Climate

The Koch-Funded Scientist Who Came In From The Cold: Muller Warns We’re in “Dangerous Realm” of “Very Steep Warming”

data analysis graph

The decadal land-surface average temperature (relative to the 1950 – 1979 mean) using a 10-year moving average.  The grey band indicates 95% uncertainty interval.

The news release for today’s briefing, which will be webcast (here) at 2 pm DC time, explains:

Congressional Climate Briefing to Push “End of Climate Change Skepticism”

Dr. Richard Muller, Author of Berkeley Temperature Study, Makes First Appearance on Hill After Releasing Results; Drs. Ben Santer, William Chameides to Present Latest Research on Global Warming

WASHINGTON – Three prominent scientists will present the best case yet for the end of climate skepticism in Washington and the world over the fact that the world is warming at a congressional briefing held by Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.).

It remains to be seen whether Muller will flip flop for the umpteenth time on whether he is pushing the “end to skepticism … over the fact that the world is warming.”

He has already returned to form as a confusionist.  On the one hand, today he told MSNBC’s Morning Joe today that “we’re getting very steep warming” and that because “we are dumping enough carbon dioxide into the atmosphere that we’re working in a dangerous realm, I realm where I think, we may really have trouble in the next coming decades.”

But in a just-published interview he claimed absurdly:

“Right now,” he says of the earth as a whole, “we don’t know that it’s warming. It may be constant, we don’t know.”

Uhh, we do actually know.  The warming is “unequivocal” (as the IPCC put it) and a “settled fact” (as the National Academy of Science explained) as we know from multiple, independent lines of observation.  And the warming never slowed down in the oceans, which was where most of it was always expected to go (see “Sorry Deniers, the Oceans are Still Warming as Predicted

Of course, that story didn’t quite quote me fully, so maybe that’s true of Muller. You can’t tell from that quote if Muller is saying it isn’t warming, or merely acknowledging the fact that BEST never looked at the ocean data so, technically, he can’t make a scientific comment on whether or not it is warming over “the earth as a whole” — since he apparently refuses to except anybody else’s scientific work in this area.

When we last met Muller, he was stomping all over the denier myth that the planet isn’t warming — see Koch-Funded Study Finds Recent Warming “On the High End” and Speeding Up. In the key BEST paper, Muller found et al:

… we find that the global land mean temperature has increased by 0.911 ± 0.042 C since the 1950s….  our analysis suggests a degree of global land-surface warming during the anthropogenic era that is consistent with prior work (e.g. NOAA) but on the high end of the existing range of reconstruction.

The study clearly shows that the warming trend is accelerating as human emissions kick into overdrive, things heat up:

The trend line for the 20th century is calculated to be 0.733 ± 0.096 C/century, well below the 2.76 ± 0.16 C/century rate of global land-surface warming that we observe during the interval Jan 1970 to Aug 2011.

That is, in the past 40 years, the land has warmed nearly 4 times faster than it did in the last century.  This really kills the denier meme that the observed data suggests we will see only a small amount of warming this century.

But in a new article we have “we don’t know” quote from Muller and yet more nonsense:

Mr. Muller has made a point in interviews of emphasizing the lack of any definitive data showing that global land temperatures have increased at all in the last 13 years. “We cannot, in the last 13 years, tell from our data whether there is a slowdown or not,” Mr. Muller told The Chronicle.That kind of comment is “just silly,” Mr. Mann said, since 1998 was known to be one of the warmest years on record because of an unusually strong El Niño, the cyclical pattern of Pacific Ocean warming. “That’s not legitimate science,” he said. “No practicing climate scientist would take seriously the notion that you can measure global warming based on a 10-year trend, especially based on cherry-picking a warm starting year.”

Mr. Muller has also had public disagreements with a leading member of his own team, Judith A. Curry, a critic of the scientific consensus on global warming who serves as chair of the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at the Georgia Institute of Technology.

Shortly after Mr. Muller publicized the group’s findings last month, Ms. Curry gave an interview to the Daily Mail newspaper of London in which she faulted him for making the announcement without consulting her, for failing to emphasize the lack of temperature increase since the late 1990s, and for writing an opinion article in The Wall Street Journal declaring the study as ending any legitimate skepticism over global warming.

After conferring with Ms. Curry, Mr. Muller has taken care to emphasize his uncertainty about any temperature change in the last 13 years, and to explain his public release of the study results as a modern version of the once-traditional method of vetting scientific findings with peers worldwide before seeking publication in an established peer-reviewed academic journal.

Neither Curry nor Muller  are apparently aware what their own data says.  Tamino has sorted out the statistics in his post, “Judith Curry Opens Mouth, Inserts Foot.”  Here’s the key chart:

The warming trend “for each starting year to the present, for all start years from 1975 to 2005”:

The red dashed line shows the trend rate from 1975. Note that not one single start year gives an estimate which contradicts that rate. That is evidence — damn strong evidence in fact — that the underlying trend rate has not changed since 1975.

It is pretty lame when two of the key authors on a paper  apparently do not understand what their own data shows.  Tamino slams Curry for not disavowing her statement, “There is no scientific basis for saying that warming hasn’t stopped” — and for commenting on her own blog, “There has been a lag/slowdown/whatever you want to call it in the rate of temperature increase since 1998.”

Judith Curry’s statement is exactly the kind of ill-thought-out or not-at-all-thought-out rambling which is an embarrassment to her, and an embarrassment to science itself. To spew this kind of absolute nonsense is shameful. Judith Curry, you should be ashamed of yourself.

As for Muller, he apparently doesn’t even know what he wrote in the Wall Street Journal, as the Chronicle of Higher Education points out:

He also said he had no role in choosing the Wall Street Journal headline, which read: “The Case Against Global-Warming Skepticism.” That headline “misrepresented the article,” Mr. Muller said. “The skeptics, who are really upset with me, are upset with me over the claim that I said it’s an end to skepticism, when in fact I never said that.” In the body of the Journal article, however, he stated that he was writing the article to “explain why you should not be a skeptic, at least not any longer.”

Doh!

You can read the WSJ piece here.  He clearly states, “But now let me explain why you should not be a skeptic, at least not any longer.”  The CHE article then states:

Either way, Mr. Muller is confident that the experience has only enhanced his reputation as an impartial analyst of climate change.

[pause to clean up grey matter from floor]

Muller never had a reputation as an impartial analyst of climate change (see Koch-funded Richard Muller makes up story about Al Gore, Ralph Cicerone, and polar bears).  He is a “partial” analyst, and not just because he is never more than partially right.

The CHE article quotes me this way:

And even less clear is whether the heavy qualifications Mr. Muller is now placing on his own findings reflect a truly objective observer. His outside interests include a consulting agency, Muller & Associates, which advises energy companies in areas that include “enhanced oil recovery and underground coal gasification.”

“It is an amazing conflict of interest” for Mr. Muller to be issuing scientific assessments on global warming given his business associations, said Joseph J. Romm, a climate-policy analyst at the Center for American Progress who served as an Energy Department official in the Clinton administration. Mr. Muller says it’s not credible that his work on climate change has been influenced by energy companies.

I wouldn’t put it exactly that way.  Back in March, I discussed this issue when I broke the story of BEST’s basic findings (see Exclusive: Berkeley temperature study results “confirm the reality of global warming and support in all essential respects the historical temperature analyses of the NOAA, NASA, and HadCRU”):

For a study supposedly aimed at boosting credibility in the surface temperature data record, however, its flaws in conception and operation were beyond head-exploding:

  1. It was co-chaired by Richard Muller (author of widely debunked books, blog posts and Wall Street Journal op-eds).  Muller himself has actually worked to undermine credibility in well-established science and doesn’t have a great grasp of basic climate science (see here) or energy (see “here).
  2. Muller got co-funding for the study from the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation!  It’s hard to imagine a more irresponsible and anti-scientific person than Charles Koch.  CP and CAP have long detailed the role of the billionaire brothers of Koch Industries, Charles and David Koch, in destroying American prosperity.  We now know Koch Industries outspends Exxon Mobil on climate energy disinformation.
  3. In a remarkable demonstration of bad judgment, Muller installed his daughter Elizabeth Muller, as project manager!
  4. In even more remarkable demonstration of bad judgment and conflict of interest, it turns out Muller has a consulting company, GreenGov.biz, part of Muller & Associates, whose aim is to “provide politically-neutral counsel that is broad in scope while rooted in the hard facts of state-of-the-art science and engineering” in energy and climate policy.  Richard Muller is President and Chief Scientist.  Who is the CEO? Elizabeth Muller! Two other members of the BEST team are technical advisors to Muller & Associates.

So the “amazing conflict of interest” is the combination of supposedly doing a study to boost credibility in the surface temperature data record (trading on the reputation of UC Berkeley), while at the same time installing your daughter as a project manager while all the time the two of you are running a consulting company on climate science and fossil fuel technology.

This effort has turned out to be quite a reputation booster for Muller, no?

h/t TP Green

20 Responses to The Koch-Funded Scientist Who Came In From The Cold: Muller Warns We’re in “Dangerous Realm” of “Very Steep Warming”

  1. Bruce says:

    typo alert:
    “refuses to except anybody else’s”
    maybe
    “refuses to accept anybody else’s”

  2. Does everyone remember the Bush admin guy John J. DiIulio Jr. who coined the phrase “Mayberry Machiavellis”? He left office in a flurry of criticism of Bush, but after a bit, he recanted. Same with the Bush security guy Richard Clarke who blamed Bush’s inattention for 9/11? Clark later recanted. It’s all too familiar. Apostasy is not permitted.

  3. lasmog says:

    Apparently, Muller likes his role as the perpetual contrarian. I wouldn’t count on this man for anything beyond self-promotion.

  4. Mark says:

    Wow, one of the witnesses actually said if we dont take action now we could possibly lock ourselves into a catastrophic future! Hooray! (I have not checked a transcript so do not know if it is verbatim, just wanted to shout my joy)

  5. Chas_raper says:

    Can we really believe anything that Muller say? Dr Judith Curry, his co-author, seems much more credible.

  6. Joe Romm says:

    They are birds of a feather.

  7. Mike Roddy says:

    You may be a tad hard on Muller here. Yes, he’s got a jerky personality, and yes, he’s descended into groveling for cash from the oil companies.

    Muller’s saving grace is the data that he produced. Spinning it a la Curry- as in the 1998 reference date- doesn’t really matter in the big picture. That’s strictly for the suckers, and for funders of his little consulting business. Muller’s more accurate language in the WSJ editorial will be repeated in the final report, since no other conclusion is possible.

    Anyone who has been around Berkeley physicists knows that fudging raw data in even an esoteric paper is grounds for lifelong shame. In this case, the stakes are only everything.

    Whatever jitters Muller gave us over his recent statements will soon be forgotten. Through a strange series of events, he will be remembered as someone who moved the dial on this whole subject as much as anyone. And I don’t think he’ll even be tempted to get into the nonsense about the sun, volcanoes, ocean current cycles, clouds, etc. He’s too much a physicist for that, too.

    Muller’s mentor was Berkeley Nobelist Luis Alvarez, who became a far right monster in his twilight years. Alvarez still didn’t fudge data, and confined his politics to bizarre polemics. Muller will follow a similar path.

  8. Bruce says:

    Clarke recanted? Cites, please.

  9. Lionel A says:

    I have to ask, are there two Richard Mullers going the rounds? Any other explanation bodes ill for Muller’s sanity.

  10. Chris Winter says:

    According to Ron Suskind, John DiIulio was pressured into recanting (yes, even though he was out of the office.)

    As for Richard A. Clarke, I’m unaware that he recanted and would also like to see evidence.

  11. Robert In New Orleans says:

    The Muller from the skeptic universe is clean shaven.

  12. Toby says:

    I see little to Muller besides self-promotion.

    If the Republicans regain the White House next year, what better candidate for a science advisor than someone who wrote a book called Physics for Future Presidents, and who is a noted climate science confusionist?

  13. Anna Haynes says:

    Is there a transcript of the hearing? Does one get put up, fairly soon?

    When is the next hearing?

  14. Anna Haynes says:

    – and is anyone else able to watch the archived video, at
    http://democrats.naturalresources.house.gov/content/files/2011-11-14_Briefing.wmv
    ?

    (For me, it just eternally loads)

  15. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    I think Clark has still ‘gone native’. Recantation is understandable, because apostasy means exile from the gravy train, and a descent into the hell inhabited by the ‘little people’ ie the 99%.

  16. Artful Dodger says:

    “To argue with a person who has renounced the use of reason is like administering medicine to the dead.”
    ― Thomas Paine

  17. Charles Zeller says:

    Amen Mike! Let’s don’t shoot at high ranking officers waving a white flag.

  18. Charles Zeller says:

    The opening quarter is blank content. Slide forward about 20 minutes.

  19. RP says:

    I wrote a letter to the editor of the local newspaper The Idaho Statesman a year ago about global warming. In it, I state that we know 3 things for certain:
    1. Methane, carbon dioxide and other gases are indeed climate warming gases.
    2. We know these gases persist in the atmosphere for decades and centuries once released.
    3. We know we have been dumping billions of tons of these gases into the atmosphere since the start of the industrial age.

    If you add 1 + 2 +3 you get manmade global warming. Unless the deniers can provide proof that one or more of these 3 statements is incorrect then there is no argument. Man made global warming is real and it is a huge threat to the future of mankind.

  20. Anna Haynes says:

    Bill Chameides reports on the briefing:
    http://www.nicholas.duke.edu/thegreengrok/climatebriefing-112011
    “During the Q&A session that followed the presentations, talk turned to the role of humans in global warming, and it became pretty clear that Muller remains a skeptic on that front. Here again I was somewhat rankled when he brought forth red herrings like sunspots even though data clearly show that they cannot have been the cause. This time the rankling got the better of me and I challenged his red herrings…”

    There’s a Q I’d like asked, at the next hearing.