Throughout these 99 pages, Monckton ducks, dives and, like Ian Plimer, avoids answering Abraham’s questions by asking questions of his own: Monckton asks almost 500 of them. As far as I can see, he fails to provide a straight or convincing refutation of any of Abraham’s criticisms, and succeeds only in throwing a great deal of dust into the air.
All this is accompanied, like so many of Monckton’s responses, with a demand for money (in this case $110,000 to be paid to a charity of Monckton’s choice), an apology and retraction and an insistence that Abraham’s critique be removed from all public places.
Reading these ravings, I’m struck by two thoughts. The first is how frequently climate change deniers resort to demands for censorship or threats of litigation to try to shut down criticism of their views. Martin Durkin has done it, Richard North has done it, Monckton has done it many times before. They claim to want a debate, but as soon as it turns against them they try to stifle it by intimidating their opponents. To me it suggests that these people can give it out, but they can’t take it.
The second thought is as follows: is this the man who was invited to testify before Congress? Who has become deputy leader of the UK Independence party? Who has been cited all over the internet as having proved that manmade climate change isn’t happening?
One of the characteristics of the foot-soldiers of climate change denial seems to be their startling inability to spot a wrong ‘un. As well as publishing a long series of falsehoods about climate change, Monckton has falsely claimed to be a member of the House of Lords (although you can read his explanation here); falsely claimed to be a Nobel laureate; falsely claimed to have won the Falklands war (by suggesting to Margaret Thatcher that the SAS introduce a mild bacillus into the water supply in Port Stanley); maintained that he has invented a cure for HIV, multiple sclerosis, influenza and other diseases; and grossly exaggerated his role in shaping Margaret Thatcher’s views. Yet none of this seems to have discouraged his disciples one jot.
There’s a pattern here too. Those who insist that sea levels are not actually rising, for example, often cite the work of Nils-Axel Morner, who maintains that his work in the Maldives proves that it’s all a false alarm. Our old friend Christopher Booker claimed that Morner “knows more about sea levels than anyone else in the world”, that he “has been using every known scientific method to study sea levels all over the globe” and that his findings demonstrate that “all this talk about the sea rising is nothing but a colossal scare story.”
Morner’s work in fact consists of indirect measurements in just a few locations, which reveal the sum total of zilch about recent changes in sea level and have not been published in a peer-reviewed journal. But the interesting thing, which connects this to the Monckton issue, is that Morner has also made a series of wild claims about other matters. He maintains that he possesses paranormal abilities to find water and metal using a dowsing rod. He also insists that he has discovered “the Hong Kong of the [ancient] Greeks” in Sweden. Working with a homeopath called Bob Lind, Morner inflicted unauthorised damage on an Iron Age cemetery in order to try to prove his thesis.
Similarly, Peter Taylor’s claims that the planet is in fact cooling down have been given prominence by the Daily Express and other outlets, though they are unfounded in science. His book Chill has been a hit in the denier community. Taylor has also claimed to have uncovered toxic dumping by venturing into the astral realms. He has speculated that a Masonic conspiracy was tuning into his thoughts, and had sent a “kook, a ninja freak, some throwback from past lives” to kill him. He has also maintained that plutonium may “possess healing powers, borne of Plutonic dimension, a preparation for rebirth, an awakener to higher consciousness”.
As these examples suggest, those who lead the movement which claims that manmade climate change isn’t happening often seem to entertain a number of other irrational beliefs.
In May, New Scientist interviewed the social psychologist Seth Kalichman, who has studied HIV denialist groups. He found that the leaders of these groups “display all the features of paranoid personality disorder”.
These features include an intolerance of criticism and an inflated sense of their own importance. They succumb to what psychologists call “suspicious thinking”.
The cognitive style of the denialist represents a warped sense of reality, which is why arguing with them gets you nowhere … All people fit the world into their own sense of reality, but the suspicious person distorts reality with uncommon rigidity.
I’m no psychologist, but the wide range of crazy beliefs the gurus of climate change denial entertain suggests that something of the kind that Kalichman identifies is likely to be at play. The question which bugs me is this: why, when it seems so obvious that men like Monckton, Morner and Taylor have serious issues with reality, are so many people prepared to follow them?