Most who flock to hear Monckton are white, elderly and wealthy. They like their life as it is and don’t want inconvenient truths disturbing their repose. Nor will they be around long enough to face up to the consequences. Monckton’s shtick is a grab-bag of half-truths, innuendo and hints of world government his troubled audience lap up. Once you accept climate change as true, you are compelled to act on it. Hence the importance of the soothing balm telling people “don’t worry, it doesn’t exist and there is no reason to change what you are currently doing”.
When Gilbert died in 2006, eldest son Christopher became the 3rd Viscount Monckton of Brenchley. Like his forebears he was educated at Harrow and followed his father to Cambridge. Also like his father Christopher failed in his bid to be elected to the House of Lords and did not pick up a single vote in the 2007 by-election he contested. After he left Cambridge in 1974 with an MA he became a journalist and joined the conservative think tank the Centre for Policy Studies. His paper on the privatisation of council housing attracted the attention of the Thatcher Government and he worked for the Downing St policy unit for four years.
In 1986 he returned to journalism, first at Today then at the Evening Standard. In 1999 Monckton became prominent for his board game called the Eternity Puzzle. 209 irregularly shaped pieces were required to fill the 12-sided puzzle and Monckton offered a prize of £1m to solve it. Monckton said he had to sell his £1.5m Aberdeenshire mansion to the eventual winners, but recouped this amount thanks to his clever marketing of the game.
Since his peerage in 2006, Monckton has been most closely associated global warming conspiracy. He took issue with the Stern Report, the IPCC and the British Labour government all of whom he accused of “creating world government”. He claimed the changes in temperature preceded the changes in CO2 levels and said the UN ignored the medieval warm period. He said the Antarctic has cooled and gained ice-mass in the past 30 years. He said the sun caused what little global warming there was. Although not a single peer-reviewed scientific paper backed any of this up, newspapers like the Daily Telegraph gave Monckton credibility and a wider audience.
Monckton is slowly getting the gravitas he craves despite a head full of crackpot ideas. Among these is that upon reading Rachel Carson’s A Silent Spring Jackie Kennedy forced her husband President John F Kennedy to ban DDT which Monckton said “caused the death of 40 million people”. He also got away with telling many hopelessly underprepared Australian journalists he won a Nobel Peace in 2007, a lie he later laughed off as a joke.
Monckton has turned himself into a walking joke. He revels in the role of poster boy for the far right which cannot accept the truth of global warming because that would mean accepting political opponents were correct. Monckton and his coterie are on a roll. A pessimistic George Monbiot wrote in November: “There is no point in denying it: we’re losing. Climate change denial is spreading like a contagious disease.” But as his Australian trip is proving Monckton’s contagion is limited to fellow-travellers in the media and self-funded retirees. No scientist has emerged to back him up. As even the conservative pro-farmer Fairfax publication The Land has realised, he is only preaching to the converted.