This DeSmog UK epic history post reveals the identity of the man behind Lord Monckton’s eccentric climate denial.
Lord Monckton hoisted himself into centre stage of the denier circus in November 2006 with a double-page feature in the then respectable Sunday Telegraph, in which he claimed climate science was “a Sci-Fi panic”.
The eccentric Scottish peer would boast: “In the climate change debate, one figure is real. The Sunday Telegraph’s website registered more than 127,000 hits in response to last week’s article revealing that the UN had minimised the sun’s role in changing past and present climate, persisted in proven errors and used unsound data, questionable graphs and meretricious maths to exaggerate future warming.”
The newspaper article represented a remarkable return after illness to the media spotlight for a man apparently addicted to publicity and the adoration of the crowd. As the satirical magazine Private Eye reported at the time, the article was “largely incomprehensible”.
Tim Lambert, of the Deltoid science blog, was even more dismissive. “The main problem with his article is that he doesn’t know what he’s writing about it. He offers up an untidy pile of factoids, some of which are true but out of context, some of which are not at all true, and some of which he seems to have conjured up out of thin air.”
Prior to this news splash, the Viscount had appeared in the press in 2000 as the inventor of the Eternity puzzle and the man who promised £1m to the first person to find its solution. Two Cambridge mathematicians were quick to claim the prize. Monckton at first claimed the payout forced him to sell his 67-room mansion - and then later that he had lied to get more publicity for the puzzle.
Many years earlier, Monckton had worked as a junior advisor in Margaret Thatcher’s highly politicised Number 10 Policy Unit, although he failed to get a mention in her autobiography years later. He claimed to have introduced the first computer to government.
And, he also claimed to have been the first to persuade the PM to take the issue of climate change seriously. It may have been this remarkable and totally unsubstantiated claim that persuaded Patience Wheatcroft, the then editor of the Sunday Telegraph, to take his rambling feature seriously.
As it would happen, Monckton’s sister Rose is married to Lord Lawson’s eldest son Dominic. But both men deny that it was Lawson who had persuaded his in-law to adopt the well-worn and tragic claims that scientists had conspired to construct an international conspiracy in order to support the case for a Communist global government.
So how exactly did it come to be that Lord Monckton should become the spokesperson for the more eclectic climate deniers – flown around the world by ExxonMobil-funded think tanks like the ominous sounding Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT) – to attack scientists?
This is how Monckton himself takes up the story: “Well, I didn’t decide. It was all accidentally; I was rung up by the chief executive of a boutique finance house.”
According to Monckton, the mystery chief executive said: “Look, all our investors want to pile in on this green investment stuff but I want to know: is there a problem with the climate?”
Monckton replied: “Oh yes, I advised Margaret Thatcher on it 25 years ago and it was quite clear then that the scientists were worried and I recommended to find out more.”
CEO: “[We] would like you to find out more.”
Monckton “spent a month on his dime” investigating the science and sent the investor a 40-page report. It concluded that climate change did not represent a serious threat.
The man called a few days later and demanded: “Why should I pay any attention to this?”
Monckton: “Well, you asked me to do this, I gave it my best shot, you’ve got all my evidence there.”
CEO: “I’ve consulted a dozen people, all of them more eminent than you…”
Monckton: “Well, thank you very much.”
CEO: “And they all tell me that this is a real problem, this is the worst problem humanity has ever faced and we have to do everything we can to stop this and you’ve said: ‘no problem at all’.”
Monckton: ‘Well I don’t say there is no problem at all, I say it’s not likely that there is much of a problem and even if it were it would be cheaper to let it happen.”
CEO: “Well, we are going to go with you and not the other 11.”
Monckton: “Why is that?”
CEO: “You’re the only one who provided any evidence, and you’ve provided 40 pages of it. The others all told me that I had to believe: I didn’t get where I am today by believing stuff.”
Monckton has always refused to give up the name of the financier who paid him generously to investigate climate science who and set him on the path of attacking scientists in talks in the United States and Australia ever since.
However, an investigation by DeSmog UK has established that the mystery man is Edgar Miller, a right-wing American who claims to have significant influence in the Conservative Party and who boasts of having made a fortune from early investments in shale gas development.
Miller was born in Bailey County, Texas, but moved to Britain almost 40 years ago. He is a serial investor and entrepreneur, having directed companies with names like Palladian Software Limited, Maxwell Espinosa and UK Israel Business.
The climate denier is a political animal, claiming to have met Margaret Thatcher “on several occasions.” He is also close to Peter Lilley MP and Andrew Tyrie – the unsung hero of Tory climate denial.
“I used to be more connected to the Conservative Party. I used to work up in there with policy but I quickly learnt that it’s a mug’s game because most politicians are not interested in anyone’s help,” he told a female journalist over dinner.
“When you are talking to these people, they are either so ignorant that they didn’t understand what you were saying or they were just so ego driven, or both, that they figured they know all the answers.”
Miller is moderately wealthy, having bought a London townhouse in Notting Hill for £725,000 in 2000. He used to drive an E-Type Jag until he had an accident, apparently attempting to impress a female passenger.
Miller will become significant again in our history of climate denial – supporting Lord Lawson at the Global Warming Policy Foundation and speaking candidly about his falling out with the new Conservative leadership.
Up next in the DeSmog UK epic history series, we detail how a Channel 4 programme on climate change was edited to promote climate denial.
READ THE EXTENDED EXTRACTS FROM MONCKTON’S INTERVIEW
So, both then you wrote an article in 2006 – in November, you say? So, when did you decide to get really involved in the debate?
Well, I didn’t decide. It was all accidentally; I was rung up by the chief executive of a boutique finance house, who said: ‘Look, all our investors want to pile in on this green investment stuff, but I want to know: is there a problem with the climate?’
And I said, ‘Oh yes, I advised Margaret Thatcher on it 25 years ago and it was quite clear then that the scientists were worried, and I recommended to find out more.’ And he said, ‘I would like you to find out more.’
And I spent a month on his dime and had a look, and sent him a 40-page report, and he rang up a few days later and said, ‘Why should I pay any attention to this?’ I said, ‘Well, you asked me to do this: I gave it my best shot; you’ve got all my evidence there.’
And he said, ‘I’ve consulted a dozen people, all of them more eminent than you’ – and I said, ‘Well thank you very much.’ He said, ‘And they all tell me that this is a real problem, this is the worst problem humanity has ever faced and we have to do everything we can to stop this, and you’ve said: “no problem at all”.’
I said, ‘Well, I don’t say there is no problem at all; I say it’s not likely that there is much of a problem and, even if it were, it would be cheaper to let it happen.’ And he said, ‘Well, we are going to go with you and not the other 11.’ I said, ‘Why is that?’ He said, ‘You’re the only one who provided any evidence, and you’ve provided 40 pages of it,’ he said, ‘the others all told me that I had to believe,’ he said, ‘I didn’t get where I am today by believing stuff.’
So, do you remember the name of this guy who contacted you?
Ah, I think I ought not tell you that because it was confidential. Although, he did at the end say, ‘Can I send this paper to the editor of the Sunday Times?’ She then rang up and rather tested it and said, ‘How can I print 40 pages of equations in a paper?’ And I said, ‘I don’t think that was the idea; I think he wanted to suggest to your mind that there might be another side to this story and suggested I might write it for her (sic). I can do plain English as well; I don’t just write in equations.’ ‘Oh!’ she said, ‘Well, could you send me over 1,000 words?’ So, I sent her a 1,000 words sample…