There’s a particularly sad brand of lunacy touring Australia at the moment. No, I’m not talking about The Mars Volta; a much less talented and entertaining show is appearing at various venues. I’m referring to a shining star of climate change denialism, Lord Monckton. If you’re not familiar with this fellow, I’ll let you get to know him with a quote:
“Where are they all today, those bed-wetting moaning Minnies of the Apocalyptic Traffic-Light Tendency–those Greens too yellow to admit they’re really Reds?
The main message of this conference to the bed-wetters is this. Stop telling lies. You are fooling fewer and fewer of us. However many lies are uttered, the scientific truth remains unalterable.” – Lord Monckton, keynote address to the Heartland Institute conference
Where to begin? Clearly he’s very capable of deploying an arsenal of rhetorical techniques, from hyperbole to ad hominem. I can brush off most of those statements as silly, but the most telling, to my eye, is the final one. So often, the refrain from climate denialists is that scientific evidence for anthropogenic global warming is revered as “the science” and is not being questioned. Yet, here Monckton asserts that (in his mind) scientific truth is unalterable. By his own words he is damned: scientific evidence cannot change his mind, because he has already decided what he believes to be the truth, and he will not change that position. Lesson #1: a scientist will admit uncertainty. Do not trust those who loudly and proudly proclaim their inability to be swayed by evidence.
If he were a blogger, he’s probably be taking tips from the excellent Chris Clarke.
I will give credit to Monckton for a few things. He’s so sure of himself and his position that he projects an aura of confidence, strong enough to unbalance those sitting on the fence or unsure of the facts. He speaks in sound bytes and praises himself and his followers for their bravery and willingness to stand up in the face of the mighty forces assembled against them. That makes Monckton an effective campaigner, earning him a pretty penny on the lecture circuit (admittedly, he hasn’t cashed in as much as Al Gore, but he also has no useful information or skills to offer his listeners).
What would drive such a man? Does he genuinely believe there’s a global conspiracy of green-tinged communists seeking to drive the world into a false utopia through the introduction of taxes? Is he trying to justify his lifestyle and resist those who might take him to task for it? Is he employing his rhetorical skill to a cause he can use to make a buck? I’d say it’s probably a combination of these things; capitalism is something he clearly holds dear:
“Now the very same soi-disant “Greens” are killing millions by starvation in a dozen of the world’s poorest regions. Their biofuel scam, a nasty by-product of their shoddy, senseless, failed, falsified, fraudulent “global warming” bugaboo, has turned millions of acres of agricultural land from growing food for humans to growing fuel for automobiles. If we let them, they will carelessly kill tens of millions more by pursuing Osamabamarama’s stated ambition of shutting down nine-tenths of the economies of the West and flinging us back to the Stone Age without even the right to light fires in our caves.
The prosperity of the West is not only our sustenance. It is also the very lifeblood of the struggling nations of the Third World. If our economies fail, we are inconvenienced, but they die.” – Lord Monckton, keynote address to the Heartland Institute conference
Aaah, he’s a humanitarian. Clearly, the more he consumes, the better off the world will be. On a planet of unlimited resources, the unceasing consumption of the rich allows crumbs of wealth to tumble down the chain and sustain the less fortunate. If I squint and twist my vision to fit his perspective, I can almost see its internal consistency. Unfortunately, it ignores the failure of such a system to elevate the third world out of poverty to date; it ignores the weight of scientific evidence, both from climate change and a multitude of other disciplines such as ecology, indicating that physical, chemical and biological systems are being altered, mostly adversely, by human activity; most importantly, it makes the Lord a noble champion, with his actions supporting the livelihoods of those struggling below the poverty line. Any worldview which makes personal wealth, spending and consumption a noble trait is a beguiling one, especially for those already living the high life.
If there’s one thing he’s taught me, it’s that I should learn a good rhetorical technique. Clearly, being paid to talk animatedly and with much vitriol is a good retirement fund booster. I should probably also practice an English accent; it adds a learned air.