Do we listen to “Lord Monckton” on climate change because he knows what he’s talking about, or because of his title? And what’s that title about, anyway?
Here’s a little piece of the climate debate that deserves more attention: One of the world’s leading climate change “skeptics” – who by implication contends that almost all the scientists in the world are involved in fraud—enjoys pulling a fast one himself.
The British “Lord” Anthony Monckton likes to use his “rank” to great effect, including aristocratic insignias on his powerpoint presentations—as if we’re better off trusting our betters than our scientists on the future of life.
But as reported by The Guardian, Monckton has been ordered to stop claiming to be a member of the UK’s House of Lords.
Presumably, commoners paid extra attention to Monckton’s controversial pronouncements because of his title. But now, the clerk of the parliaments has written Monckton to warn him off. Published on the House of Lords’ website (wow—even the Lords have gone high-tech), it reads: “You are not and have never been a member of the House of Lords. Your assertion that you are a member, but without the right to sit or vote, is a contradiction in terms.”
The clerk goes on to confirm that Monckton cannot be stopped from calling himself “Lord Monckton” because, having inherited the title from his late father, he is “the Right Honourable Viscount Monckton of Brenchley.” But he may not claim to be a member of parliament.
So, if anyone from Brenchley or anywhere else in this star-struck world wants to genuflect for this fellow, go right ahead. But please note that his use of the title does not somehow give him or his global warming position credibility.
It’s quite a position, to be sure. Recently, as part of a global speaking tour, he told the National Press club in Australia that the government there should halt a plan to cut carbon emissions “because there is no need to take any action about carbon dioxide at all.” Monckton doesn’t dispute some warming, but claims that human activities play almost no role.
This, of course, plays well with those who have a strong disincentive to change their own behavior, including, notably, companies in or dependent on the fossil fuels industry. And, to be sure, Monckton is a confident and lively articulator of a position that can find few star advocates.
A former newspaper editor and Thatcher government leader in privatizing public housing, he’s been a featured speaker at climate conferences around the world, and in debates in distinguished settings like Oxford University. (Here’s a paper he did for the Virginia-based Science & Public Policy Institute—itself an important-sounding but obscure entity that advances climate skepticism and whose funding warrants further inquiry—see this for more on that.) Monckton has appeared at events sponsored by so-called free market institutes aligned with the now-infamous oil and chemical magnates the Koch brothers and their allies.
Monckton, incidentally, is a member of the Knights of Malta, another “highly interesting” outfit obsessed with titles and ranks—that has labored throughout the centuries for conservative establishment interests and notions, including the most reactionary Vatican elements. (We wrote about the Knights recently—see this.)
Now, one would not want to take this matter of personal exaggeration and lord it over Viscount Monckton. But it would make sense to try and do more, concretely, about global warming. Also, to be a little more skeptical—of hot air from non-experts on this complex and urgent (no, way-beyond-urgent) issue.