Home > Economics - General > My response to Monckton’s conspiracy theory

My response to Monckton’s conspiracy theory

January 29th, 2010

As we’ve been discussing, my invitation to debate Lord Monckton was withdrawn before I could make a decision on it. But, for those interested, my column in yesterday’s Fin presents my thoughts on Monckton’s key claim: that the scientific literature on climate change is a gigantic fraud, cooked up in the service of a conspiracy to inaugurate a communist world government at Copenhagen.

A tepid conspiracy

Australia is currently enjoying a visit from Lord Christopher Monckton, a former education adviser to Margaret Thatcher, who is here to warn us that the climate change negotiations are a plot to destroy the global economy and impose a communist world government. The plot, according to Monckton is led by President Obama and supported by Kevin Rudd, who are, it seems, communists who ‘piled into the environmental movement after the fall of the Berlin Wall’. 

In an interview with Alex Jones, host of the conspiracy-theoretic radio/TV show Prison Planet, Monckton attributed the plot to a ‘“deliberate desire to control population by killing people in large numbers deliberately if necessary”. His co-speaker, Ian Plimer, assented to similar views on the same program.

It might be thought that such views should be enough to consign Monckton to the lunatic fringe. But his conspiracy theory has received enthusiastic endorsement from large sections of the media including such prominent commentators as Andrew Bolt and Janet Albrechtsen (though Albrechtsen later backed away a little).

And Monckton doesn’t lack political support. Opposition Senate Leader Nick Minchin echoed his views a couple of months ago, saying ‘”For the extreme Left [global warming] provides the opportunity to do what they’ve always wanted to do, to sort of deindustrialise the Western world … you know the collapse of communism was a disaster for the Left, and … they embraced environmentalism as their new religion. ’

The Lavoisier Group, founded by former Labor Finance Minister Peter Walsh asserted that the Kyoto Protocol represented the greatest threat to Australia’s sovereignty since that posed by Japan in 1942. 

It is, then, necessary to make a serious assessment of the claim that Kevin Rudd, Barack Obama and the United Nations are engaged in a communist conspiracy to destroy the global economy and seize world power, as asserted by Monckton, Minchin, Walsh and others.   

One problem with the theory is that the chosen instrument, a carbon tax or emissions trading scheme, seems grossly inadequate to the task of destroying the economy. Even without the massive exemptions loaded in to the Rudd government’s CPRS, an emissions trading scheme with full auctioning might be expected to raise about $10 billion a year, or 1 per cent of GDP over the next decade. By comparison, the GST raises over $40 billion. No credible economist suggest that the economic impact will be more than marginal.

Even if the world can manage a comprehensive agreement to reduce carbon emissions to near-zero levels by 2050, the best estimates suggest that the economic effect will be to reduce the level of GDP by a few per cent. 

An even more puzzling aspect of conspiracy-theoretic claims is that part-time nature of the conspiracy. Most of the time conservatives like Bolt and Minchin treat Rudd as an ordinary political opponents, attacking him for being indecisive and more concerned with spin than substance. 

But if Rudd is engaged in a conspiracy to destroy the global economy and institute a communist world government, surely this fact should drive any analysis of his economic policy, health care and so on. Full-time conspiracy theorists like Alex Jones are at least consistent. In the same program as his interview with Plimer, Jones explained how the Obama Administration’s apparently modest health care reforms are actually a genocidal plot.

It is tempting to dismiss all this as overblown hyperbole. But the continuous attacks on the United Nations and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change only make sense if the whole scientific consensus on climate change is the product of a fraudulent conspiracy. This claim has been made repeatedly, most notably with the recent discovery of a couple of erroneous or poorly-source claims in the 1600 page IPCC report released in 2007.

Finally, there is a particular problem for Lord Monckton, given his past career. According to the film The Great Global Warming Swindle, the climate change conspiracy began with a British politician who said, as early as 1990, 

I want to pay tribute to the important work which the United Nations has done to advance our understanding of climate change, and in particular the risks of global warming .. The (first) IPCC report is a remarkable achievement … the need for more research should not be an excuse for delaying much needed action now. There is already a clear case for precautionary action at an international level.

The name of this climate arch-conspirator? Margaret Thatcher.

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  1. Flower
    February 10th, 2010 at 00:17 | #1

    And even animals throw a light on criminals. Just ask Toad of Toad Hall!

  2. AliW
    February 10th, 2010 at 21:36 | #2

    For those of you that want to follow this debate further Tim Lambert will be debating Monckton on Friday in Sydney. This is an additional date and yo need to preregister. For more information see http://joannenova.com.au/2010/02/monckton-tour-sellout-with-extra-dates-in-perth-sydney/

  3. Peter
    February 11th, 2010 at 11:52 | #3

    @jquiggin
    Too many errors to count? You don’t list ANY of them, instead avoiding the issues I raised by going on about our GDP which, by the way, is not evenly distributed across all socio-economic groups as you seem to imply in your response. We are not all equally wealthy, which is the point that I was trying to get through to you, but you ignored that point entirely.
    ‘we are in capuccino and cake territory here. Before you make a fool of yourself any further, learn some basic arithmetic.’
    Absolutely unbelievable. The sheer arrogance of the extreme global-warming alarmist never ceases to amaze me. Insults will not cover some of the blunders that you make in your article, and it is axiomatic that when a person resorts to ad hominem attacks they are out of ideas, cannot respond to a point-of-view that has been put forth, and are intellectually bankrupt (just like our nation is at the moment).
    Even if (and that is one hell of an ‘if’) Rudd’s scheme adequately compensates low-income earners, it will do so for only a limited time due to inflation, the rising cost of living et cetera, whereas his carbon reduction gimmick will become a permanent feature of all our lives (like the G.S.T.). There are also the inconvenient truths that:
    1) the Chinese, Indians and Americans (the world’s biggest polluters) will not even consider making sacrifices to reduce the amount of CO2 they belch out if it in any way harms their economic performance, so why, being such a relatively small polluter, should Australia make such unneccesary sacrifices? To prove to the world how virtuous we are, as Kevin and Wong wanted to in Copenhagen? How totally insane and idiotic.
    2) the poorest (and I am NOT talking about GST here) countries on Earth (ex. nations of sub-Saharan Africa) will be the ones that will have to make the largest proportional sacrifices to their (already low) standard of living, by, for example, renouncing cheap and reliable sources of electrical energy (ex. coal-fired plants). How can anyone with a clear conscience justify such enforced poverty in the cause of an ideology?
    3) the science surrounding this entire issue (man-made global warming) is as far from being ‘settled’ as it could possibly be, but, of course, you probably just think of me as being a ‘denier’, that offensive term that equates scepticism about global warming to denial of the Holocaust. This being the case, we should not base long-term policy on a seriously flawed theory that has more to do with feel-good Hollywood celebrity hypocrisy (think of Alphonse Gore) than real science.
    Now, finally, tell me how any of the points I raised are in any sense of the word wrong. I want facts, figures and their sources. No insults (by the way, my arithmetic is quite good), no evasion of the issues, no bias, no ideological point-scoring or pontificating (ex. ‘let them sacrifice cake – and capuccinos!’ Is this your impersonation of Marie Antoinette?).

  4. jquiggin
    February 11th, 2010 at 21:51 | #4

    @Peter
    You obviously haven’t read my reply or my previous discussion, so I’ll just add one more point to set you straight. Anticipating tender sensibilities such as your own, I prefer the term “delusionist” to describe the anti-science group. From your posts I infer that you are a consumer rather than a manufacturer of delusions. But someone who thinks its clever to call Gore “Alphonse” is beyond my help either way.

  5. Fran Barlow
    February 11th, 2010 at 23:00 | #5

    @Peter

    Poor Peter … he postures as insightful and backs this with … the dodgy Marie-Antoinette reference right wingers love to repeat but don’t know makes them appear to be ignorant repeaters of an old canard.

  6. Freelander
    February 12th, 2010 at 00:14 | #6

    @Fran Barlow

    Agreed. I am amused that these fellows think they can provide lessons on argumentation.

    This is especially amusing: “it is axiomatic that when a person resorts to ad hominem attacks they are out of ideas, cannot respond to a point-of-view that has been put forth, and are intellectually bankrupt”. So, having prior to this railed about JQ’s arrogance, he then proceeds to lecture about ad hominem attacks, and the short lecture is an ad hominem argument suggesting that any arguments of a person who might have engaged in an ad hominem attack do not require further evaluation! As far as I am concerned JQ didn’t engage in an ad hominem argument or certainly not an unsound or invalid one. These AGW deniers (or delusionists to be kind to them) resort to tactics and behaviour that would tend to dissuade anyone from dignifying them by publicly debating them. JQ certainly didn’t say this is what is wrong with this person therefore any of his arguments about climate change are, as a consequence, wrong.

  7. Fran Barlow
    February 12th, 2010 at 08:40 | #7

    I posted this on Deltoid a moment or two ago in respense to an agnotologist called “marred”. In terms of the cultural component of agnotology, this may well be worth considering:

    Marred reposted the lying talking point …

    IPCC has not been discredited because they dont do direct science and temperatures cannot be manipulated. But the source for their temperatures, CRU, has been shown to have manipulated data over and over again. And even admitted so in their own emails.

    Plainly, the agnotologists think simply repeating claims often enough can suffice to make them so. Perception is reality, in their paradigm.

    Since their paradigm is a plea to be releived of facts about the world that sit uncomfortably with their cultural preferences and the right to turn untutored anecdote and gossip as meaningdul, especially if it comes from someone culturally near to them, the above episteme makes sense. Say it often and say it loud, and it will be so.

    Who’d have thought that these parochial pre-modern rednecks would render such stout support to such a postmodern approach to establishing knowledge? For the agnotologists here, quite clearly, “knowledge” is the preferred narrative and that can only be achieved through cultural struggle

  8. Michael
    February 12th, 2010 at 09:14 | #8

    Fran Barlow :
    Who’d have thought that these parochial pre-modern rednecks would render such stout support to such a postmodern approach to establishing knowledge? For the agnotologists here, quite clearly, “knowledge” is the preferred narrative and that can only be achieved through cultural struggle

    How true. This applies to more than just climate change though. “Facts” and “evidence” are now firmly treated as relative to ones political views.

  9. wilful
    February 12th, 2010 at 11:18 | #9

    Except, of course, CRU has manipulated temperature data time and time again, and has admitted that in public for the entirety of its existence.

    All data has to be manipulated in order to be made useful…

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