WashPost: “The Scientific Finding that Settles the Climate-Change Debate” and “Confirms” the Hockey Stick Graph

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.

Hear!  Hear!

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.

54 Responses to WashPost: “The Scientific Finding that Settles the Climate-Change Debate” and “Confirms” the Hockey Stick Graph

  1. Seb Power says:

    neo-Luddites is a little harsh on the Luddites who weren’t anti science, just anti certain types of technology which was destroying their livelihoods.

    Difference is, the U.S. right wing more than often echoes big business interests, the opposite of the Luddites.

    Just thought I’d point this out :)

  2. Leif says:

    What a joy to see. Thank you Joe for your long standing efforts.

    This quot from above ended a bit short:
    “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….”

    I would add: “to the studies with the highest findings.”

  3. Robert says:

    Of course when Muller decried “shoddy” science, he had no actual examples — except, perhaps, the dysfunctional analyses of fellow “skeptics” Roy Spencer and John Christy.

    I’m grateful for the result. But I bristle at the notion that “now” we can believe it… because jonny-come-lately muller has found what real climate scientists have found — and confirmed through intense peer review — a decade or more ago.

  4. Raul M. says:

    What is a good link for directions – DIY storm shelters.
    On a budget. Are there ways around having double walled sides for the basement style shelter? Once knew of a woman who had a floating slab floor on a raised one story but with winds maybe not so good to have the one story above ground.
    Just thinking of ins. just in case Nelson in Fl. Is wrong about himself not letting the area be destroyed by….

  5. muoncounter says:

    The fascinating study of human behavior is what is happening on the so-called ‘skeptical’ denial blogs. They are spinning this in a myriad of ways; anything but admit that science is correct and their pre-conceived notions are wrong. If it weren’t such a serious matter, it would be comical.

    Naah, it is comical.

  6. Mike says:

    The real tragedy is the “cost of delay” in taking any meaningful action to address this clear and present danger to humanity. What was once a massive, but manageable task is now going to require a massive mobilization at the global scale at a wartime pace AND SOME BLIND LUCK THAT WE DON’T CROSS A POINT OF NO RETURN, AT LEAST IN TERMS OF THE STABLE CLIMATIC CONDITIONS UNDER WHICH HUMAN CIVILIZATION AS WE KNOW IT EMERGED AND PROSPERED (at least some of us)

  7. John McCormick says:

    It will be very important and predictive when the BEST results go global and nations begin to attack the US for leading this genocidal abandonment of CO2 mitigation.

  8. prokaryotes says:

    i love Toles cartoons

  9. Raul M. says:

    Let’s see how to build a storm shelter that wouldn’t be commandeered by thugs or lobbyists. Or by locals who just happened to notice the change denoted on the tax rolls. Maybe I could have it permitted as a tobacco barn?

  10. prokaryotes says:

    Brought to you by ExxonMobil and Koch Industries

  11. Republicans aren’t carrying out a discussion. They’re delaying.

  12. Mike says:

    Right, so this is why we have science…

  13. Chris Winter says:

    “WARNING: Read the more than 1000 comments on that piece with a head vise on.”

    There were 1460 comments when I clicked in just now, 1526 when I bailed out 15 minutes later. It’s an active thread for sure. Plenty of people who know the score are weighing in, but I suspect they’re outnumbered about 8 to 1.

    To paraphrase Mr. Spock, the torrential flood of illogic is most diverting.

  14. The BEST paper seems to be, in its pre-publication form, of pretty limited use. It’s easy to imagine the deniers on the BEST team seeing which way the data was running and then abandoning serious analysis. Every side — scientific and denial — have been picking it apart. The only group convinced by it have been editorial writers.

  15. Tim says:

    Did they say where the paper was submitted? It’ll sail through the reviewers on the basis of the criterion, “Does the data support the conclusions?” Of course, on the criterion, “Is the work novel?” it should be relegated to an archival low-impact journal. So, from the point of view of scientific quality, the paper presents a paradox. It really belongs in a low-impact journal, but if it goes to a low-impact journal that few people read then it is likely to be the most cited paper the journal ever publishes!

  16. Dave Yuhas says:

    IMHO, the situation is already hopeless. I’m just glad that because of my age I won’t live to see the suffering that is coming.

  17. prokaryotes says:

    Climate-change skeptic turns skeptical about the skeptics
    By Heather Clancy | October 25, 2011, 9:45am PDT

    Summary: A respected physicist and climate-change skeptic from the University of California, Berkeley, set out to prove global warming theorists wrong and winds up verifying the warming trend.

    Several major newspapers, including The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal, have published columns and editorials over the past week inspired by new research into global warming by a team led by Richard Muller, a physicist from the University of California at Berkeley.

    Muller, who has been an avowed skeptic of climate change and global warming arguments, set out to prove the data wrong. Instead, he has published an essay in The Wall Street Journal that pulls no punches about its findings.

    “Global warming is real,” Muller wrote in his column for the WSJ discussing his findings. “Perhaps our results will help cool this portion of the climate debate. How much of the warming is due to humans and what will be the likely effects? We made no independent assessment of that.”

  18. prokaryotes says:

    The new data has been submitted for peer review, so it has not been independently verified, but Muller’s background as a skeptic certainly lends an aura of credibility to its finding that “global warming is real.”

    What remains at issue, of course, is the human factor in all this. But as I have written many times before, does that really matter? What matters, to me, is how smart the current generation of humans can be at applying cleantech and other technologies toward halting or reversing that trend.
    Is the media really that lame?

  19. John McCormick says:

    Dave, with a painful heart, I’m with you.

    I used to hold back my pessimism on this blog because there are certainly people younger than me reading our comments. But, there is a need to warn them they have to prepare for the chaos we have divered to them.

    What a sick and sad thing to say. But, it is reality.

  20. BBHY says:

    It is truly amusing that the deniers are now complaining that this new study is flawed.

    They complained that all the other studies were flawed, but the new one was done differently, using different data, so it must be flawed in a different way.

    So now we are supposed to believe that all the different studies, using different data sets, are all flawed, but flawed in different ways, and somehow they all found exactly the same results. How likely is that?

    It seems much more plausible that all of the studies are showing very same thing; that climate change is absolutely real.

    But that doesn’t fit the only possible conclusion that their closed minds are capable of accepting. They would rather argue that a bumblebee could fly to Mars and back.

  21. Wanooski says:

    To be fair, neo luddites probably wouldn’t have caused global warming. And to compare capitalist growth obsessed nut jobs to neo luddites is a little on the ridiculous side.

  22. fj says:

    the longer it takes to transition the more money status-quo profiteers make to invest and leverage the transition to make it at even faster rates

    the scale of the crisis and the pathologies of power are mind boggling

  23. AlanInAz says:

    The denial media machine is still in force. The linked piece by Michael Barone in National Review is a distressing example. He either has no understanding of any science or is a blatant liar.

  24. cervantes says:

    Absolutely correct. The Luddites did not deny that the machines worked — on the contrary, the whole point was that they did work. The Luddites just didn’t want to lose their jobs. So it’s not a good analogy.

  25. Steve Funk says:

    Their work proves that the bent end of the hockey stick is correct. His team still hasn’t addressed the straight part of the stick, before any instrumental records. This is not a fatal flaw. You could totally discount all of the papers reconstructing temperatures from the middle ages to 1850, and still have a strong case for human caused global warming.

  26. prokaryotes says:

    Titanic in slow motion.

  27. Joe Romm says:

    And it has Judith Curry’s name on it, too.

  28. If you remove the second letter from the name “Spock”, you get the name of a possible cause of this torrential flood of illogic.


    — frank

  29. Jim Groom says:

    I read the Barone piece and I can’t believe that someone could be so out of touch with reality. My first thought was he was disingenious at best, but perhaps he is just a liar. When you are paid to not understand something it should not come as a surprise when you don’t.

  30. Spike says:

    Back with the realiiy of climate change, deluges have been affecting Ireland and western GB. A months rainfall in a day quoted as having occurred in some areas:

  31. Douglas says:

    Now I guess the deniers will have to recruit Freemon Dyson to review and repudiate the results. Wash, rinse, repeat.

  32. dick smith says:

    Mueller and Curry remain invaluable to skeptics.

    In the last paragraph of his statement, Mueller emphasized that none of these studies addressed the extent of humanity’s role in the warming.

    And, at Curry’s website, the last paragraph of her day-off-release statement says the REAL (emphasis was hers) data problem is the ocean data set. Together with her whining about not having enough money to fully participate in the study, it sounds to me like a woman saying, “I was pretty quiet on these four studies, but give me some money to study the ocean data and ‘watch me roar.'”

    I worry that both of them are getting an inordinate amount of press–rebuilding their reputations with the media–while leaving their denier credentials in very good standing to do a lot of harm in the future.

  33. cervantes says:

    The odd thing about climate change deniers, compared with, say, tobacco apologists, is that they must sincerely believe, because if they don’t, they are well aware that reality is going to bite them very hard in the ass. Which is already happening, actually, but apparently they’ve taken a shot of novocaine.

  34. Mike Roddy says:

    We can be certain that CEI, Heritage, and AFP are holding emergency strategy sessions. The leadin will be “how can we spin this?”.
    They never paid attention to facts before, and are not going to start now.

    Expect this: “We knew all along that it was warming” (it’s easy to throw Watts under the bus). “Climategate proved that scientists want to create an atmosphere of fear based on what many believe are normal climate cycles, minor temperature increases, and events driven by solar cycles and underwater volcanoes. Hard working American families won’t be distracted from their task of working to harness our domestic energy sources, and get the government off our backs so that we can return to prosperity”.

    The suckers will go for it, but their numbers may be shrinking.

  35. Mike Roddy says:

    They are starting to unravel, Cervantes. Note that their language is becoming even more hysterical and angry than before. They are not going to wake up and admit the enormity of their errors- deniers have big egos- but will retreat into flat screens and NFL fir a while.

  36. Joan Savage says:

    A line in Mueller’s WSJ piece could and should get some feedback.

    He wrote, “Our work covers only land temperature—not the oceans—but that’s where warming appears to be the greatest.”

    Yikes. The word warming is ambiguous, it can refer either to temperature or specific heat.
    Most of the additional retained heat is stored in water, not land.
    The public doesn’t immediately notice that a temperature reading isn’t the same as a measure of thermal mass. There are plenty of homely examples to teach the difference.

  37. Joan Savage says:

    Getting the hockey stick issue settled in a public way is a huge relief, and I should have acknowledged that immediately.

  38. Peter Mizla says:

    And I made 2 replies to his post.

  39. AlanInAz says:

    A small point of clarification. Specific heat is a property of the fluid and doesn’t change with rising temperature. The overall heat content of the oceans is increasing and that change is equal to the specific heat x mass x temp rise. I expect Muller is talking about heat content. As you said, a small ocean temperature rise can be a huge increase in heat content because of the large mass and higher specific heat of liquid water compared to atmospheric gases.

  40. John Cato says:

    It is only ‘slow motion’ until we hit the ‘ice berg’ – then it’ll speed up considerably.

  41. Bill Woods says:

    Muller was never a skeptic about global warming.

    The temperature of the Earth (averaged over the last decade) is now the warmest that it has been in 400 years. Figure 10.1 below shows the change since 1850 was almost 2°F (about 1°C). That doesn’t seem like a lot, and in some sense it isn’t. The reason some many people worry is that they fear that this is just a portent of what is to come. A substantial part of this rise is very likely a result of human activity, particularly by the burning of fossil fuels. If that is truly the cause, then we expect the temperature to keep rising. Although cheap oil is getting scarce, at $100 per barrel or higher there seems to be lots available. (I’ll show the numbers later in the chapter.) And the countries that need lots of energy appear to have huge amounts of coal. Burn a fossil fuel, and you dump carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, and that’s the problem. Carbon dioxide is very likely to cause significant warming, and as we burn more fossil fuels, the temperature is very likely to continue to go up. In the next 50 years, the best estimates are that the additional increase will be between 3°F and 10°F. That is a lot. Already, warming in Alaska from 1900 to the present has been enough to cause significant portions of the permafrost to melt. A 10°F rise would be enough to make fertile regions in the United States arid and trigger large-scale economic disruption around the world. There is also good reason to believe that the warming will be more intense in the polar regions.

    Physics for Future Presidents (2010)

  42. Joe Romm says:

    He was a confusionist, like Curry, as I’ve shown in many posts.

  43. muoncounter says:

    No, the ‘science side’ simply says, “Well, we told you so.” The denial side is spinning itself into the ground trying to pick BEST apart despite the promise to accept its findings. Question: How do you spell hypocrisy? Answer: W – U – W – T.

  44. muoncounter says:

    How about this criterion: Is the work an important step in clarifying an otherwise contentious issue?

    By that standard, it is well worth publishing, novel or not, in any journal. The more publicity given to this flat rejection of the misinformation coming from denial sources, the better.

    To paraphrase the great philosopher Col. Nathan R. Jessep (as played by J. J. Nicholson), “You want the truth? You can’t handle the truth!”

  45. Artful Dodger says:

    … and the Party of “No”.

  46. prokaryotes says:

    Berkeley earthquake called off

    Anybody expecting earthshaking news from Berkeley, now that the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature group being led by Richard Muller has released its results, had to be content with a barely perceptible quiver. As far as the basic science goes, the results could not have been less surprising if the press release had said “Man Finds Sun Rises At Dawn.” This must have been something of a disappointment for anyone hoping for something else.

    ps. this is what you get when googling “berkeley earthquake”

    Eight earthquakes hit Berkeley over past several days

  47. prokaryotes says:

    “The Hayward Fault, from which all the earthquakes erupted this week, runs through the UC Berkeley campus and under Memorial Stadium.”

    Luckily it’s not the Tony Haywood Fault :)

  48. Artful Dodger says:

    Courage, Willow! We know not the future, just what is in our Hearts. If your words come from a place of truth, others WILL follow!

  49. Dennis Tomlinson says:

    I’m likely in the same age group, the same situation, and of the same mind… but I just have to ask, “What about the children?”… and, “What about the grandchildren?” This is a topic I cannot bring up with them without suffering the slings and arrows of addle mindedness.

  50. Joan Savage says:

    Mueller asserted “warming” was greater on land. He either was not talking about heat content, or if he was, he got it wrong. The major increase in heat content is in the oceans.

    Surface temperature increase is greater on land than in water, but that is due to water’s greater specific heat.

    P.S. Specific heat of a material changes with temperature and pressure. It’s more noticeable in industrial or geophysical phenomena than in the narrow range of conditions suitable for vertebrate life.

  51. Paul MacRae says:

    Muller says in his Wall Street Journal article: “Global warming is real. Perhaps our results will help cool this portion of the climate debate. How much of the warming is due to humans and what will be the likely effects? We made no independent assessment of that.”

    Most skeptics also believe there has some global warming over the last century. The question at issue isn’t whether there is warming (although there has been little or none since about 1998), but whether humans are the primary cause of this warming.

    In other words, Muller’s project sidesteps the real issue, and skeptics will remain skeptical until there is real (as opposed to computerized) evidence that we are the main cause of warming and that this warming will be catastrophic.

  52. AlanInAz says:

    Sorry, I misread Muller’s statement (bad eyesight). I agree, Muller must mean land temperature rises are higher but fails to mention that the oceans are the great heat sink for global warming. Unfortuneately, once I post a comment I cannot edit it and must live with it, even if somewhat mistaken. Regarding specific heat, yes it does vary slightly with temperature but is essentially constant for the range of temperatures that are involved in global warming temperature rise. Phase changes at the ocean surface (melting ice and evaporation) also moderate ocean surface temperature rise.

  53. Chris Winter says:

    I looked for your name, didn’t find it. If you were using an alias, I’m not asking you to reveal it here.

  54. AlanInAz says:

    Barone’s piece was also listed in RealClearPolitics and has received 550 comments. I made some posts in what I thought was a civil matter of fact tone. Most denier replies were very uncivil.