RIP: Sea Level Expert Professor Nils-Axel Mörner, 1938-2020 – Climate Skeptic

By Christopher Monckton of Brenchley

Professor Nils-Axel Mörner, who died on Friday October 16 aged 83 after a short illness, knew more about sea level than did Poseidon himself. He wrote more than 650 papers on the subject in his long and distinguished career. He became even more well-known after his retirement than before it, because he decided to take the risk of publicly opposing the false notion, profitably peddled by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change et hoc genus omne, that global warming would cause many meters of sea-level rise.

Silent upon a peak in Darien

I first came across Niklas Mörner when he and I met at St. Andrews University in Scotland, where we had been invited to debate the climate question with true-believers at the University Union, one of the oldest debating societies in the world.

At the beginning of the evening, the President asked us whether we minded taking part in a debate in which 97% of the students were against our viewpoint. Niklas replied cheerfully that he had faced worse odds than that.

During the debate, Professor Mörner’s speech won us the day. Within seconds, he had the undergraduates eating out of his hand. His manner was calculatedly eccentric, and yet all through his speech one could see how passionate he was about seeking scientific truth objectively by measurement, observation and the application of previous theory to the results so as to confirm and develop or to overthrow that theory. Either way, said Niklas, science advances by little and little towards the truth, and nothing but the truth matters.

The scientific method applied to sea-level change: a slide by Niklas Mörner

The undergraduates were visibly fascinated. After 40 years of lecturing, he knew that keeping them entertained was the best way to hold their attention, and that making visible his personal dedication to the hunt for objective truth in scientific enquiry would lead the students to emulate him. He was rapturously received throughout his speech, and was accorded a thunderous round of applause at the end.

When the vote was taken, the skeptics had won by a margin of 3 votes. It was the first time that any student audience in Britain had voted to oppose the climate-Communist Party line.

Thereafter, Niklas and I kept in regular touch until just a couple of months ago, when he wrote asking me to contribute two papers to a new scientific journal that he was setting up. He wanted one paper on What is science and what is not? and another on our team’s demonstration that concern about global warming sprang from an elementary but significant error of physics.

Mörner’s fork

At the Copenhagen climate conference in 2009, Niklas gave a speech on sea-level rise to a press briefing organized by the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow. The meeting was well attended, and Niklas – who needed a pointer for his slides but could not find one – seized a passing wooden salad fork and used that instead, to the delight of the journalists.

He also established the influential International Committee on Geoethics, with the aim of removing partisan politics and reintroducing open debate on scientific questions at universities. The Committee held its inaugural conference in Prague, where the presentations were given in the Spanish Ballroom of the Hradcany Palace at the invitation of then-President Vaclav Klaus, who also spoke.

Geoethics in style: the Spanish Ballroom at the Hradcany Palace, Prague

Professor Mörner was a hands-on scientist. He did not enjoy squatting in his ivory tower. He liked to travel the world investigating sea level by the novel method of actually going to the coastline and having a look.