For the clueless or cynical diehards who deny global warming, it’s getting awfully cold out there.
The latest icy blast of reality comes from an eminent scientist whom the climate-change skeptics once lauded as one of their own. Richard Muller, a respected physicist at the University of California, Berkeley, used to dismiss alarmist climate research as being “polluted by political and activist frenzy.” Frustrated at what he considered shoddy science, Muller launched his own comprehensive study to set the record straight. Instead, the record set him straight.
“Global warming is real,” Muller wrote last week in The Wall Street Journal.
Rick Perry, Herman Cain, Michele Bachmann and the rest of the neo-Luddites who are turning the GOP into the anti-science party should pay attention.
That’s Eugene Robinson in a terrific Washington Post op-ed, “The Scientific Finding That Settles the Climate-Change Debate.” WARNING: Read the more than 1000 comments on that piece with a head vise on.
That headline is actually my second favorite one on the Berkeley study. The BEST, as it were, was from the L. A. Times, “Climate skeptic admits he was wrong to doubt global-warming data,” which opens:
Remember when scientists who had cast doubt on global temperature studies boldly embarked on an effort to “reconsider” the evidence?
They have. And they conclude that their doubt was misplaced.
And don’t miss Nobelist Paul Krugman’s piece, “More People Who Can’t Handle The Truth.”
The media coverage of the Berkeley work has been interesting, to say the least. From a scientific perspective there’s not a lot of news in the study — see the Climate Progress coverage, Hot Dog Bites Skeptical Man: Koch-Funded Berkeley Temperature Study Does “Confirm the Reality of Global Warming.” As climatologist Peter Gleick put it in Forbes: “Breaking News: The Earth Still Goes Around the Sun, and It’s Still Warming Up.”
But the deniers created this monster, and the fact that it has turned on them is noteworthy poetic justice. Here’s more from the WashPost:
The Berkeley group’s research even confirms the infamous “hockey stick” graph — showing a sharp recent temperature rise — that Muller once snarkily called “the poster child of the global warming community.” Muller’s new graph isn’t just similar, it’s identical….
For more on the uber-confirmed Hockey Stick, see “Two more independent studies back the Hockey Stick: Recent global warming is unprecedented in magnitude and speed and cause.”
Muller and his colleagues examined five times as many temperature readings as did other researchers — a total of 1.6 billion records — and now have put that merged database online. The results have not yet been subjected to peer review, so technically they are still preliminary. But Muller’s plain-spoken admonition that “you should not be a skeptic, at least not any longer” has reduced many deniers to incoherent grumbling or stunned silence.
Not so, I predict, with the blowhards such as Perry, Cain and Bachmann, who, out of ignorance or perceived self-interest, are willing to play politics with the Earth’s future. They may concede that warming is taking place, but they call it a natural phenomenon and deny that human activity is the cause.
It is true that Muller made no attempt to ascertain “how much of the warming is due to humans.” Still, the Berkeley group’s work should help lead all but the dimmest policymakers to the overwhelmingly probable answer.
We know that the rise in temperatures over the past five decades is abrupt and very large. We know it is consistent with models developed by other climate researchers that posit greenhouse gas emissions — the burning of fossil fuels by humans — as the cause. And now we know, thanks to Muller, that those other scientists have been both careful and honorable in their work.
Nobody’s fudging the numbers. Nobody’s manipulating data to win research grants, as Perry claims, or making an undue fuss over a “naturally occurring” warm-up, as Bachmann alleges. Contrary to what Cain says, the science is real.
It is the know-nothing politicians — not scientists — who are committing an unforgivable fraud.
I will do another post on this study in a few days on the most interesting nugget in the Berkeley work, which deserves a little more attention.