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Jul 29 2012

Another conversion story

Richard Muller used to be a doubter — he didn’t think global warming was a concern, and he didn’t think people were responsible for it. Now he has changed his mind, and he explains why.

Call me a converted skeptic. Three years ago I identified problems in previous climate studies that, in my mind, threw doubt on the very existence of global warming. Last year, following an intensive research effort involving a dozen scientists, I concluded that global warming was real and that the prior estimates of the rate of warming were correct. I’m now going a step further: Humans are almost entirely the cause.

My total turnaround, in such a short time, is the result of careful and objective analysis by the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature project, which I founded with my daughter Elizabeth. Our results show that the average temperature of the earth’s land has risen by two and a half degrees Fahrenheit over the past 250 years, including an increase of one and a half degrees over the most recent 50 years. Moreover, it appears likely that essentially all of this increase results from the human emission of greenhouse gases.

You mean, sometimes evidence works? Wow.

62 comments

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  1. 1
    Zeno

    Have the Koch brothers demanded their money back? They’re accustomed to getting research results on demand, as specified. They must be furious.

  2. 2
    billygutter01

    If only the rest of the climate change denialists were willing to look at the data.

    Good on ya’, Muller!

  3. 3
    Trebuchet

    But..But..But…AL GORE IS FAT!

  4. 4
    David Gerard

    I’ve seen deniers responding by calling him a Skeptic-In-Name-Only, and asserting that this confused rambling indignant rant is evidence that he was never a proper climate change denialist. (I tried reading the rant and can’t find the bit where he was never sceptical of the notion; I’ve asked for clarification, though I don’t expect it.)

  5. 5
    raven

    Arctic sea ice ‘melting at a record rate’
    ww.smh.com.au/…/arctic-sea-ice-melting-at-a-record-rate-2012070…

    2 Jul 2012 – 9:40PM Sunday Jul 29, 2012; 3146 online now; See today’s paper … SEA ice in the Arctic melted at a record pace last month, according to the …

    For those who missed it.

    It’s another in a series of record arctic ice summer melts. The trend has continued through July.

    If it keeps going it will be another historical record or near the record. IIRC, 4 of the 5 record lows were in the last 5 years.

    It should be hard to ignore that but the climate denialists manage it anyway. I’m sure they are working on their excuses when it all melts around 2030.

  6. 6
    mildlymagnificent

    I’m not so thrilled with Muller’s statements. At least his changed view has spiked the guns of some who proudly claimed him as one of their own.

    His previous “skepticism” was of the ‘I’m a smart physicist who spent a few hours looking at my preferred sources and I don’t believe all those people who’ve put in decades of serious scholarship’ variety. More concisely expressed as, just becoz I’m clever and I’m always contrarian – *big smirk*.

    If he eventually gets around to giving proper credit where it was always due I might soften a bit.

  7. 7
    AlanMac

    May be a converted skeptic about AGW, but he is now trumpeting the new party line (and thereby delaying policy changes still); that it is not a danger.

    It’s a scientist’s duty to be properly skeptical. I still find that much, if not most, of what is attributed to climate change is speculative, exaggerated or just plain wrong. I’ve analyzed some of the most alarmist claims, and my skepticism about them hasn’t changed.

    That Koch money must be especially…precious…yesss.

  8. 8
    hyperdeath

    But… But… But… if you take a segment of global temperature data, ranging from the 1998 El Niño peak, up to a few years ago (when this trick stopped working), and then draw a trend line using linear regression, you’ll see that global temperatures have been falling since 1998.

    Get out of that one, science boy.

  9. 9
    mudpuddles

    Three years ago I identified problems in previous climate studies that, in my mind, threw doubt on the very existence of global warming.

    This kind of crap infuriates me. In essence, his skepticism was based on someone else’s criticism of a mathematic model used by Michael Mann’s group. It developed from here, but that was his rationale – bad maths.

    Never mind the ample, widely recorded evidence and reproduced / peer reviewed data and solid statistics in biology, ecology, environmental chemistry, hydrology, oceanography, glaciology… and the records of wildly erratic and increasingly severe meteorological events… not to mention the visual, tangible evidence flagged by millions of people in agriculture, aquaculture, forestry, public health and infrastructure management worlwide…

    Soomeone else’s declaration of bad math didn’t fit his jigsaw, therefore he decided its all false. JEBUS that nonsense is never acceptable from a scientist.

  10. 10
    johnmorgan

    #8 hyperdeath

    “… draw a trend line using linear regression,” is the real problem.

    If only climate scientists would use a non-parametric method for trend lines, like Kendall’s Robust Line Fit, then the denialists wouldn’t have a leg (or a block of sea ice) to stand on.

  11. 11
    Nick Gotts

    johnmorgan@10,

    Total crap. The denialists: (a) already don’t have a leg to stand on and (b) don’t give a shit about the truth or consistency of what they say.

  12. 12
    ibyea

    Richard Muller kind of annoys me, though. His previous criticisms of climate change studies were based on dishonest climate change denial tropes.

  13. 13
    Naked Bunny with a Whip

    AL GORE IS FAT!

    He also flies in jets and owns a big house. Pretty hypocritical of a man who says that we should immediately revert to a nomadic, agrarian lifestyle.

  14. 14
    SallyStrange

    “… draw a trend line using linear regression,” is the real problem.

    Maybe he lives in North Carolina, where any other type of trend analysis is illegal.

  15. 15
    Abdul Alhazred

    And the solution to climate change is what?

    Better the world should burn than be ruled by scum like you.

  16. 16
    raven

    And the solution to climate change is what?

    Becoming an internet troll and saying dumb things. Like you, I guess.

  17. 17
    Abdul Alhazred

    I do not feel like having my life micromanaged by mean spirited bullies like you people.

  18. 18
    chigau (違う)

    Abdul Alhazred
    Who are you talking to?

  19. 19
    slatham

    13 — I’m not a huge fan of any politician, but I strongly doubt that Gore says we should revert to a ‘nomadic, agrarian’ (huh?) lifestyle. That’s just you saying stupid shit, isn’t it?
    15 & 17 — You’re calling people scum and mean spirited bullies. Hmmm, number 13 should come after you for your hypocrisy.

  20. 20
    raven

    Abdul Alhazred

    Who are you talking to?

    He is obviously talking to the voices in his head.

    No one else cares enough to bother.

    And no, I’m not being snarky here.

  21. 21
    feralboy12

    Better the world should burn than be ruled by scum like you.

    I know, right? What a bunch of nihilists we are. </snark

  22. 22
    Naked Bunny with a Whip

    That’s just you saying stupid shit, isn’t it?

    Yep. Unfortunately, Abdul kind of stole my thunder, what with being serious.

  23. 23
    raven

    we should revert to a ‘nomadic, agrarian’ (huh?) lifestyle. That’s just you saying stupid shit, isn’t it?

    This might be sarcasm here.

    Nomadic and agrarain are generally incompatible lifestyles. What are the farmers going to do, herd their wheat crops from place to place?

  24. 24
    Naked Bunny with a Whip

    What are the farmers going to do, herd their wheat crops from place to place?

    I never said I was against genetic engineering!

  25. 25
    raven

    We’ve already had our troll. As the evidence piles up, the climate denialists become more and more deranged. I suppose they will end up like the Flat Earthers or Geocentrists.

    Just for fun, I’ll throw out what we will do.

    Nothing but adapt.

    That is becoming clear enough that even the climate scientists don’t say much different. A lot of them are now keeping their heads down and hoping they don’t fired or worse. One group has received so many death threats that they were moved to a secure and undisclosed location.

    1. The last of many UN IPCC (?) conferences just ended. Their plan is…well described as “inconclusive”.

    2. A few years ago, the US feds said we had only 4 years to come up with a plan because we were running out of time. It hasn’t happened and won’t.

    3. The latest triumph of climate change modification is the development of powerful fracking methods. So we can extract more fossil fuels.

    It’s not obvious that we could have done anything anyway. Our whole world civilization runs on fossil fuels.

    So what would it take to ameliorate climate change. A few million dead people? A few tens of millions dead? No one knows, but my best guess is we would have to see hundreds of millions of people dead from climate change first.

  26. 26
    SallyStrange

    I do not feel like having my life micromanaged by mean spirited bullies like you people.

    How disappointing. I put a lot of work into this week’s itinerary. I even squeezed in a hot rocks massage for you. Sure you won’t reconsider?

  27. 27
    chigau (違う)

    Did the ent porn spread over here already?

  28. 28
    raven

    NOAA 1 minute ago:

    Dangerous Heat Wave Impacting the Plains

    Temperatures continue to climb in much of the Central and Southern Plains. Excessive Heat Warnings and Heat Advisories are in effect across the region, as high temperatures are forecast to be 100 to 110 degree for several more days. Take precautions to remain cool and hydrated.

    Just checked the weather report and this was the lead.

    We all know that no single incident can be blamed on climate change.

    But we are seeing more and more surprises to the high side. You all in the central USA be careful today. And there goes more of our food supply.

    It’s all fun and games and then we lose part of our corn and soybean crops. And half of the world’s exported corn and soybeans come from the USA. We will muddle through but poor people elsewhere are going to suffer.

  29. 29
    PZ Myers

    Yeah, I just tried to mow the lawn, and after 10 minutes, felt all the symptoms of heat stroke coming on — nausea, light-headedness, cotton-mouth — and had to stop.

    Either that, or I’m just old and weak and I’m going to die soon, which is a perfectly plausible alternative hypothesis.

  30. 30
    chigau (違う)

    PZ
    How’s your heart?

  31. 31
    Weedless Monkey

    Yeah, I just tried to mow the lawn, and after 10 minutes, felt all the symptoms of heat stroke coming on — nausea, light-headedness, cotton-mouth — and had to stop.

    Drop the joint! Immediately!

    Lay down and have plenty of liquids.

  32. 32
    Brain Hertz

    My god, what an arrogant wanker he is.

    Last year, following an intensive research effort involving a dozen scientists, I concluded that global warming was real and that the prior estimates of the rate of warming were correct.

    Wow, an intensive research effort involving an entire dozen scientists was what he needed to convince himself that the many thousands of specialists in the field who have devoted their entire careers to figuring it out were, you know, correct. So now the rest of us can carry on, knowing that the great and wise Richard A. Muller (physicist don’t you know) has personally checked their work and approved it.

    And yet I don’t catch a whiff of even the vaguest sliver of humility that might somehow have wormed its way in to his conciousness in this process.

  33. 33
    Naked Bunny with a Whip

    or I’m just old and weak and I’m going to die soon

    Oh, great. Now someone’s gonna post a poll.

  34. 34
    PZ Myers

    I have no heart, only a flaming ball of wrath fueled by contempt.

    What do you think I did? I’m not stupid. Stopped, staggered in, got water, sat down, didn’t move for a while.

  35. 35
    carlie

    Drink fliuds and make sure your electrolytes are balanced, PZ! And pay some punk kid to mow your lawn so you don’t have to.

    I do not feel like having my life micromanaged by mean spirited bullies like you people.

    Yeah! I can dump my mercury waste in the water reservoir if I damn well want, because YOU WILL NOT MICROMANAGE ME, you fuckers!

    What are the farmers going to do, herd their wheat crops from place to place?

    already working on it

  36. 36
    Naked Bunny with a Whip

    I bought a 12-pack of CFLs a couple years back. If only I had known that I was doing exactly what the freedom-hating bullies wanted, I would have gotten 300-watt halogen bulbs instead. For freedom!

    already working on it

    Thank you for linking to that. It’s invigorating to watch science in action.

  37. 37
    Antiochus Epiphanes

    PZ: weird…doing the same thing. I was working with my head in the attic and I thinkI over-cooked it…although in the context of the OP, that is to be expected in TX, but maybe not so much at Santa’s Village MN.

    I still have to wack the weeds.

    *erk*

  38. 38
    Brain Hertz

    What are the farmers going to do, herd their wheat crops from place to place?

    Maybe they could grow triffids?

  39. 39
    jakc

    I’m with the unimpressed on this one. He’s a science professor at a prestigious university and apparently won a McArthur “genius” grant, and yet, couldn’t look at the evidence several years ago and reach the correct conclusion. It’s great that his research project has added to and improved the evidence for anthropogenic global warming, but even in writing this acknowledgement, he manages to understated the evidence. And his final tactic is to blow off the impacts of global warming, without being willing to say that his position is that it doesn’t matter.

  40. 40
    jonjermey

    Muller’s data has now been given a thorough going-over by a team including Anthony Watts — you know, the guy who won Bloggies Best Science Blog two years running, beating out Pharyngula? The result:

    “U.S. Temperature trends show a spurious doubling due to NOAA station siting problems and post measurement adjustments.”

    So let’s get clear on this. Nobody is saying that warming hasn’t taken place; what sceptics are saying is that a) it is considerably less than the ‘official’ spokespeople try and tell us and b) this is because of sloppy science and jumping to conclusions.

    If you have problems with the paper, take it up with Watts; he’s always happy to post constructive criticism.

  41. 41
    dexitroboper

    thorough going-over by a team including Anthony Watts

    Hahaha. Watts is a fraud and a purveyor of frauds.

  42. 42
    Brain Hertz

    “U.S. Temperature trends show a spurious doubling due to NOAA station siting problems and post measurement adjustments.”

    Since station siting was one of the issues originally listed by Muller as one that he thought was a problem, and which he has just stated that he is now satisfied is a non-issue, I guess the question is: why do you think that Muller is wrong and Watts is right?

    Please show your work.

  43. 43
    nobonobo

    When Richard A. Muller first started talking about doing his independent study he made a lot of denialist friends by being accessible to them and by saying that many of their arguments deserved further study. Anthony Watts, Glenn Beck and their followers, among others, were openly ready to follow him to the truth (that they thought he would surely find.) I bought popcorn.

    He was naive to think that the denialists would actually change their minds when his findings turned out to be consistent with the previous studies. They said that they would accept his results but, they wouldn’t. In his OP, it seems he continues to hope to draw some deniers to the truth. They, like creationists, aren’t really all that interested in reality.

    I’m not a scientist. If the study at http://berkeleyearth.org/ has been done poorly, please let me know.

  44. 44
    tim rowledge, Ersatz Haderach

    Sally –

    I even squeezed in a hot rocks massage for you. Sure you won’t reconsider?

    Ain’t nobody massaging my rocks with anything hot, thank you very much.

  45. 45
    David Marjanović

    Allons, enfants de la Courtille,
    le jour de boire est arrivé!!!

    I’ve analyzed some of the most alarmist claims

    Why even bother? The most extreme claim I’ve come across is runaway warming, turning the Earth into Venus. That’s not going to happen.

    “U.S. Temperature trends show a spurious doubling due to NOAA station siting problems and post measurement adjustments.”

    Why would the rest of the world heat up while the US stays cool?

  46. 46
    Brain Hertz

    Why would the rest of the world heat up while the US stays cool?

    If you read through enough of Watts’ “discussion paper” you find out that he isn’t claiming that; he’s actually saying that the temperature trend for the US is right in line with the IPCC’s range for the global temperature trend, rather than 2x that he claims NOAA has suggested (but I don’t see a reference for that in the paper).

    The impression it gives (if you don’t actually look at the numbers) is that temperature trends are half what the “alarmists” says they are. But that’s not his conclusion at all.

  47. 47
    Brain Hertz

    Here’s Watts’ conclusion in brief:

    http://wattsupwiththat.files.wordpress.com/2012/07/watts_et_al_2012-figure20-conus-compliant-nonc-noaa.png

    That is, his “approved” number for US temperature trends (for 1979 – 2008) is +0.155 [deg]C / decade, versus the IPCC AR4 50-year global trend of +0.13 [deg]C / decade, with a range of +0.10 to +0.16.

    So I guess Watts’ conclusion is that the IPCC is right on the money. I wonder how many of his readers will notice?

  48. 48
    barbyau

    I do enjoy the premise of this guy’s views: If I don’t bother to pay any attention to scientific studies, then they can’t possibly be true. But then when I pay attention and see what they are doing, it totally seems true! Amazing, isn’t it? How taking the time to understand something helps you…understand something?

  49. 49
    bad Jim

    Is it worth pointing out that Watts has been funded by the Heartland Institute?

  50. 50
    Charlie Foxtrot

    Yeeaaahh… My inner cynic is expecting this to be some Machiavellian scheme to get some ‘insider cred’, before pulling some “oh noes! wait! I dint carry the two!” revelation to spray more obsfucation around. That’s mostly because it has the stink of Koch and Heartland on it though, not due to any evidence or anything. Maybe its genuine…

    Reading that NYT article again, he’s still busily throwing doubt on other modelling systems, alleging that Katrina has been directly blamed on climate change, raising Polar Bears and Himalayan glaciers and hitting other denier hot-buttons.

    I don’t know how good his science is, but his publicity reeks strangely.

  51. 51
    mildlymagnificent

    his publicity reeks strangely.

    Nuh. It’s a bit of grandstanding to try and ensure that he gets his stuff out there before the cut-off date for the next IPCC report. I presume there’s no problem with it not finalising review and formal publishing by that time. He’s been sneering from the sidelines for a while, but now he wants an invite to the cool kids party.

    Strangely enough, I believe cut-off is some time this week?

  52. 52
    StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return!

    Greenman3610 ‘Climate Denial Crock of the Week’ blogger has a great youtube clip here :

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tciQts-8Cxo&list=PL029130BFDC78FA33&index=15&feature=plpp_video

    on Muller and his Berkely Earth Surface Temperatures study.

    Well worth watching

  53. 53
    StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return!

    I’d also recomend that blog.

    Note especially from that link at the 3 minutes and 45 second mark or so minutes that Anthony Watts publicly declared that he would accpet the results of Muller’s BEST study even if they proved his (HIRGO* denying) premise wrong.

    ——————-

    * Human Induced Rapid Global Overheating.

  54. 54
    leighshryock

    @raven:

    It should be hard to ignore that but the climate denialists manage it anyway. I’m sure they are working on their excuses when it all melts around 2030.

    Well, you see, the way we measure it is really inaccurate. We would have to get people on the ground to find enough ice to make an icecube, then we’ll declare global warming bunk again.

  55. 55
    gingerbaker

    raven:

    “So what would it take to ameliorate climate change. …”

    This is the sort of thing we should be talking about (!), not arguing about facts or fossil fuel industry-framed memes like:

    ~ is the world really warming (it is),

    ~ are humans responsible (we are)

    ~ it won’t be that bad (oh, yes, it will worse than 99% of people think)

    ~ we will adapt (if by adapt you mean half the people dying and the loss of civilization as we know it)

    ~ we need to agree that we DO need fossil fuels for an unspecified transition period (we really can’t afford that luxury)

    ~ our solutions need to be market-based (so say the marketeers, who have done little but fund denial)

    What, IMHO, we should be having a national conversation about:

    * Is this not, in fact, the greatest threat to our national security ever seen in the history of America and the world?

    * Should we not then nationalize our energy infrastructure in the name of national security?

    * How much, exactly, would it cost our government to completely fund the construction of large-scale renewable non-carbon energy infrastructure projects that would satisfy our entire energy requirements as a nation for the next one thousand years? (Covering the Mojave with PV, for just one example, should do it. I have seen budget dollar amounts suggested [no idea if they are accurate] as being equivalent to what we have spent so far on war with Iraq and Afghanistan )

    * Since we taxpayers just paid for this infrastructure, should we not now receive our solar-based electricity for free?

    * why should we not prosecute the funders and directors of the propaganda campaign against the validity of AGW, for crimes against humanity since they are murdering, in slow motion, billions of people?

    It would be, strategically speaking, rather useful to not be talking about what the global denier industry wants us to be talking about, and to aggressively change the direction of our conversation, don’t you think?

  56. 56
    charliemahru

    And in related news, based on his analysis of new scientific evidence, Dr. Muller now agrees that babies do not come from storks . .

  57. 57
    dean

    If only climate scientists would use a non-parametric method for trend lines, like Kendall’s Robust Line Fit, then the denialists wouldn’t have a leg (or a block of sea ice) to stand on.

    We have much better robust fitting methods now, whether you choose a method based on M-estimate fitting or R-estimate fitting. However, as noted, the current work does quite well on its own.

  58. 58
    Nick Gotts

    I guess the question is: why do you think that Muller is wrong and Watts is right?

    Please show your work. – Brain Hertz

    Sure:

    1) Al Gore says AGW is real, and an urgent issue.
    2) Al Gore is fat and has a big house.
    3) The fact that Al Gore is simply expressing the scientific consensus doesn’t count.
    4) …
    5) Therefore Watts is right.
    6) Profit*!

    * For the fossil fuel industries.

    And the solution to climate change is what?

    Better the world should burn than be ruled by scum like you. – Abdul Alhazred

    Thanks for that. That’s the vile, misanthropic, nihilistic logic of AGW denialism in a nutshell, but it’s very seldom expressed so forthrightly.

  59. 59
    Area Man

    Since station siting was one of the issues originally listed by Muller as one that he thought was a problem, and which he has just stated that he is now satisfied is a non-issue, I guess the question is: why do you think that Muller is wrong and Watts is right?

    I do believe that Anthony Watts’s station siting argument has been debunked by… Anthony Watts. Actually, many people before him, but when he finally got his own paper out, it turned out that there was no there, there. This is some serious zombie shit.

  60. 60
    dailydouq

    Of course a “controversy” is now raging when denialist Anthony Watt “publishes a paper” (AKA writes a blog post, Muller’s paper is at least in the mill for peer review) late Sunday to deny Muller’s findings. The debate rages in the comments of http://variable-variability.blogspot.co.uk/2012/07/blog-review-of-watts-et-al-2012.html where there is an early pre-review of WUWT’s “paper” hacked it up with basic conclusion it couldn’t even be submitted to any respectable journal.

    Now I don’t know diddly about the details of the “science” (assuming there is some in either paper) being debated but WUWT smells just like Discovery Institute and Watt is trying to gin up some fake controversial to give the home-schoolers (and Louisiana and Rick Perry and Sarah Palin) some ammunition for the usual fake teach-the-controversy where one side (despite some of his critics) is doing science and the other side doing propaganda (as best I can tell pushing some already discredited theory which sounds like IDiots again).

    I guess they’re just hoping that news will continue its mindless “fairness” approach and present both “sides” with equal credibility (where is Will McAvoy to call lies lies). So Watt has done his duty to the carbon lobby.

  61. 61
    ougaseon

    Can anyone parse these lines from the Watts ‘paper’ starting at line ~300?

    As in Fall, et al (2011), Menne (2010), and Muller (2012), only the heat source/sink proximity and area ratings from Leroy 2010 and are do consider ground-level vegetation or shade.

    Shade (a cooling bias) will inevitably affect poorly sited stations more than those that are well sited: The poorer sited stations are often shaded by nearby structures which result in their poor rating in the first place. Therefore, if anything, not accounting for shade would most likely lessen the differences between the better and poorer sites rather than increase them. Ground vegetation (a warming bias), on the other hand, affects the better sites, particularly stations located in rural areas, rather than the poorer and urban sites. Therefore, not accounting for vegetation may well lessen the differences between good and bad sites rather than increase them. Therefore we can be reasonably certain that excluding these factors will not bias this study in ways that will exaggerate the differences between well and poorly sited stations.

    Isn’t this logic exactly backwards? Assume we have two curves, one for the ‘better’ stations and one for the ‘poorer’ stations. They have no biases despite the classification difference and therefore overlap. Now we consider their biases. The ‘better’ curve has a warming bias and thus is shifted upwards. The ‘poorer’ curve has a cooling bias and thus is shifted downward. By NOT accounting for these biases, aren’t the differences now as large as possible?

  62. 62
    johnmorgan

    dean @ 57

    We have much better robust fitting methods now, whether you choose a method based on M-estimate fitting or R-estimate fitting.

    Yes. Stats has moved on a bit since I last used it some years ago.
    But my intended point is outliers are better dealt with by non-parametric line fits. Whereas the denialists cherry-pick starting and terminal points, to give a trend-line which fits their desired result when linear regression is used.

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