Archive for Sunday, October 30, 2011

Skeptic finds he now agrees that global warming is real

Physicist’s research partly funded by Charles Koch Foundation

October 30, 2011


WASHINGTON — A prominent physicist and skeptic of global warming spent two years trying to find out if mainstream climate scientists were wrong. In the end, he determined they were right: Temperatures really are rising rapidly.

The study of the world’s surface temperatures by Richard Muller was partially bankrolled by a foundation connected to global warming deniers. He pursued long-held skeptic theories in analyzing the data. He was spurred to action because of “Climategate,” a British scandal involving hacked emails of scientists.

Yet he found that the land is 1.6 degrees warmer than in the 1950s. Those numbers from Muller, who works at the University of California, Berkeley and Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, match those by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and NASA.

Conducting the research

He said he went even further back, studying readings from Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson. His ultimate finding of a warming world, to be presented at a conference today, is no different from what mainstream climate scientists have been saying for decades.

What’s different, and why everyone from opinion columnists to “The Daily Show” is paying attention is who is behind the study.

One-quarter of the $600,000 to do the research came from the Charles Koch Foundation, whose founder is a major funder of skeptic groups and the tea party. The Koch brothers, Charles and David, run a large privately held company involved in oil and other industries, producing sizable greenhouse gas emissions.

Muller’s research team carefully examined two chief criticisms by skeptics. One is that weather stations are unreliable; the other is that cities, which create heat islands, were skewing the temperature analysis.

“The skeptics raised valid points, and everybody should have been a skeptic two years ago,” Muller said in a telephone interview. “And now we have confidence that the temperature rise that had previously been reported had been done without bias.”

‘A proper skepticism’

Muller said that he came into the study “with a proper skepticism,” something scientists “should always have. I was somewhat bothered by the fact that there was not enough skepticism” before.

There is no reason now to be a skeptic about steadily increasing temperatures, Muller wrote recently in The Wall Street Journal’s editorial pages, a place friendly to skeptics. Muller did not address in his research the cause of global warming. The overwhelming majority of climate scientists say it’s man-made from the burning of fossil fuels such as coal and oil. Nor did his study look at ocean warming, future warming and how much of a threat to mankind climate change might be.

Still, Muller said it makes sense to reduce the carbon dioxide created by fossil fuels.

“Greenhouse gases could have a disastrous impact on the world,” he said. Still, he contends that threat is not as proven as the Nobel Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says it is.

Today, Muller was taking his results — four separate papers that are not yet published or peer-reviewed, but will be, he says — to a conference in Santa Fe, N.M., expected to include many prominent skeptics as well as mainstream scientists.

“Of course he’ll be welcome,” said Petr Chylek of Los Alamos National Lab, a noted skeptic and the conference organizer. “The purpose of our conference is to bring people with different views on climate together, so they can talk and clarify things.”

Shawn Lawrence Otto, author of the book “Fool Me Twice” that criticizes science skeptics, said Muller should expect to be harshly treated by global warming deniers. “Now he’s considered a traitor. For the skeptic community, this isn’t about data or fact. It’s about team sports. He’s been traded to the Indians. He’s playing for the wrong team now.”


classclown 6 years, 2 months ago

The headline reads like it was written for The Onion.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 2 months ago

That's because the best descriptor of whole global warming denial industry is "surreal."

kansanjayhawk 6 years, 2 months ago

It sounds like the conservatives here are the ones who funded a study that allowed the chips to fall where they will--they did not do what liberals tend to do by inserting political correctness-- or a pre-determined outcome. The cause of global warming and whether it is part of a normal cycle of the earth or whether it is caused exclusively by human activity is the real issue here.

Katara 6 years, 2 months ago

Actually this study found that other studies did not have the bias they were accused of so you are incorrect about what you claim liberals trying to achieve a pre-determined outcome.

“The skeptics raised valid points, and everybody should have been a skeptic two years ago,” Muller said in a telephone interview. “And now we have confidence that the temperature rise that had previously been reported had been done without bias.”

jafs 6 years, 2 months ago

Well, first the anti-warming folks wanted to claim that the earth wasn't in fact warming.

Now, there's a switch to whether human activity plays an important role - this scientist says now that reducing greenhouse gas emission is a good idea.

"Greenhouse gases could have a disastrous impact on the world".

And your last sentence is not at all the question - human activity doesn't have to be the "exclusive" cause for it to be an important factor, and the only one we have any control over.

kansanjayhawk 6 years, 2 months ago

I don't think we disagree that much on this one...

question4u 6 years, 2 months ago

Why is the National Science foundation dominated by "liberals"? Why is he International Panel on Climate Change brimming with "liberals"? Why is Richard Muller now a "liberal"?

Scientists deal in empirical evidence. If their studies are incorrect, they will be disproved. Science is not rhetoric, nor is it politics. If Muller believed that errors had been made when others collected data, then he should have been skeptical of the conclusions drawn from that data. Now that he has tested his hypothesis and found it to be false, he has done what a scientist should do: formed a new hypothesis based on the data.

Why should a position on climate change be considered politically "liberal" or "conservative"? Who has the most to lose if measures are adopted to reduce CO2 emissions?

To suggest that the majority of climate scientists are involved in deception is entirely political; to believe that the majority of climate scientists are involved in deception is, frankly, stupid.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 2 months ago

Translation-- ignore the inconvenient facts, because the scientists that discovered them must be just as corrupt as the corporations who will do anything to externalize costs created by the CO2 emissions.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 2 months ago

BTW, what motivation did this Koch-sponsored scientist have to produce the exact opposite result that the Koch brothers prefer?

jafs 6 years, 2 months ago

They've got to be a bit upset with his results, don't you think?

I doubt he'll get any more money from them for research :-)

tomatogrower 6 years, 2 months ago

oooohh, I'll bet the Koch brothers aren't talking to him now. Those aren't the results he was made to get. They'll probably demand the money back.

tolawdjk 6 years, 2 months ago

It's not a climate story unless there is a Blevins post about how the world hates him.

beatrice 6 years, 2 months ago

Sadly, we have made our environment a political football. Even this report funded by deniers will be ignored and the results denied. Profits over a sustainabie planet.

Apparently, the only thing that will really slow global warming is a new, widespread plague.

kernal 6 years, 2 months ago

Nothing makes my day like a bunch of scientists who dismiss their colleagues research because it doesn't agree with their own. Seems there's still more that needs to looked at on both sides of the aisle before we do our usual political dance about climate change.

Richard Heckler 6 years, 2 months ago

Why not give Union of Concerned Scientists the benefit of the doubt?

“Reducing oil dependence. Strengthening energy security. Creating jobs. Tackling global warming. Addressing air pollution. Improving our health.

The United States has many reasons to make the transition to a clean energy economy. What we need is a comprehensive set of smart policies to jump-start this transition without delay and maximize the benefits to our environment and economy.

Global warming is one of the most serious challenges facing us today. To protect the health and economic well-being of current and future generations, we must reduce our emissions of heat-trapping gases by using the technology, know-how, and practical solutions already at our disposal.”

Richard Heckler 6 years, 2 months ago

Take away ideas and understandings:

  1. Understand the effects of ozone absorption on UV-C, UV-B, and UV-A
  2. Understand the relationship between ozone depletion and UV-B radiation and where UV levels are presently relative to the past and projected future.
  3. Understand the projected future amplitudes and durations of enhanced UV radiation resulting from ozone depletion
  4. What are the projected UV percentage increases for the arctic, antarctic, and northern hemisphere average?
  5. Understand the human health hazards associated with elevated UV levels.
  6. Understand the mechanisms for eye and skin sensitivity to UV radiation.
  7. Understand the projected increases in eye and skin cancer for the next fifty years and how these projections were estimated.
  8. Understand potential impacts of elevated UV radiation on terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems

1.0 Overview

The health risks associated with ozone depletion will principally be those due to increased ultraviolet B radiation (UV-B) in environment, i.e., increased damage to the eyes, the immune system and the skin. Emerging knowledge of these risks led to the accelerated schedule of eliminating ODS (ozone depleting substances) included in the most current amendments to the Montreal Protocol. Quantitative risk estimates are available for some of the UV-B-associated effects, e.g., cataract and skin cancer. The following text and figures were largely drawn for sources in the CEDAC, Environmental Effects of Ozone Depletion, 1998 assessment. A comprehensive summary and review of UV-related health effects can be found in the World Health Org. (WHO) Environmental Health Criteria Monograph Ultraviolet Radiation, 1994.

As sunlight passes through the atmosphere, all UV-C and approximately 90% of UV-B radiation are absorbed by O2, ozone, as well as water vapor, oxygen and carbon dioxide. UV-A radiation is less affected by the atmosphere. Therefore, the UV radiation reaching the Earth’s surface is largely composed of UVA with a small UVB component. The region of concern for biological effects is the ultraviolet-B (UV-B) range from 280 to 320 nm.

The primary concern over ozone depletion is the potential impacts on human health and ecosystems due to increased UV exposure. Increases in skin cancer and cataracts in human populations are expected in a higher UV environment. Lower yields of certain cash crops may result due to increased UV-B stress. Higher UV-B levels in the upper ocean layer may inhibit phytoplankton activities, which can impact the entire marine ecosystem.

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