Saturday, October 22, 2011

The Koch brothers accidentally fund real science

It really is pretty funny. Global warming deniers thought they had an ally in physicist Richard Muller, but it turns out that Muller is a real scientist after all.

From Mother Jones:
Physicists are notorious for believing that other scientists are mathematically incompetent. And University of California-Berkeley physicist Richard Muller is notorious for believing that conventional wisdom is often wrong. For example, the conventional wisdom about climate change. Muller has criticized Al Gore in the past as an "exaggerator," has spoken warmly of climate skeptic Anthony Watts, and has said that Steve McIntyre's famous takedown of the "hockey stick" climate graph made him "uncomfortable" with the paper the hockey stick was originally based on.

So in 2010 he started up the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature project (BEST) to show the world how to do climate analysis right. Who better, after all? "Muller's views on climate have made him a darling of skeptics," said Scientific American, "and newly elected Republicans in the House of Representatives, who invited him to testify to the Committee on Science, Space and Technology about his preliminary results." The Koch Foundation, founded by the billionaire oil brothers who have been major funders of the climate-denial machine, gave BEST a $150,000 grant.

But Muller's congressional testimony last March didn't go according to plan. He told them a preliminary analysis suggested that the three main climate models in use today—each of which uses a different estimating technique, and each of which has potential flaws—are all pretty accurate: Global temperatures have gone up considerably over the past century, and the increase has accelerated over the past few decades. Yesterday, BEST confirmed these results and others in its first set of published papers about land temperatures. (Ocean studies will come later.) ...

In the press release announcing the results, Muller said, "Our biggest surprise was that the new results agreed so closely with the warming values published previously by other teams in the US and the UK." In other words, climate scientists know what they're doing after all.

According to TPM, the global warming deniers are already abandoning Muller:
“When we began our study, we felt that skeptics had raised legitimate issues, and we didn’t know what we’d find,” Muller wrote in a Friday Wall Street Journal op-ed. “Our results turned out to be close to those published by prior groups. We think that means that those groups had truly been very careful in their work, despite their inability to convince some skeptics of that. They managed to avoid bias in their data selection, homogenization and other corrections. Global warming is real. Perhaps our results will help cool this portion of the climate debate.”

That’s put a small but influential group of anthropogenic global warming skeptics and climate change deniers on the war path.

Blogger Anthony Watts — a meteorologist and blogger who doubts greenhouse gases contribute to warming — was excited about Muller’s group’s work and in March boasted “I’m prepared to accept whatever result they produce, even if it proves my premise wrong.”

On Thursday he appended an asterisk to that contention — he can’t accept the group’s conclusions because they haven’t been peer reviewed.

“Since the paper has not completed peer review yet, it would be inappropriate for me to publicly comment on the conclusions, especially in light of a basic procedural error that has been discovered in the methodology that will likely require a rework of the data and calculations, and thus the conclusions may also change,” Watts wrote.

Taking a different approach, Marc Morano — a former aide to Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) and author of the website Climate Depot has a different, subtler line of attack: “[T]he climate debate has not centered on whether the Earth has warmed since the end of the Little Ice Age about 1850 or since the 1950s. The climate debate is about how much humans may or may not be contributing to the warming trend,” Morano wrote Friday, calling Muller a “befuddled warmist.”
Climate Depot since at least March of 2011 had been publicly warning that Muller’s entire BEST project was a predetermined con set up to take down a straw man argument. See: On 3-23-11, Climate Depot wrote in group email to fellow skeptics: ‘This whole [Muller] project has to be a set up to screw skeptics. Who disputes warming has taken place? Why have we allowed Muller to set up a straw man argument to take cheap shots at skeptics? It appears Muller is incapable of running this project.
Funny, huh? I wonder what the Koch brothers think about their $150,000? Of course, that's chump change for them. But they probably won't make the mistake of picking a real scientist next time. Scientists tend to value the truth.


Jim Harris said...

I wonder at what point the climate deniers will admit they are wrong? If sea level rose 1 foot? If space aliens came and sucked up all the extra CO2 for us and the climate stated cooling? If Jesus came back to Earth and instead of starting the rapture told everyone to follow his prophet Al Gore? What will make them change their minds?

Tony Williams said...

Sadly, no amount of evidence will sway the hard-line deniers - they simply dismiss it as wrong, or the result of a conspiracy.

However, this is a new summary of what we know and don't know about climate change, which deserves wide distribution:

WCG said...

Thanks for the link, Tony.

And yes, I suspect that deniers will never admit that they're wrong. After all, if they were that rational, they'd accept the scientific consensus.