WEBCommentary Contributor

Author: Christopher Monckton of Brenchley
Date:  April 30, 2009

Topic category:  Climate/Climate Change/Weather

New York Times Reluctant to Set Record Straight

Christopher Monckton rejects New York Times contention that Andrew Revkin accurately reflected scientific positions in his article about a recent conference of climate realists. Moncton continues his effort to set the record straight, despite the Times circling its wagons in an effort to protecte Andrew Revkin.

The following letter rejecting the Times' decision to support, Andrew Revkin was sent April 29.

Clark Hoyt, Esq.,
Public Editor and Readers' Representative,
The New York Times.

Dear Mr. Hoyt,

I have now seen Andrew Revkin’s reply (Word document) to my letter of complaint and the supporting email from the deputy environment editor, but, for the following reasons, I am not satisfied with their responses, and should be grateful if, as I had originally requested, you as Public Editor would investigate the four questions I raised in my original letter of complaint. Revkin says that the public statement from the coalition of energy interests and the private advice from the scientists whom it consulted are “in fact directly contradictory”. They are not. The two allegedly-contradictory passages cited by Revkin in the article complained of are –

Public statement by the coalitions made (on Revkin's own admission) in the early 1990s:
"‘The role of greenhouse gases in climate change is not well understood,’ the coalition said in a scientific ‘backgrounder’ provided to lawmakers and journalists through the early 1990s, adding that ‘scientists differ’ on the issue.
Private advice from the coalition’s own scientists, but not until 1995 (after the coalition had made the public statement that Revkin said conflicted with the scientists’ advice):
"The scientific basis for the Greenhouse Effect and the potential for a human impact on climate is based on well-established scientific fact, and should not be denied. While, in theory, human activities have the potential to result in net cooling, a concern about 25 years ago, the current balance between greenhouse gas emissions and the emissions of particulates and particulate-formers is such that essentially all of today's concern is about net warming. However, as will be discussed below, it is still not possible to accurately predict the magnitude (if any), timing or impact of climate change as a result of the increase in greenhouse gas concentrations. Also, because of the complex, possibly chaotic, nature of the climate system, it may never be possible to accurately predict future climate or to estimate the impact of increased greenhouse gas concentrations."
Revkin’s article deliberately omitted the emboldened words in the passage he cited from the scientists’ draft. Had he included those words, it would have been plain to the readers that the scientists supported the coalition’s conclusion that “the role of greenhouse gases in climate change is not well understood”, to the extent of saying that “it is still not possible to accurately predict the magnitude (if any), timing or impact of climate change as a result of the increase in greenhouse gas concentrations. Also, because of the complex, possibly chaotic, nature of the climate system, it may never be possible to accurately predict future climate or to estimate the impact of increased greenhouse gas concentrations.”

Revkin says that the following quotation from the scientists’ advice (though he did not cite it in the article complained of) demonstrates that he was right to say the scientists’ advice contradicted the public statement of the coalition (which he admits was made before the scientists’ advice had been received) –

“Neither solar variability nor anomalies in the temperature record offer a mechanism for off-setting the much larger rise in temperature which might occur if the atmospheric concentration of greenhouse gases were to double or quadruple…”

In the quotation that Revkin did not cite in the article, the coalition’s scientists say that “a much larger rise in temperature might occur” – not that it will occur; and, as the excised portion of the quotation that Revkin did cite in the article makes plain, and as I have tried to explain to Revkin in the past, they are also saying that “it is still not possible to accurately predict” either the magnitude of that rise in temperature or even whether it will occur at all.

There is manifestly no conflict whatsoever between the scientists’ position, as reflected in the full quotation deliberately truncated by Revkin, and the coalition’s prior public statement, cited by Revkin, that “the role of greenhouse gases in climate change is not well understood”. Revkin deliberately omitted the passage in which the scientists plainly state that accurate prediction of future climate or estimation of the impact of increased greenhouse gases may never be possible: and it was only by omitting that passage that he was able to fabricate the story that the coalition had deliberately issued a public statement contradicting its scientists’ own advice (advice which, at the time that it made the public statement he quoted, it had in any event, and by his own admission, not received).

The coalition was of course free to continue issuing subsequent public statements similar to that complained of by Revkin even after it had received its scientists’ advice, because its statements were not in any respect contrary to that advice, which is consistent with a similar statement in the IPCC’s 2001 climate assessment to the effect that the climate is a complex, non-linear, chaotic object whose long-term evolution cannot be predicted “by any method” (see also Lorenz, 1963; Giorgi, 2005; Monckton, 2008; etc.).

Revkin is disingenuous in seeking to justify his mendacious article by saying that the full text of the scientists’ statement had been published online. It is not realistic to expect every reader of the front page of the New York Times to look online to check whether Revkin’s quotations in the published article were as complete and fair as the paper’s ethical guidelines require. The article, standing on its own, must be fair and accurate. It was not. Revkin had a duty to quote the coalition’s scientists fairly and accurately in the article. This he did not do.

Revkin’s answer on the question whether he timed the article to suit Al Gore’s purposes is evasive. He says: “I don’t control the actions of Al Gore (or Mr. Monckton) and so have no way of influencing the way either uses my stories to advance an agenda.” I did not suggest that Revkin “controlled” Al Gore. I did – and do – ask you, as Public Editor, to enquire whether Revkin, in league with Gore and contrary to his duty of independence, had published the article when he had precisely so that Gore could rely upon it in his Congressional testimony.

For the foregoing reasons, I should be grateful if you, as Public Editor, would now investigate the four questions that I had addressed to you in my original letter of complaint. If you are not willing to investigate, I should be grateful if you would make that fact plain, with reasons, whereupon I shall take up the matter at a higher level.

Finally, Revkin says I seem aggrieved that he has not written about recent cooling. No: my letter of complaint pointed out that he has never made clear the significance of the recent cooling, which is that natural climate variability is sufficiently strong to extinguish the very slight anthropogenic influence of CO2 enrichment on temperatures, for the UN’s estimates of climate sensitivity (as satellite measurements of outgoing long-wave radiation have repeatedly demonstrated) are prodigiously exaggerated. The point is directly relevant to my complaint. The coalition’s scientists, in the portion of their document that he quoted but deliberately truncated, make it explicit that quantification of climate sensitivity is not an exact science and there is no certainty about it. Unfortunately, Revkin’s coverage of climate affairs, and that of the New York Times generally, does not seem to me fairly to reflect that considerable uncertainty: and the article complained of deliberately conceals the coalition’s scientists’ expression of that uncertainty – an uncertainly which, in no way in contradiction to the scientists, the coalition had itself expressed in the passage that Revkin had falsely stated was counter to its scientists’ private advice.

As for the note to me from the deputy environment editor, it is mere flannel.

Will you now please investigate personally, qua Public Editor, or let me know why not? Thank you.

Yours truly,

Viscount Monckton of Brenchley

Christopher Monckton of Brenchley

Biography - Christopher Monckton of Brenchley

Christopher, Third Viscount Monckton of Brenchley, was Special Advisor to Margaret Thatcher as UK Prime Minister from 1982 to 1986, and gave policy advice on technical issues such as warship hydrodynamics (his work led to his appointment as the youngest Trustee of the Hales Trophy for the Blue Riband of the Atlantic), psephological modeling (predicting the result of the 1983 General Election to within one seat), embryological research, hydrogeology (leading to the award of major financial assistance to a Commonwealth country for the construction of a very successful hydroelectric scheme), public-service investment analysis (leading to savings of tens of billions of pounds), public welfare modeling (his model of the UK tax and benefit system was, at the time, more detailed than the Treasury's economic model, and led to a major simplification of the housing benefit system), and epidemiological analysis.

On leaving 10 Downing Street, he established a successful specialist consultancy company, giving technical advice to corporations and governments. His two articles in the Sunday Telegraph late in 2006 debunking the climate-change "consensus" received more hits to the newspaper's website than any other in the paper's history: the volume of hits caused the link to crash.

His contribution to the IPCC's Fourth Assessment Report in 2007 - the correction of a table inserted by IPCC bureaucrats that had overstated tenfold the observed contribution of the Greenland and West Antarctic ice sheets to sea-level rise - earned him the status of Nobel Peace Laureate. His Nobel prize pin, made of gold recovered from a physics experiment, was presented to him by the Emeritus Professor of Physics at the University of Rochester, New York, USA.

He has lectured at university physics departments on the quantification of climate sensitivity, on which he is widely recognized as an expert, and his limpid analysis of the climate-feedback factor was published on the famous climate blog of Roger Pielke, Sr.

His lecture to undergraduates at the Cambridge Union Society on climate change has been released by http://scienceandpublicpolicy.org/ (SPPI) as Apocalypse? NO!, a full-length feature movie on high-definition DVD (available from http://www.greatswindle.com). Apocalypse? NO! been described by Professor Larry Gould of the University of Hartford, Connecticut, as the best film ever made on climate change.

Copyright © 2009 by Christopher Monckton of Brenchley
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