His choice of the Gershwin song It Ain’t Necessarily So was unfortunate, if not a little ironic.

In an opinion article published in The Australian, professional climate change denier Christopher Monckton tried his hardest to convince readers that “thoughtful” politicians were beginning to ask “privately, quietly” if a supposed climate crisis was not “necessarily so”.

They were beginning to ask the “Gershwin question” mused Monckton, referring to the song in the 1935 musical Porgy and Bess — a song delivered, ironically, by the musical’s drug dealing character Sportin’ Life.

An addiction to a drug can be a terrible and debilitating experience and just as it is in the case of The Australian’s apparent addiction to climate denial, it can be degrading, embarrassing and professionally damaging.

Monckton is one of the world’s most charismatic climate deniers, yet he has no qualifications at all in climate science. Among his beliefs are that the UN is attempting to create a world government and young climate campaigners are like the Hitler Youth. Others have also examined Monckton’s creative CV.

This lack of genuine expertise and tendency towards conspiracy theories don’t in themselves deny Monckton the right to an opinion, but the thrust of his views have been roundly rejected by practically every climate scientist currently researching and publishing in peer-reviewed journals.

Over and over, scientists working in the field and opening their own research to the rigours of peer review (which Monckton has never done) have gone to great lengths to debunk Monckton’s “analysis” of climate change (small selection of examples here, many here and here). They have explained his persistent misrepresentations and errors in calculations, but still Monckton repeats them and still — after alarm bells have been ringing for half a decade — The Australian provides him a forum.

It was possibly predictable that Monckton should appear in The Australian in January — it gave him a spin last January too (at the time Monckton was touring Australia and among others, received backing from mining billionaire Gina Rinehart). This time around, Monckton’s polemic comes as NASA confirms that 2010 tied with 2005 as the warmest year since records began.

The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration also found 2010 to be tied with 2005 as the warmest year ever.

The UK’s MetOffice found 2010 was the second hottest year on record, behind 1998.


In all three separate major records of global temperatures (shown in the table on the right with the anomaly being °C above long-term average), the 10 warmest years on record have all occurred since 1998.

Yet writing in The Australian, Monckton ignored this context by misleadingly stating that “satellite datasets show last year was not the warmest on record”.

One major area of concern for climate scientists is sea-ice. Because ice reflects some heat radiation back out into space, when it melts it exposes darker ocean, which then absorbs that radiation, leading to more warming.

Monckton stated that “a largely unreported gain in Antarctic sea ice since 1979 almost matches the widely reported loss of Arctic sea ice”. Does it?

No, it doesn’t.

The US National Snow and Ice Data Centre states there has been a slight gain in Antarctic sea-ice cover of 0.9% since 1979, the equivalent of about 100,000 square kilometres per decade. But the loss of ice in the Arctic over the same period is 500,000 square kilometres per decade.

Dutifully ignored by Monckton was recent research suggesting Greenland’s ice sheet, containing enough ice to raise sea levels by several metres, had its worst year for melting.

Monckton also questioned the need to cut CO2 and claimed “nor is sea-level rising fast”. One of the world’s leading authorities on sea-level rise is Australia’s Dr John Church. I asked Dr Church about Monckton’s claim. He replied:

“Sea level is now rising at more than 10 times the average rate it was during the time our coastal society developed over the last couple of thousand years. There is now over a trillion dollars of infrastructure and over 140 million people living within 1 metre of sea level rise. Unfortunately there is no alternative way to explain ocean warming over the last 50 years.”

Monckton also claimed (I’m sorry if this is now becoming predictable) that 2010 was “the best year” for hurricanes with the lowest tropical cyclone activity for 30 years. This is true — but only if you remove the entire Atlantic ocean region, where NOAA explained that 2010 “tied for third- and second-most storms and hurricanes on record, respectively”.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey