Muller's announcement last year that the Earth is indeed warming brought him up to date w/ where the scientific community was in the the 1980s. His announcement this week that the warming can only be explained by human influences, brings him up to date with where the science was in the mid 1990s. At this rate, Muller should be caught up to the current state of climate science within a matter of a few years! – Climate scientist Michael Mann
29 July 2012 (realisticbeinggreen) – The Climate Wars could be entering the ‘end-game’ here if a new strategy deployed by the ‘denier’ lobby is successful. Denier is a term often used here to denote an individual who denies the science behind climate change. That will all change now.
Professor Richard A. Muller, head of the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature (BEST) project and physics professor at the University of Berkeley, has just written an article in the New York Times declaring his “conversion” to what has been mainstream science for a long, long time. Professor Muller has even gone one step further and declared that “Humans are almost entirely the cause” of global warming as opposed to IPCC reports which suggest that human industrial activity may only be one cause, in combination with natural cycles. (Check out the article here.)
Excellent news, no? The war between sceptics and believers is over. All are agreed that climate change is caused by human activity. Natural sciences departments in universities across the world have rejoiced. UNEP offices will witness many a sunrise and dark moon as cleaners put them back in working order. Professor Michael Mann, vilified by the engine of denial and its boot-lickers, magnanimous in victory has congratulated Professor Muller for behaving like a “good scientist”. Blogs of poison can cease. Quite terrible name-calling is needed no more. Finding the solutions for a bright new world with a planetary temperature of no more than a two extra degrees can begin.
Sadly not. What we are witnessing instead is a very clever shift in denier strategy. That game is up. No longer could they deny the science brought together by the IPCC and nor could they come up with a better theory as to why the planet was warming. They could not even keep on pretending that the planet was not indeed warming. They have, however, shifted the goal posts. Rather than deny that the basic science is accurate, they will now deny that climate change poses any threat to human well-being. This is nothing new but merely a shift in emphasis. Professor Muller’s article is the perfect Trojan Horse and could be the final tactic that makes sure this war is really over.
Muller’s article is uncontroversial except for the part where he predicts warming to increase to a level above IPCC predictions. That was worrying, but not as worrying as the paragraph where he essentially states that the threat of climate change is overblown, unsubstantiated or just plain false. He then goes on to list several examples to support his point. I’ll deal with those, courtesy of Skeptical Science, at the bottom of this page. For now though let’s focus on the New York Times article.
It’s written in a very clever way to achieve what the main objective of the denier lobby has always been – to delay meaningful action on climate change for as long as possible. Muller points out that the BEST methodology is indeed the best; better than the IPCC’s. He argues that his data is superior and therefore gives better results. It is important to link this to what I’ve written above. By framing the article in this way Muller seeks to position himself as the true scientist, the one with integrity who didn’t go leaping to conclusions just like those inferior scientists from the IPCC did. Now that Professor Muller and his team have truly, scientifically established that humans are warming the planet, he can now go on to find out what the negative effects from this warming will be. Do not trust what the IPCC has to say, for their methodology is weak and inferior. Wait for us to provide the real answers. It’s the waiting, as the sea ice caps melt and the deserts expand, that Muller wants. It’s the waiting which is what the oil industry needs, more and more time to extract that oil before those bothersome scientists obstruct their work. […]
What Muller is probably wrong about in the article
Skeptical Science provides the rebuttal.
2) The Himalayan Glaciers will not be gone by 2035, but most are retreating. An excellent deployment of the cherry picking tactic.
3) Hurricanes. Even if they are decreasing in frequency in the US, it is certainly not possible to claim with much certainty that they are decreasing globally.
4) The warming in the US is offset by cooling elsewhere in the world. It seems contradictory to ‘discover’ that global temperatures are increasing but then somehow imply that the warming witnessed in the US cannot be attributed to global climate change? Perhaps the BEST results are only for the US?
This week’s false claims by Richard Muller, collected by Michael Mann:
CLAIM #1: "Al Gore’s movie, An Inconvenient Truth … essentially 90% of what he presented was exaggerated or distorted or just false."
THE REALITY: Actually, climate scientists who have watched the movie have determined that Gore by and large got the science right. See e.g. this article at RealClimate.
CLAIM #2: "Global warming, so far, has not been very much. In the last 50 years it’s been two-thirds of a degree Celsius, while one degree Fahrenheit, and that hasn’t been much."
THE REALITY: It’s more like 1C (1.5F), and that's more than 25% of the difference in global temperature between an Ice Age and today. Moreover, it’s just the tip of the iceberg. If we continue with business as usual w.r.t. fossil fuel burning, we will likely see anywhere between 3-5C (5-9F) additional warming of the globe, more than that for continents like the U.S., and nearly twice that for the Arctic.
CLAIM #3: "We need to act in a way that recognizes the problem isn’t with us."
THE REALITY: The problem is burning of carbon and increases in the concentrations of greenhouse gases due to that. The U.S., and all industrial and developing countries contribute to this through our historical and/or continuing or emerging reliance on fossil fuels for energy. To deny any responsibility at all on the part of any major country that relies on fossil fuels (including the U.S.) seems disingenuous at best.
CLAIM #4: "The Koch Foundation … made it clear to us that the reason they funded us was that we did recognize that these issues [science that has been accepted for two decades or more] were real"
THE REALITY: The Koch brothers are the single largest funder in the world now of climate change denial and disinformation (see the discussion on the Koch Industries SourceWatch page as well the extensive documentation in my book The Hockey Stick & the Climate Wars). It would seem that Richard Muller has served as a useful foil for the Koch Brothers, allowing them to claim they have funded a real scientist looking into the basic science, while that scientist – Muller – props himself up by using the "Berkeley" imprimatur (UC Berkeley has not in any way sanctioned this effort), appearing to accept the basic science, and goes out on the talk circuit, writing op-eds, etc. systematically downplaying the actual state of the science, dismissing key climate change impacts and denying the degree of risk that climate change actually represents. I would suspect that the Koch Brothers are quite happy with Muller right now, and I would have been very surprised had he stepped even lightly on their toes during his various interviews, which he of course has not. He has instead heaped great praise on them, as in this latest interview.
CLAIM #5: Michael Mann did not accept [dispute over whether earth is warming and/or is at least in part human-caused] as real.
THE REALITY: As I stated in my post the other day: "Muller's announcement last year that the Earth is indeed warming brought him up to date w/ where the scientific community was in the the 1980s. His announcement this week that the warming can only be explained by human influences, brings him up to date with where the science was in the mid 1990s. At this rate, Muller should be caught up to the current state of climate science within a matter of a few years!"
CLAIM #6 "[Michael Mann] has claimed that there was no Medieval warm period"
THE REALITY: Ummm, I've written dozens of papers about the "Medieval Warm Period" (or what scientists in my field generally now refer to as the "Medieval Climate Anomaly", because of the considerable regional complexity of the climate anomaly during that time period). Indeed, I devote a fair amount of space to in my book The Hockey Stick & the Climate Wars discussing some of the enigmatic features of this period and the work that I and other climate scientists have been focused on, for example investigations of why the tropical Pacific seems to have been in a "La Niña"-like state at that time (see e.g. our '09 Science article), with possible implications for understanding climate change impacts on drought (see e.g. our recent PNAS article "1,500 year quantitative reconstruction of winter precipitation in the Pacific Northwest") what the Northern Hemisphere jet stream was doing at the time, and possible impacts on the behavior of tropical storms and hurricanes (see our '09 Nature article) and the variation in global sea level (see e.g. our 2011 PNAS article) over the last millennium and beyond.
CLAIM #7 [Michael Mann has claimed] that it’s been the warmest now that it has been 1000 years.
THE REALITY: At best, a straw man as it drops the important qualifiers we have always used in describing our findings, and ignores the dozens of other confirmatory studies, including the IPCC (more on that below) and National Academy of Science (more on that later). My co-authors and I have in fact claimed, based on our work (and now the work of many others) that it is likely that the warmth of the most recent decades exceeds that of at least the past 1000 years at the hemispheric scale (note that we defined "likely" as a proposition for which there is roughly a 67% chance of being true).
Where this is a straw man is that this is hardly based on the work of my co-authors and me, but rather, dozens of different teams that have independently come to this conclusion over the past decade+ since our original '98/'99 "Hockey Stick" work. Indeed, the IPCC in their 2007 (Fourth Assessment Report or 'AR4') came to even stronger conclusions, raising the confidence to "very likely" (90% confidence) for the past 400 years, and extending the "likely" conclusion back 1300 years (i.e., further back than the original 1000 year timeframe of our '98/'99 work). See the AR4 Summary for Policy Makers on this point: "Average Northern Hemisphere temperatures during the second half of the 20th century were very likely higher than during any other 50-year period in the last 500 years and likely the highest in at least the past 1,300 years". See also the discussion in The Hockey Stick & the Climate Wars about all of these issues.
CLAIM #8: "[Richard Muller] was part of that National Academy study that basically demonstrated that [Mann's] conclusions were wrong."
THE REALITY: A double-fibber whopper! First of all, Muller was no more "a part of that" study than I was. Despite what a reasonable listener would likely deduce from what he claimed, Muller was not an author of the report. There were dozens of researchers whose input was solicited for the report, which includes Muller, and which includes me.
More importantly however, the NAS actually came to the opposite of what Muller states. They reaffirmed our key findings [see e.g. Nature's summary of the report, "Academy affirms hockey-stick graph"; the New York Times “Science Panel Backs Study on Warming Climate”; the Washington Post “Study Confirms Past Few Decades Warmest on Record"; the BBC “Backing for ‘Hockey Stick’ Graph"].
The NAS report stated that our original conclusions were broadly supported by the evidence: “The basic conclusion of Mann et al. (1998, 1999) … that the late 20th century warmth in the Northern Hemisphere was unprecedented during at least the last 1,000 years … has subsequently been supported by an array of evidence that includes the additional large-scale surface temperature reconstructions and documentation of the spatial coherence of recent warming … and also the pronounced changes in a variety of local proxy indicators.” The report concluded that “based on the analyses presented in the original papers by Mann et al. and this newer supporting evidence, the committee finds it plausible that the Northern Hemisphere was warmer during the last few decades of the 20th century than during any comparable period over the preceding millennium.”
In a press release, the NAS committee asserted that there was “high confidence that [the] planet is warmest in 400 years,” “less confidence in temperature reconstructions prior to 1600,” and “little confidence” prior to A.D. 900. The panel made it clear that their conclusions were consistent with those of MBH99. They noted that our work was “the first to include explicit statistical error bars” and reminded readers of the original MBH99 findings that “the error bars were relatively small back to about A.D. 1600, but much larger for A.D. 1000–1600,” explaining that “the lower precision during earlier times is caused primarily by the limited availability of annually resolved paleoclimate data.”
The report authors made clear in their press conference that they backed the key conclusions of our original work. Chair Gerald North stated that “We roughly agree with the substance of their findings.” Andrew Revkin of the New York Times, noting that we had indeed emphasized the importance of uncertainties and caveats in our original millennial hockey stick analysis (MBH99), asked the panel at the press conference who, if anyone, may have been responsible for any overstating of our conclusions. North stated that “the community probably took the results to be more definitive than Mann and colleagues intended.”
You can find extensive discussion of the Academy report and the discredited, dueling "Wegman Report" solicited by fossil fuel lap dog Joe Barton (R-TX) in my chapter "A Tale of Two Reports" and all the surrounding political theater, in The Hockey Stick & the Climate Wars.
On Wednesday, Progressive Radio Network host/veteran green journalist Betsy Rosenberg and I were honored to interview, the one-time climate change skeptic Dr. Richard Muller, whose Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature (BEST) project – which was funded in part, ironically enough, by the notorious climate change deniers at the Charles G. Koch Foundation – recently came to the same conclusion that virtually all climate scientists not affiliated with libertarian think tanks have long since recognized: climate change is "real" and "humans are almost entirely the cause," thanks to the the anthropogenic release of greenhouse gases. [Our audio interview is posted in full below.]
As a Republican who had a similar climate awakening nearly two years ago myself, I looked forward to speaking to Dr. Muller; in the moments before the interview, I wondered if we could find some common ground.
Let's just say I was too naïve for my own good…
The interview, before it became rather feisty, began as pleasantly as possible, with Rosenberg asking Muller about the study's conclusions. Muller was quite proud of the so-called "BEST" team, boasting of the group's qualifications and objectivity.
I then asked Muller about his contention that Hurricane Katrina had nothing to do with global warming. Considering that Boston Globe reporter-turned-environmental activist Ross Gelbspan noted in 2005 that Katrina's "real name was global warming," I found Muller's claim curious to say the least. Muller suggested that Gelbspan was trafficking in exaggeration, though a plain reading of Gelbspan's piece indicates that Gelbspan only contended that Katrina was a sign of things to come climate-wise. Muller resisted this interpretation, and also firmly rejected Bill McKibben's 2011 contention that Hurricane Irene's "middle name" was global warming.
Rosenberg asked Muller about one of his old assertions: that Al Gore exaggerated the risks of global warming in Davis Guggenheim's 2006 documentary An Inconvenient Truth. Muller doubled down, alleging that Gore played fast and loose with the facts regarding sea level rise – a point debunked by Peter Sinclair in this 2009 ClimateCrocks.com video – and suggesting that climate activists were ill-served by making what he viewed as hyperbolic claims about future peril. He even went so far as to offer a tortured definition of the idea of "skepticism" by equating Gore with climate change skeptics, just "on the other side" of the data spectrum, somehow.
But the interview's friendly climate changed and really began to heat up when I asked Muller if his findings finally put to rest the far Right's claim that the cockamamie (and debunked-many times-over) "Climategate" affair "proved" that climate scientists linked to the pseudo-scandal were fudging their global warming data.
Incredibly, Muller asserted that "Climategate" was not a settled issue, and that the scientists involved were found to have "hidden" data. (He also asserted, without evidence to support it, that the "controversial" e-mails at the center of the pseudo-scandal were intentionally "leaked by a member of the team," rather than hacked. [British police say the opposite. –Des] He claims that "most people" believe that to be the case, though he was unable or unwilling to back up that element of his charge either.) I pointed out that eight different investigations all found that no data manipulation took place; he asserted that temperature data had been "hidden", not manipulated. When I asked if "hiding" data was not a form of manipulation, he gave a muddled non-answer (though he made sure to get in some particularly nasty, and seemingly personal, shots at acclaimed Penn State climate scientist Michael Mann). […]