I had to write a report this week and was looking through my calendar from last year. Noticed a curious entry, a talk I missed because I was out with a cold. Who exactly is Christopher Monckton, 3rd Viscount of Brenchley, this denier of Global Warming? The magic of Google and Wikipedia allows us to find out easily. The drawback to such convenience is that such information is often superficial.
My mental image of British aristocracy comes from watching Monty Python and Black Adder. But even those comedic geniuses would have had to work hard to come up with a character as comical as Christopher Monckton, 3rd Viscount of Brenchley. It looks like he used to be a minor journalist at a newspaper that has since gone out of business. Although now he styles himself as the “former scientific adviser to the British Prime Minister” Monckton was merely a PR flack.
No, he is not a member of the House of Lords either. Despite the hereditary title. After the reforms of the Labour Government, even Viscounts have to stand for election (by peers) to get into Parliament. Viscount Monckton got NO votes when he stood for election. That is right. Zero. Zilch. Nada. I would call that a rout. It is an obscure system with several rounds, but V. Monckton of Brenchley got zero votes at every stage.
Why would someone not vote for himself? Or was he up against Baldrick?
The Viscount’s scientific career is as distinguished as his political career. Zero peer reviewed publications. He did publish something (with graphs and charts that would impress the innumerate) in an APS newsletter under the special disclaimer
The following article has not undergone any scientific peer review, since that is not normal procedure for American Physical Society newsletters. The American Physical Society reaffirms the following position on climate change, adopted by its governing body, the APS Council, on November 18, 2007: “Emissions of greenhouse gases from human activities are changing the atmosphere in ways that affect the Earth’s climate.”
V. Monckton of Brenchley thought that was a bit rude of them. Despite the disclaimer, Monckton has convinced his audience of fellow Global Warming deniers that the Rochester Physics Department and the American Physical Society have reviewed and approved his -ahem- unusual ideas.
Lord Monckton has made a career of buffoonery. He argued (then retracted) that people with AIDS should be quarantined. He sued (unsuccessfully) the British Government for paying taxes to the European Union. He marketed a puzzle (successfully).
Apparently, being a Viscount is not the sinecure it used to be. Attracting attention, even if negative, is how you keep the wolf from the door. Penniless potty peers occupy the same narrow market niche as minor celebrities, psychics and the Octomom.
Americans are unduly impressed by titles. Every Arab can pass himself off as a Sheikh, every Indian as a Swami. Eva Gabor’s husband claims to be a Prince of some unspecified European Kingdom. The Disney Channel is cashing in on this trend: apparently every so often some schoolgirl discovers herself to be a Princess. Lord Monckton may be no rocket scientist, but he can see that America is where he can cash in on the title he inherited from his grandfather. He works for some right wing lobbying group in Washington now.
Too bad I missed the show. The comical value alone would have been worth it.