MINNEAPOLIS — A Minnesota professor touched off a bitter trans-Atlantic dispute when he posted an extensive online slideshow rebutting a speech by a British climate change skeptic, a cyber flap that’s resulted in harsh words and threats of legal action.
John Abraham, a professor of thermal sciences at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, said Friday he decided he had a responsibility as a scientist to challenge remarks that Christopher Monckton made during a speech last October at Bethel University in Arden Hills.
“He presented science that was at odds with the understanding of the vast majority of people working in the field,” Abraham said. “The problem with that is that people who listened to his presentation would come away with a misconception about what is known about climate change and what a serious issue this is.”
Lord Monckton, the Third Viscount Monckton of Brenchley, says he was libeled. He fired back with letters to officials at St. Thomas, including its president, the Rev. Dennis Dease, demanding that Abraham be disciplined. He also issued his own rebuttal, which runs 99 pages.
And he gave a scathing interview last month to syndicated radio talk show host Alex Jones in which he called Abraham a “wretched little man,” dismissed St. Thomas as a “half-assed Catholic Bible college” and called Dease “this creep of a president.” He also said he had been in contact with people he said were some of the school’s largest donors.
“Apparently in this Bible college lying is part of what they regard as their Christian mission,” Monckton told Jones. Monckton also complained he had received no response from the archbishop of St. Paul and Minneapolis, John Nienstedt, saying he was “probably so busy sorting out the problems with little boys that he hasn’t got time to deal with this one.”
In an interview Friday from London, Monckton said he’s entitled to be angry. He said Abraham misrepresented the remarks he made at Bethel, then used that to elicit statements critical of Monckton from other scientists.
“It is a systematic, deliberate, serious, malicious libel,” Monckton said. “In Britain, so serious is this libel that it might even be a police matter because in Britain we have a thing called criminal libel.”
In his 99-page response to Abraham, Monckton takes issue with the professor on over 400 often obscure points, ranging from sea levels, sea ice, polar bear populations, carbon dioxide levels, ocean temperatures to solar activity.
Monckton, a former journalist, was a policy advisory to British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in the 80s. He’s currently deputy leader of the anti-European-Union UK Independence Party and chief policy adviser to the Washington-based Science and Public Policy Institute, which disputes the conventional wisdom about climate change.
The viscount said he had sent materials to a Minneapolis law firm and was waiting to hear back on his legal options. He also took another slap at St. Thomas, a Catholic university with over 10,000 students, calling it a “wretched little Bible college.” He said it would be wrong to construe his statements as anti-Catholic, given that he’s Catholic himself.
Abraham said he was gratified by the support he’s received from scientists around the world — and from St. Thomas.
A lawyer for the school, Phyllis Karasov, wrote to Monckton last month saying Abraham “has done nothing improper or illegal” and that he “has not engaged in any academic or professional misconduct.” She wrote that there would be no investigation, retraction or apology.
And she threatened “appropriate legal action” if Monckton continued making “disparaging or defamatory comments” about the university, Dease, Abraham, the archdiocese or anyone else associated with the school.
Abraham said scientists need to convey the message that there’s a strong consensus within the scientific community that climate change is a real problem because much of the public has the mistaken impression that there isn’t.
The professor declined to comment on his views about the viscount, saying he found all the name-calling “completely uninteresting. ...
“But what it says to me is this topic has somehow become way too divisive and far too polarizing,” he added. “And as long it’s polarized in this way we are incapable as a society of coming together and making the tough decisions we’ve got to make.”
Video of Monckton’s speech at Bethel: http://bit.ly/cZVcGt
Abraham’s slideshow rebuttal: http://bit.ly/duRwtp
Monckton’s 99-page response to Abraham http://bit.ly/9uc0T8