum, and designed and created solar-radiation shields for buildings in desert climates. Taken together, I believe that I have the background required to discuss the issues of energy and the environment.

Next, your written reply to my work focused on a small number of my original points; I will discuss just a few of them here.  Throughout this discussion, it must be recognized that you have not addressed the many series scientific lapses which were present in your presentation.

a.   You correctly pointed out that in your presentation, you stated that you were “boring” whereas I stated you were “bored”.  I apologize for misquoting you.  In this regard, the point you were trying to make is that there is no consensus on global warming.  You cited three search words and a range of years (2004-2007).  Since the purpose of my presentation was to show that audience members have the capacity to investigate claims for themselves, I used a publically available academic search engine (GOOGLE SCHOLAR).  I showed that there are many papers that can be found dealing with the dangers of climate change, using your search parameters.  I invite readers to reproduce my search results and read the abstracts of those papers and come to their own conclusion.  Your assertion that these papers existed, but that they did not provide “evidence for catastrophe” was, in my mind, unconvincing. 

b.   You suggested that your temperature graphs referencing your own organization were properly cited.  I disagree.  It is the obligation of a scientist to show the original source of data, your work did not meet this standard.  Citing your own organization is, in my view, improper, particularly since your organization was not involved in obtaining the data.

c.   I showed a number of slides which had no attribution.  I note that among the totality of unattributed slides, you agree with me on all but one. You correctly point out that one had the letters “UAH” listed.  I can assure you that I understand UAH refers to University of Alabama Huntsville.  I continue to believe that a proper citation would include a journal in which this data was published with a volume number and pages. 

I would like to disclose some new information that I have unearthed.  On your 13th slide (another slide with no attribution), you present a graph showing that the Beaufort Sea Ice is growing.  Your slide gives the impression that since ice in the Beaufort Sea is growing, there is no concern about global warming.  Despite the lack of a citation, I have been able to learn about its origin.  The following citation should be useful in this regard for your records.

H. Melling, D. Riedel, and Ze’ev Gedalof, Trends in Thickness and Extent of Seasonal Pack Ice, Canadian Beaufort Sea, Geophysical Research Letters, 24, 1-5, 2005.

I have written to the lead author and he replied….

You are correct in your assessment that statements in the paper were nuanced…. The change in atmospheric circulation is attributable to… no one really knows but human influence on the atmosphere emissions either of chloro-fluorocarbons or carbon dioxide is the primary candidate. However, with so much multi-year ice gone, it is easy to understand why we have much more open water in September.”

Finally, I would like to point out the reason for the delay between your October, 2009 presentation until my reply, it was caused by my desire to present a thoughtful, thorough reply.  You have dealt with a small number of very periphery issues.  There remain very severe errors with your presentation that are yet unanswered.  If you have corrected the many errors which I have disclosed, please accept my apologies.   


Dr. John Abraham

Associate Professor

University of St. Thomas

School of Engineering

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