By Gabriella Levine
On Monday evening, Lord Christopher Monckton came to Union to show the campus community the “other side” of global warming in a speech and discussion event co-hosted by the Union College Republicans and the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT).
Monckton is a British policy adviser, writer, columnist, and business consultant. He served as a political adviser under Margaret Thatcher, and is among the most popular climate change skeptics.
Lord Monckton expressed that “there is no consensus” or certainty on whether or not humans cause or contribute to global warming and climate change. He supported this argument with the claim that scientific research, data and models from organizations such as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) have been inadequate and, in some cases, fabricated.
One of the largest complaints leveled against Monckton was his lack of professional background in the sciences. Monckton himself claims, “The argument that Lord Monckton does not know anything about this because he is not a scientist is the argument of ad hominem.” Monckton instead suggests that his studies in classical architecture at Cambridge have enabled him with “many qualifications to examine these questions” surrounding climate change.
While serving as an adviser under Margaret Thatcher, Monckton noted that he faced an obstacle that he still experiences today as a political adviser in the scientific field: “How does the inexpert adviser advice expertly?”
In his speech, Monckton suggested that simply looking to the data was the solution. “As a layman,” Lord Monckton explained he does not “understand some of the arguments, but [he does] understand straight-lined data.”
It was this data that Monckton discussed as “tampered with,” “dodgy” and “bogus” throughout his talk.
Monckton stressed just how important it is for policy makers to check the scientific facts before making decisions; otherwise, Monckton noted that the “men in white coats” would have the final say, uncontested by the policy makers who understand the political and economic repercussions.
Though Monckton makes it clear that his “opinions on [global climate change] are driven entirely by scientific, economic, and moral considerations,” representatives of these scientific “men in white coats,” including many professors and students, argued otherwise.
Members of the campus’ green initiative, including U-Sustain and the Environmental Club, added to the debate with their own event: “Climate change: An Inconvenient, Scientifically Proven, and Exigent Truth,” to provide a protest before Lord Monckton’s speech, inquiries during the Question and Answer portion of the event and a rebuttal period after the speech.
In particular, Monckton called out and disagreed with President of U-Sustain and former President of Environmental Club Erin Delman ’12 during his speech.
Delman states that both the Environmental Club and U-Sustain, “highly respect the College Republicans for bringing a speaker on this issue because it is clearly an issue that we care a lot about. It really gives much more weight to our movement if the campus is exposed to the other side [of the argument]. That being said, there are people who would have been a much, much, much better choice.”
Delman refutes Monckton’s claims that the evidence that suggests imminent global climate change is fraudulent; instead, Delman suggests that it is Lord Monckton who skews the data. “He takes a short span of time, such as 10 years, and uses the span in that decade to show global trends,” she said, but according to her, “the time span to look at is the last 220,000 years.”
Department Chair and Professor of Geology Donald Rodbell agrees with Delman. Rodbell explains that global climate change is not “a question of belief,” as Monckton suggested. Rodbell insists that Lord Monckton’s skeptic view of the global climate change is not common; in fact, he believes that Monckton is in the “great minority.”
Rodbell was pleased that the speaker brought this opportunity for education. He explained that, “students gravitate toward heated debate,” and that this visit helped contribute to an increase in the discourse surrounding global climate change, regardless of the direction of the debate or its political connections.
President of CFACT Olivia O’Malley ’14 considers the event “a huge success” because of the contribution to debate and the increased awareness surrounding global climate concern. O’Malley asserts that it is “not economically reasonable to combat global warming” and “hope[s] people are questioning their views” after Lord Monckton’s event. Despite this, she maintains that the event was not to promote one-sided ideals. Instead, both O’Malley and President of College Republicans Nick D’Angelo ’14 “wanted to create discussion.”
D’Angelo explains that he “embrace[s] the discussion.” However, he notes that when Lord Monckton specifically pointed out Delman during his speech, he “abandoned his principle of real discussion. That was beyond inappropriate.”
On the other hand, D’Angelo describes that, in speaking out of turn or “giving a lecture” instead of simply posing a question, members of the audience were not actively contributing to an open discussion but instead “hijacking the discussion for political grounds.”
Despite this, D’Angelo maintains that the representation from both sides of the global warming issue “certainly made it a lively event.”