So there is a lot of excitement about the announcement that the Berkeley Earth Temperature Study (BEST), headed up by Richard Muller, will be publishing a series of papers confirming once again that the world is indeed warming and rising carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is the culprit. The kicker is that this work was funded by the Koch brothers.
The hoopla around the BEST announcement is strange, though. This group did not find anything new. Rather, they confirmed what everyone else already knew years ago. (See the graphic accompanying Joe Romm's coverage - BEST's reconstruction is very similar to extant reconstructions by NASA GISS, NOAA, and HadCRU). Climate scientist Michael Mann brings the snark:
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!Muller published an accompanying NYT Op-Ed which really makes one wonder what's going on here. Follow me over the squiggle for more.
Muller's NYT piece starts out with a nifty hook, the return of the prodigal scientist:
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.Woo-hoo! A converted skeptic who now says anthropogenic climate change is REAL! All right - we're making progress here! ... but wait ... Muller wasn't actually a real climate change skeptic. In the past he's said things like:
Let me be clear. My own reading of the literature and study of paleoclimate suggests strongly that carbon dioxide from burning of fossil fuels will prove to be the greatest pollutant of human history. It is likely to have severe and detrimental effects on global climate.Rather than a skeptic, it appears Muller is more of an ego-driven confusionist. He wants his name in the paper while confounding building of consensus on climate action. This impression is driven home by his money quotes toward the end of the NYT piece, where, after declaring that anthropogenic climate change is real, he reverses field, whipping off a series of denier tropes. He a) pooh-poohs climate models (they're "notorious"), b) asserts "skepticism" about climate alarmism (this from the recanted skeptic), c) says Katrina "cannot be attributed to global warming" (we know this how?), d) declares polar bears are not dying from receding ice (take THAT, Al Gore!), e) floats the possibility that the medieval warm period was warmer than today (in agreement with the good Lord Monckton but, sadly, not people who actually study the matter), and f) argues that the current US heat wave has practically nothing to do with climate change because (wait for it) it's cool somewhere else. Yeah. Here are his words, which I'm sure the Kochs are very happy about:
Moreover, our analysis does not depend on large, complex global climate models, the huge computer programs that are notorious for their hidden assumptions and adjustable parameters. Our result is based simply on the close agreement between the shape of the observed temperature rise and the known greenhouse gas increase.Of all these claims, the bit about the medieval warm period is perhaps the most outrageous. It has been shown repeatedly in climate reconstructions (starting with Mann's 1999 hockey stick) that current temperatures are higher. This point is made very well in the following video (h/t to kossack jethrock), which, in addition to explaining the current understanding, also features famous deniers trying to pass off doctored graphs arguing Muller's debunked point that it was warmer 800 years ago:
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.
Hurricane Katrina cannot be attributed to global warming. The number of hurricanes hitting the United States has been going down, not up; likewise for intense tornadoes. Polar bears aren’t dying from receding ice, and the Himalayan glaciers aren’t going to melt by 2035. And it’s possible that we are currently no warmer than we were a thousand years ago, during the “Medieval Warm Period” or “Medieval Optimum,” an interval of warm conditions known from historical records and indirect evidence like tree rings. And the recent warm spell in the United States happens to be more than offset by cooling elsewhere in the world, so its link to “global” warming is weaker than tenuous.
So our recanted skeptic reveals himself as a purveyor of a different kind of denial, of don't get alarmed, it's not so bad. An excellent analysis on realisticbeinggreen sheds light:
What we are witnessing ... is a very clever shift in denier strategy. ... 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 science is accurate, they have, and will now deny that climate change poses any threat to human well-being. Professor Muller’s article is the perfect Trojan Horse and could be the final tactic that makes sure this war is really over.Yeah. I can't add to that. Hopefully we don't get bogged down in the misdirection thrown by the Mullers of the world.
[The Muller Op-Ed] is 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.
PS - the last link also has links to skeptical science debunking of each of Muller's denier tropes.
PPS - kossack beach babe in fl had a great diary on this report earlier today