In July, I was a bit player in a media frenzy – and it’s not over yet.

It all started when Professor John Abraham in our School of Engineering posted a rebuttal to the claims of climate change skeptic Viscount Christopher Monckton of Scotland.

Mr. Monckton took umbrage. A professional on the speaker circuit, he accused John of everything from fraud to defamation to incivility. He threatened a libel suit and said that he had engaged a very good firm of Minnesota lawyers, name not disclosed. Well, we have yet to hear from those lawyers, but we certainly heard plenty from email correspondents of the viscount.

John’s rebuttal is still on his web site. It’s very thorough, a model of academic civility and quite convincing.

The viscount called John a parboiled shrimp. If you’ve never seen John, he is, by my standards, tall and not at all red. Mr. Monckton also called the University of St. Thomas a “half-assed Bible college.” I’d say pardon my French, but the way things are going Nicolas Sarkozy might threaten to sue. For the record, our derriere is as big as anyone could wish for.

The university and our attorneys (Moore, Costello and Hart) told the viscount to cease and desist. Then the Guardian, a British newspaper, picked up the story. The Guardian suggested that John’s supporters contact Father Dease or me and gave email addresses to facilitate that correspondence.

You’ll be glad to know that John has myriad supporters – colleagues at St. Thomas, meteorologists in Chicago and scientists from all over the world – Toronto, Australia, New Hampshire, Utah, the United Kingdom, Belgium, Arizona, Italy, New Zealand. . .One New Zealand supporter very efficiently started a petition. Signatories now number 900 and counting. A man identifying himself as atheist nonetheless contributed $20 to the “half-assed Bible college” in gratitude for its “principled and calm, yet firm, response to Lord Monckton of Brenchley.”

In addition to the Guardian, the dispute has been covered in MinnPost.com, the Pioneer Press, the Star Tribune and the Associated Press wire service. I really liked the Strib article best. It gave me the last word. Those of us in media frenzies just love to get the last word.

Well, there have been a lot more words since then. The BBC even flew John to London to interview him for a documentary on climate skeptics – coming soon to a cable channel near you. For now, you can catch the latest Strib story.

3 Responses

  1. John Abraham, St. Thomas

    Dear Mr. Logan,

    Thank you for weighing in on my dispute with Mr. Monckton. While I appreciate your efforts, I strongly disagree with your conclusion.

    Since my May rebuttal, Mr. Monckton has engaged in a series of rebuttals, including an 84-page complaint letter, a letter-writing campaign to have me reprimanded, unflattering comments on radio shows and a 21-part movie series (to which you referr). I have reviewed his rebuttals and it is obvious that they do not present a serious counter to my work. In fact, I have continued to state that my original presentation stands on its own.

    I invite you, and others, to watch his speech at Bethel University and then my online rebuttal. You will find that Mr. Monckton’s understanding of the scientific work that he was reporting was deeply flawed. His many subsequent actions have not altered that appraisal. I am convinced that after watching my work, you will know that my complaints were with his methods, not his person. I am not, as you suggest, interested in “belittling” him.

    I believe that the issue of climate change, and how society should react is complicated and serious. I also believe an honest and civil discussion is needed so that we can move forward, together as a community.

  2. Larry Logan

    Professor Abraham created a good deal of publicity for himself and the school. Regrettably, he got the gist of Monckton wrong.

    Monckton painstakingly and patiently dissects the professor in a subsequent multi-part series beginning here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z00L2uNAFw8

    Monckton may well be a “professional speaker,” but in saying this you are attempting to belittle his stature. He was also the former advisor to Margaret Thatcher, is well known in the financial district of London for his critical studies, and was able to show the IPCC a critical error in its report.

  3. Tom King

    Don’t you just love it when a UFC-type debate comes to the hallowed halls of scientific inquiry?

    I can just imagine the scene with Galileo mano a mano with the Chief Inquisitor.

    The rules of scientific debate have greatly changed since my early days. But, so has everything else in our contentious world.

    Thanks for an interesting read, Susan!