Christopher Monckton

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  • Climate Denial Goes Vegas

    The Heartland Institute hits the Strip with some much-needed comedic relief

    Blog ››› ››› ALEXANDER ZAITCHIK

    Climate Denial Goes Vegas

    They say comedy is just a funny way of being serious. So it's natural that a deepening climate crisis would produce a deepening well of climate comedy. We don't yet have our climate-themed Dr. Strangelove, but there's now a feature film's worth of gags, skits, and riffs exploring the lighter side of a cooking planet. Stand-up comics, from mainline stars like Louis C.K. to niche acts like the Christian comic Paul Kerensa, have mined climate change for material. Climate activist groups like 350.org have recently begun to take a cue from Comedy Central. Even NASA climatologists have gotten awkwardly into the act.

    Like the global temperature, the phenomenon is on an upswing. In May, a New Yorker science blogger mused on the benefits of employing a "comedic frame" in climate coverage. A couple weeks later, the Guardian collected climate-comedy highpoints, from The Onion to "Ali G." The newest item on the list came from a May bit from an exasperated John Oliver on the media habit of "balancing" the climate consensus with fringe skeptics.

    The biggest sign the genre is maturing hums with neon. Today, Chicago's Heartland Institute, the kings of unintentional climate-comedy, will hit the Vegas strip with a three-day show at Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, featuring a chorus line's worth of hilarious climate rejectionists. The line-up will collectively perform the energy-policy equivalent of a Henny Youngman routine: "Take my planet capable of supporting civilization. Please!"

    The think tank that flacked for Big Tobacco against the science of lung cancer will perform off the same playbook to flack for Big Carbon against the science of greenhouse gases. Tickets to see these self-styled climate researchers and political operatives -- almost none of whom are climate or earth systems scientists and nearly all of them funded at one- or two-degrees remove by oil and coal interests -- run $129, including meals.

    On the Strip, Heartland speakers will pretend to be qualified to dissent from the equivalent to the National Academy of Sciences of every industrial country. Against the faint ring of slot machines, they'll dismiss the stark warnings of experts from 130 countries who contribute to the authoritative assessments of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Because the first rule of improv comedy is "Yes, and...", some Heartland speakers will concede that, yes, man-made warming is occurring. The kicker comes when they echo Heartland's April report concluding that this is a net positive for all carbon-based life forms. With this pivot toward "Yes, and...", Heartland is ensuring they'll continue to have topical comedy fodder for years to come, even after their carbon denial becomes as outdated as their lung cancer material.  

    Heartland's Vegas appearance also suggests a strategy to avoid repeating the troupe's 2012 funding crisis. Instead of depending on corporate contributions, Heartland could find steady revenue as a regular sell-out act on the Strip. They aren't in a position to challenge Carrot Top for a headlining residency at the MGM Grand, but in a city whose economic base is expected to suffer devastating effects from climate change, there is a role for a group with years' worth of climate change gags, including slide shows and props. Heartland policy advisor Norman Rodgers, for example, would kill audiences with classic one-liners such as, "The few examples of coal or oil companies actually giving money to dissenters or dissenting organizations are so minor that one suspects that the gift was an accident or bureaucratic snafu." James Taylor would have them rolling with lines like, "I successfully completed Ivy League atmospheric science courses, so I'm a scientist by training."

    If Don Rickles can make a Vegas career as the "Merchant of Venom," the folks at Heartland can make a run as the "Merchants of Doubt." The timing could not be better. Nevada's nearly 50 golf courses will likely soon be wilting under heat waves and water shortages, and the dwindling number of tourists visiting Vegas will want more air-conditioned entertainment. To draw these crowds, Heartland just needs to punch-up its clunky ad copy, which now reads, "Come to fabulous Las Vegas to meet leading scientists from around the world who question whether 'man-made global warming' will be harmful to plants, animals, or human welfare." A permanent show needs something that sparkles, like the tagline for the Cirque Du Soleil show "O: An aquatic masterpiece of surrealism and theatrical romance."

    Heartland's might read, "Take the Money and Run: A planet-crushing masterpiece of delusion and breathtaking corruption."

    There are other benefits to turning Heartland events into entertainment spectacles worthy of a Vegas marquee. Real scientists would no longer have to "tie up all our time fighting denialist propaganda," as astronomer Phil Plait put it. Instead, they could relegate Heartland coverage to the entertainment critics at Variety and Las Vegas Magazine. Heartland is a good bet to open to rave local reviews. They already have friends at the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

    Heartland is also getting into the movie side of show business. Its main co-sponsor in Vegas this week is the concurrent libertarian event, FreedomFest, held at Planet Hollywood. On Wednesday night, Heartland ticket-holders are invited to attend the debut the film, Atlas Shrugged 3: Where is John Galt? Fox Business host and popular climate comedian John Stossel will introduce the screening and broadcast his show from the FreedomFest floor.

    Media Matters has produced brief playbill bios of Heartland's Vegas cast

    Habibullo Abdussamatov
    Bob Armstrong
    Ron Arnold
    Tim Ball
    Joe Bastardi
    E. Calvin Beisner
    Larry Bell
    Sonja Boehmer-Christiansen    
    Barry Brill
    Robert M. Carter
    George Christensen
    John Coleman
    Russell Cook
    Walter Cunningham
    Joe D'Aleo
    Harold Doiron
    John Dale Dunn
    Don Easterbrook
    Myron Ebell
    Willis Eschenbach
    Peter Ferrara

    Terrence Flower
    Patrick Garofalo
    Fred Goldberg
    Stanley Goldenberg            
    Steve Goreham
    Laurence Gould
    William Gray
    Kenneth Haapala
    Tom Harris
    Howard Hayden
    Tony Heller
    Craig Idso
    Jim Johnston
    Olavi Karner
    Richard Keen
    Madhav Khandekar
    David Kreutzer
    William Kininmonth
    Jay Lehr
    Marlo Lewis
    Craig Loehle

    Sebastian L. Lüning
    Anthony Lupo
    Jennifer Marohasy
    Patrick Michaels
    Christopher Monckton
    Patrick Moore
    Marc Morano
    Nils-Axel Mörner
    Marita Noon
    Tiffany Roberts
    Norm Rogers
    Hon. Dana Rohrabacher         
    Craig Rucker
    S. Fred Singer
    Willie Soon
    Roy Spencer
    H. Leighton Steward
    Anthony Watts
    Thomas Wysmuller

  • Daily Caller Refutes Daily Caller, Declaring Manmade Global Warming "Uncontroversial"

    Blog ››› ››› SHAUNA THEEL

    Survey Found 97 Percent Of Climate Papers Agree Manmade Global Warming Is Occurring

    The Daily Caller wrote that a recent survey of scientific literature only confirmed the "uncontroversial points" that warming has occurred and that it is in part manmade, but the Daily Caller itself has cast doubt on these facts.

    The peer-reviewed survey found that 97 percent of scientific abstracts that stated a position on global warming endorsed the consensus position that humans are causing global warming. While these points are uncontroversial in the scientific world, they are controversial among many in Congress and the public -- due in part to the misinformation pushed by conservative media outlets such as the Daily Caller.

    A Daily Caller columnist, for example, granted Senator James Inhofe (R-OK), who has called global warming a "hoax," an "[a]ward" for "debunking" the "global warming myth."

    The Daily Caller also regularly publishes articles that cast doubt on global warming -- including near-transcriptions of Sen. Inhofe's latest attacks on climate science -- yet conveniently leave out the "uncontroversial" fact that the majority of scientists agree that manmade, or anthropogenic, climate change is occurring. For instance, the online publication promoted "Lord" Christopher  Monckton, who likes to compare climate activists to Nazis, challenging "Al baby" (Al Gore) to debate him on climate change without stating that the majority of scientists accept that climate change is real and manmade.

    The Daily Caller article, headlined "Report: There is no 97 percent global warming consensus," quoted the Global Warming Policy Foundation's Andrew Montford (who is not a scientist) quibbling with the survey by claiming it didn't examine whether the papers endorsed the view that "human activity is the main driver behind global warming" (emphasis added). However, the authors of the report have already addressed this criticism, a fact the Daily Caller left out, explaining that the scientific abstracts they examined didn't go into this detail, but they contacted the authors and 96 percent of them agreed that humans have caused more than half of recent warming (emphasis removed):

  • Fox Paints Birther's Climate Change Antics As Serious "Dissent"

    Blog ››› ››› MAX GREENBERG

    Monckton dressed up for the conference in Qatar, via CFACTFox News portrayed the dismissal of British politician Christopher Monckton from the UN climate conference in Qatar as evidence that there was legitimate "dissent" against climate change being quashed. In fact, Monckton, who is known for incendiary antics and remarks, was expelled for violating the conference's code of conduct, and protesters on the other side of the issue were also expelled for similar violations.

    Monckton was removed from the 2012 UN climate talks in Doha, Qatar, after impersonating a delegate from Myanmar in order to misleadingly claim that there has been "no global warming at all" for 16 years, obscuring the clear warming trend. He was subsequently barred from all future UN climate conferences.

    The following morning, Fox & Friends seized on the episode to paint "Lord Monckton" as a martyr of climate "dissent" and bemoan a lack of "debate" on the issue. Co-host Brian Kilmeade claimed somewhat dubiously that "Everyone took notes and they learned from that, and global warming is indeed now wrong." Gretchen Carlson declared that the conference "was supposed to be a debate apparently at this convention, but a debate usually involves two different points of view. I guess this time they're just going to have one point of view." Steve Doocy conceded that Monckton had spoken out of turn in Doha, but concluded of his dismissal, "There goes for dissent."

    But Monckton wasn't being singled out. A group of activists was also expelled from Doha for "unfurling an unauthorized banner calling for the Qatari hosts to lead the negotiations to a strong conclusion," according to Greenwire (subscription required). And contrary to Carlson's suggestion, the purpose of the Doha conference is not to "debate" the widely-accepted and extensively documented science behind manmade climate change. Rather, it is to "speed up global action towards a low-emission future where everyone has the chance of a sustainable life."

    More significantly, Monckton, who has no formal scientific training, is a notorious and prolific peddler of climate myths, and he wasn't being punished for "dissent" -- he was expelled for "impersonating a Party" and violating the conference's code of conduct.

  • Callous Climate: Conservative Media Deride Adaptation Aid For World's Poor

    ››› ››› SHAUNA THEEL

    As many faith leaders have recognized, climate change presents a massive ethical challenge since those least responsible for global warming are among the most vulnerable to its consequences, including water scarcity, climate-sensitive diseases, and sea level rise. Yet in response to the recent international climate talks, conservative media outlets are mocking developing countries for seeking adaptation assistance, saying they just want to "cash in" on "climate gold."

  • False framing: Why is the NY Times spreading "half-truths" about global warming?

    Blog ››› ››› JEREMY SCHULMAN

    The New York Times' Elisabeth Rosenthal framed a front-page article around a series of attacks on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and its chairman, Rajendra K. Pachauri. But after suggesting in its original headline that these attacks somehow undercut the IPCC's "credibility," the Times waited until much later in the article to acknowledge that they are actually based on a series of "half-truths" and that "mainstream scientists" agree that they don't undermine the IPCC's conclusions that humans are warming the planet.

    The Times has since replaced the article's original inflammatory headline -- "U.N. Climate Panel and Its Chief Face a Siege on Their Credibility" -- with a new headline that reads: "Skeptics Find Fault With U.N. Climate Panel."

    But the article's false framing hasn't changed -- the Times treats the attacks on Pachauri and the IPCC as front-page news and relegates the evidence that the attacks are unfounded to page A9.

    Here is the portion of Rosenthal's article that the Times chose to put on the front page of its February 9 print edition:

    Just over two years ago, Rajendra K. Pachauri seemed destined for a scientist's version of sainthood: A vegetarian economist-engineer who leads the United Nations' climate change panel, he accepted the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize on behalf of the panel, sharing the honor with former Vice President Al Gore.

    But Dr. Pachauri and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change are now under intense scrutiny, facing accusations of scientific sloppiness and potential financial conflicts of interest from climate skeptics, right-leaning politicians and even some mainstream scientists. Senator John Barrasso, a Wyoming Republican, called for Dr. Pachauri's resignation last week.

    Critics, writing in Britain's Sunday Telegraph and elsewhere, have accused Dr. Pachauri of profiting from his work as an adviser to businesses, including Deutsche Bank and Pegasus Capital Advisors, a New York investment firm - a claim he denies.

    They have also unearthed and publicized problems with the intergovernmental panel's landmark 2007 report on climate change, which concluded that the planet was warming and that humans were likely to blame.

    The report, they contend, misrepresents the state of scientific knowledge about diverse topics - including the rate of melting of Himalayan glaciers and the rise in severe storms - in a way that exaggerates the evidence for climate change.

    With a global climate treaty under negotiation and legislation

    In other words, the original headline, the new headline, and nearly everything the Times printed on the front page consist of simply repeating critics' attacks on the IPCC and Pachauri.

    But are these attacks even true? One would have to read past the jump to find out. Here's a run-down of the article's problems.

    NY Times Framing: Pachauri accused of "profiting" from outside consulting contracts. The Times reports in the second paragraph that "critics ... have accused Dr. Pachauri of profiting from his work as an adviser to businesses." The Times simply notes in that paragraph that Pachauri "denies" this claim.

    REALITY: Pachauri says payments actually go to "prestigious nonprofit research center." Not until the seventh paragraph (after the jump) does the Times get around to debunking the profiteering allegation:

    Several of the recent accusations have proved to be half-truths: While Dr. Pachauri does act as a paid consultant and adviser to many companies, he makes no money from these activities, he said. The payments go to the Energy and Resources Institute, the prestigious nonprofit research center based in Delhi that he founded in 1982 and still leads, where the money finances charitable projects like Lighting a Billion Lives, which provides solar lanterns in rural India.

    "My conscience is clear," Dr. Pachauri said in a lengthy telephone interview.

    [...]

    Dr. Pachauri, 69, said the only work income he received was a salary from the Energy and Resources Institute: about $49,000, according to his 2009 Indian tax return, which he provided to The New York Times. The return also lists $16,000 in other income, most of it interest on accounts in Indian banks.

    Dr. Pachauri acknowledged his role as an adviser and consultant to businesses, but he said that it was his responsibility as the panel's chairman to disseminate its findings to industry.

    NY Times framing: IPCC errors call into question conclusion that humans are warming the planet. In the fourth and fifth paragraphs of the article -- on the front page -- Rosenthal suggests that "problems" with the 2007 IPCC report call into question its conclusion that "the planet was warming and that humans were likely to blame":

    They have also unearthed and publicized problems with the intergovernmental panel's landmark 2007 report on climate change, which concluded that the planet was warming and that humans were likely to blame.

    The report, they contend, misrepresents the state of scientific knowledge about diverse topics - including the rate of melting of Himalayan glaciers and the rise in severe storms - in a way that exaggerates the evidence for climate change.

    REALITY: Scientists agree that the "errors are ... minor and do not undermine the report's conclusions," and IPCC calls one of the error allegations "baseless." Not until the ninth paragraph (again, after the jump), does the Times explain that scientists agree that the minor errors identified by critics do not undermine the overwhelming scientific consensus -- confirmed in the 2007 IPCC report -- that humans are warming the earth. After noting that "[s]everal of the recent accusations have proved to be half-truths," Rosenthal writes:

    The panel, in reviewing complaints about possible errors in its report, has so far found that one was justified and another was "baseless." The general consensus among mainstream scientists is that the errors are in any case minor and do not undermine the report's conclusions.

    Still, the escalating controversy has led even many of them to conclude that the Nobel-winning panel needs improved scientific standards as well as a policy about what kinds of other work its officers may pursue.

    [...]

    In one case, the report included a sentence that said the Himalayan glaciers could disappear by 2035. The sentence was based on a decade-old interview with a glaciologist in a popular magazine; the scientist now says he was misquoted. The panel recently expressed "regret" for the error.

    The panel was also criticized for citing a study about financial losses after extreme weather events that found an increase in such losses of 2 percent a year from 1970 to 2005. That study had not been peer reviewed at the time, although it was later on.

    The panel has called the complaint "baseless," noting that the study was cited appropriately and that other scientific data pointed to a recent rise in severe storms.

    As Media Matters has documented, moreover, regardless of the IPCC's acknowledgement of the Himalayan glacier error, scientific studies do show that glaciers are melting all over the world.

    NY Times portrays Lord Monckton as a credible critic. In the Times article, Rosenthal quotes "leading climate skeptic" Lord Christopher Monckton, apparently as a credible voice in the global warming debate:

    Nonetheless, Christopher Monckton, a leading climate skeptic, called the panel corrupt, adding: "The chair is an Indian railroad engineer with very substantial direct and indirect financial vested interests in the matters covered in the climate panel's report. What on earth is he doing there?"

    A former adviser to Margaret Thatcher who also assailed Dr. Pachauri in a critique in Copenhagen that has since been widely circulated, Lord Monckton is now the chief policy adviser to the Science and Public Policy Institute, a Washington-based research and education institute that states on its Web site: "Proved: There is no climate crisis."

    [...]

    Lord Monckton said the incidents reflected a pattern of willful misrepresentation by scientists with financial and professional interests that render them unsuitable to give neutral advice.

    REALITY: Monckton is a conspiracy theorist who frequently advances climate-related falsehoods. What the Times leaves out is any indication that Monckton is an extremist who traffics in falsehoods and absurd conspiracy theories. In 1987, Monckton wrote an article in which he advocated requiring the entire population to undergo monthly HIV tests and forcibly quarantining "for life" those who test positive.

    Among other climate misinformation, Monckton falsely claimed last year that the earth is in a "cooling" period and announced that carbon dioxide is "harmless." Monckton also claimed that the Copenhagen climate treaty negotiations were an attempt to "impose a communist world government on the world" and that President Obama would likely sign such agreement because he "has very strong sympathies with that point of view." Monckton went on to falsely claim that the treaty would have "precedence over [the United States] Constitution."

    So if the Times story consists largely of reporting on a series of "half-truths" being spread by, among others, a dishonest conspiracy theorist, why doesn't the Times' headline and its first five paragraphs make that clear?