Lack of Environment

A blog on the politics and psychology underlying the denial of all our environmental problems

Muller knows BEST that Watts is wrong

with 21 comments

Last year, Dr Richard A Muller caused quite a stir by publishing the conclusions of the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature (BEST) study, which, despite receiving significant funding from the Koch Brothers and the fossil fuel lobby, bravely admitted that late 20th Century warming is unprecedented and real (i.e. not an artefact of the location of measurement locations).

BEST data overlayed on MBH98 Hockey Stick

BEST data overlayed on MBH98 Hockey Stick

Last Saturday, Muller went one step further and, in an op-ed piece in the New York Times newspaper, admitted that he now accepts that ongoing warming is “almost entirely” the result of human activity (i.e. the burning of fossil fuels).

It seems that Anthony Watts was so surprised by this that, presumably on being alerted to its imminent publication, Watts immediately cancelled his planned vacation and released into the blogosphere an un-peer reviewed, pre-publication paper; which seeks to cast doubt on the validity of the BEST study’s original conclusion.

Unsurprisingly, Watts et al claim that they are merely doing what Muller et al did last year (i.e. publishing online first).  However, I think there is a significant difference here, which is that the BEST team headed by Muller is comprised of scientists well-respected in their field, whereas Watts et al are not.

So what is all the fuss about?  Well for those who do not want to accept that recent warming (and/or climate disruption) is unprecedented or primarily caused by human activity, it will always make sense to start by denying that it is happening and/or that we are causing it to happen (i.e. the first two of the six pillars of climate change denial [with my thanks to Robert Henson]).

Muller had nothing to gain from publishing what he did last year and, in doing so, he annoyed an awful lot of his hitherto friends and financiers; who have thus been reduced to disowning him and/or claiming that he was never a true sceptic.  However, this is patently ridiculous because, even in his new op-ed piece, Muller continues to demonstrate that he does not understand how climate models work  (describing them as being “notorious for their hidden assumptions and adjustable parameters”) and, by implication, that he does not understand that concern over anthropogenic climate disruption (ACD) is derived from undergraduate-level study of thermodynamics and palaeoclimatology. But this should not be allowed to detract from the main point of his piece, which is to assert that humans need to accept that we are all responsible for what is now happening; and that we therefore need to take responsibility for what happens next.

Nevertheless, I must confess to being amused by Michael Mann’s tweet regarding Muller’s long road towards embracing reality: “At this rate, Muller should be caught up to the current state of climate science within a matter of just a few years!” (as reported by Desmogblog recently).  Given some of the things Muller has said in the past, I think Mann’s cynicism is understandable; and I would therefore still like to see Muller admit that he should not have previously cast doubt on the integrity of climate science and scientists by appearing to either misunderstand or misrepresent the meaning of the infamous “hide the decline” UEA/CRU email.

Unfortunately, rather than concede that Muller has now done a demolition job on both of these first two pillars of climate change denial, Watts et al are therefore still trying to cast doubt on the validity of what BEST did; by asserting that 50% of the warming recorded across the contiguous USA is not real.  However, even if there is some validity to their criticisms, does this change anything?  Not really, I suspect.  Unless of course you are a conspiracy theorist; and believe that someone is trying to get you worried about ACD as a pretext to tax you more heavily, etc., etc..

It would therefore appear that Watts et al are trying to use this uncertainty to cast doubt on the validity of the warming measured over the remaining 98% of the Earth’s surface; despite this being accepted as fact by professional and academic institutions all around the world. Again, such a fact only appears suspicious to those who presuppose that someone is trying to fool them.

However, who is it that has a long track-record of trying to misrepresent science to the public?  Is it scientists, or is it big business?  This is not a difficult question to answer and, in the absence of personal expertise – it is the main reason why Occam’s Razor should be accepted as a valid basis on which to proceed – the most likely explanation (requiring the least number of contingencies and/or assumptions about hidden motives and/or conspiratorial behaviour for which there is no solid evidence) is probably the correct one.

Instead of which, thanks to a post-modernist penchant for (1) distrusting all external authority and (2) invoking the fallacious marketplace of ideas (i.e. the Dunning-Kruger effect), large numbers of people continue to prefer to believe that the majority of relevantly-qualified, active researchers into climate science are either stupid, incompetent, or simply “in it for the money”.

I will leave the final word to Public Relations expert (turned climate activist) James Hoggan:

Democracy is utterly dependent upon an electorate that is accurately informed. In promoting climate change denial (and often denying their responsibility for doing so) industry has done more than endanger the environment. It has undermined democracy…  There is a vast difference between putting forth a point of view, honestly held, and intentionally sowing the seeds of confusion. Free speech does not include the right to deceive. Deception is not a point of view. And the right to disagree does not include a right to intentionally subvert the public awareness.


Further reading:

Although now a bit dated, this piece by Hoggan – promoting his (then new) book Climate Cover-Up: The Crusade to Deny Global Warming (2009) – is still well worth reading:  
Slamming the climate skeptic scam (15 June 2009)

Written by Martin Lack

1 August 2012 at 00:02

21 Responses

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  1. Democracy is all about accurate information. Both using it and creating it.

    Patrice Ayme

    1 August 2012 at 04:55

    • Thanks Patrice. What is truly amazing is that Watts et al seem determined to fight on against almost unimaginable odds such as these:
      “…the warmest May on record for the Northern Hemisphere – the 327th consecutive month in which the temperature of the entire globe exceeded the 20th-century average, the odds of which occurring by simple chance were 3.7 x 10-99, a number considerably larger than the number of stars in the universe.”Bill McKibbin

      Martin Lack

      1 August 2012 at 08:10

  2. Watts is locked in a corner with no way out and as this reality sinks into his shaky cognitive framework so he will thrash around with increasing irrationality. And I won’t even mention where ethics and just plain decency fit in here.

    Good article Martin, hits most of the relevant spots.

    PS. I like Albinoni too (and most other Baroque, I could email you with some of my Most Played if you like), although generally in small doses. Those who said of Vivaldi that he wrote one concerto a hundred times were probably thinking more of Albinoni.

    Lionel A

    1 August 2012 at 12:12

    • Presumably, Lionel, this is a somewhat deliberately obscure suggestion for music to be played at Watts’ funeral? If so, I agree it would be is very beautiful…:-)

      Martin Lack

      1 August 2012 at 14:21

  3. I would like to add, and intended to earlier, that visitors to this thread may gain much more perspective, if not insight, into the Watts attention seeking at Eli’s

    PS. on Baroque, look out for Locatelli, the Vivaldi many have not heard of (including readers of Classic FM’s DK book for some strange reason), I can particularly recommend Opus 4 by the Raglan Players.

    Lionel A

    1 August 2012 at 15:52

    • Thanks for that Lionel. I am very pleased to see that serious players in the mainstream blogosphere have attempted to debunk Watts et al (2012). I had emailed quite a few of them in the hope that someone would…

      Martin Lack

      1 August 2012 at 17:21

  4. Not everybody sees the Muller BEST study, and the fallout from it, as being favourable to our chances of doing anything positive about pulling back from the brink of climatological and ecological disaster as this thought provoking post makes clear. H/T J Bowers over at Tamino’s place on the ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ thread.

    I am much inclined to agree with that assessment considering the way Muller strutted about the stage pulling apart climate scientists in the wake of Climategate. Leopards and spots and all that.

    Lionel A

    8 August 2012 at 19:52

  5. And is if to underline the True Muller I have just picked up this via a link at Deltoid, Mann calls out Muller on Democracy Now fibs.

    Lionel A

    9 August 2012 at 11:31

    • Thanks for the link to that, Lionel. I had heard the soundbyte about Muller catching up in a few years time but not seen its context before… When was Muller on Democracy Now? I can’t see how he could possibly have said all these things recently…!

      Martin Lack

      9 August 2012 at 14:45

  6. The points raised by Mike Mann at that Facebook page do not seem a good match for the dialogue in the Democracy Now session linked to in Deltoid posts. I have been searching, without success so far, for a DN session that may be the subject of Mann’s rebuttal.

    Whatever, and watching the session linked to in this post, Muller clearly has either missed the discussions on many of the points he raises or is still peddling for fossil fuel interests particularly with his heavy reference to China being pushed to a natural gas economy.

    In short Muller either has a long way to go to catch up with reality or doesn’t care about it.

    Lionel A

    9 August 2012 at 16:59

    • Yes but, when did he say all this stuff on the Democracy Now! website? Was it recently and/or since he published his latest opinions on 28 July?

      Martin Lack

      9 August 2012 at 17:30

  7. The Muller fibs come in at about 40:36 in the linked to DN session where Goodman goes back to a 2009 interview with Muller:

    ‘…we have only had about one degree Fahrenheit of Global Warming so far, none whatsoever in the last ten years. You need to know that because otherwise you will misunderstand when people criticise global warming as not real. The reason they are saying it is not real is that there hasn’t been any in ten years. But we don’t expect it to happen every year…’

    I have highlighted the last – is that supposed to be a scientist talking? Totally misleading. Little better than Lindzen, Michaels and Christy.

    And when asked by Goodman if that was still his opinion he uniquvically answers in the affirmative.

    Muller’s glosses over the US contribution to historical CO2 accumulations, and yes I am aware that the UK and Europe contributed too. Does he really expect China to play ball in reducing emissions if the US does not also take a lead.

    Muller still leaves much to be desired.

    Lionel A

    9 August 2012 at 17:39

  8. Well actually, now that I have managed to get past the severe buffering, internet con’, experienced whilst trying to watch that episode of DN, it is clear that Mann was responding to statements of Muller made during that piece and not just the throwback to 2009.

    Lionel A

    9 August 2012 at 19:59

  9. […] then John Christy, and then James Hansen (all of which have been covered on this blog recently – here, here, and here), I decided to try once more to see if there is any scope for having a rational […]

  10. Muller STILL thinks very little of CRU/Mann etc (last month)

    Interviewer: ”…now that you have validated the information that was in dispute, supposedly, in the Climategate matter, is it fair to say, once and for all, that that is a settled matter, that should be all be [inaudible] and set aside?”

    Prof Richard Muller: “No, no, no. Just the opposite. Actually, that’s not really accurate at all. The data they used in Climategate was proxy data. I wrote a book on the using of that.

    What they did was, I think, shameful. And it was scientific malpractice. If they were licensed scientists, they should have to lose their licence.”

    Barry Woods

    6 September 2012 at 14:34

    • Let me inform you of a little known fact amongst false sceptics: It matters little what Richard Muller thinks of ‘CRU/Mann etc’ (which is rather a broad target for your aspersion casting). You are aware that another new line of research supports the already numerous ‘hockey stick team’, are you not?

      If you are still thrashing around treating WUWT with respect then you are desperate given that Watts is currently melting down as fast as the Arctic ice. Even when shown to be demonstrably wrong, Watts simply doubles down; alters or deletes posts from his blog; and spins more. Watts has shown clearly that he is in a flat spin; and he shows no sign of having a tail ‘chute to deploy.

      For Muller to accuse others of scientific malpractice will come to haunt him; and your repeating the quote will surely encourage those he has libelled (for that is what it amounts to) to act. You’re becoming as tedious as Delingpole with his suggestion to Paul Nurse, ‘let’s get back to Climategate shall we‘.

      Lionel A

      6 September 2012 at 16:35

    • Thanks for letting me know, Barry. Elizabeth Muller has never given me an answer. Mann still thinks very little of Muller too (judging by his infamous ‘Muller will have caught up with climate science within a decade or two’ tweet).

      However, none of this squabbling makes the slightest difference to the fact that there was no scientific malpractice at CRU; and only conspiracy theorists insist otherwise. Climategate 2.0 proved it was all a mendacious scam. Therefore, even if the original hackers have held back yet another tranche of data-mined de-contextualised email quotations, I very much doubt there will be a Climategate 3.0.

      Be brave, Barry; and read this:

      Martin Lack

      6 September 2012 at 17:21

  11. Just enjoy the indian summer.
    I managed three blog posts in about 6 months, I don’t know how Martin keeps this up

    Lionel, as a guest author at WUWT and I wrote the above article, your is an activists characiture

    Barry Woods

    7 September 2012 at 10:55

    • Presumably Barry, you meant to write this: Just enjoy the indian summer. I managed three blog posts in about 6 months (I don’t know how Martin keeps this up Lionel) as a guest author at WUWT, and I wrote the above article. Your’s is an activists’ characiture.…?

      If so, you seem to forget that I am still unemployed (and you have not addressed my previous comment). I must admit, however, to not being able to fathom Muller out. One minute he is courting publicity claiming to have renounced his skepticism; the next he is behaving like Lindzen and accusing the CRU of deceit and malpractice. He is in danger of becoming a friend of no-one; and an object of scorn to all.

      Martin Lack

      7 September 2012 at 15:32

  12. Lionel, as a guest author at WUWT and I wrote the above article, your is an activists characiture

    Me an activist and you are not I suppose?

    Caricature or character?

    Whatever. Any attempt to get traction out of the so called Climategate and of Hockey Sticks would be to avoid the essential truth of the matter given the added recent information. The late 20th Century and early 21st Century warming is now unprecedented for millennia as is the rate of Arctic ice melt..

    As I wrote, it matters not a jot that Muller is trying to sling ‘dark brown smelly stuff’ at climate scientists as the truth is, sadly for all of us, revealing itself more strongly with each day. Let alone week, year, millennium. That same ‘stuff’ is bouncing back to sender and those that persist in denial will look sillier and sillier.

    A guest author at WUWT. Wow! Now that is a feather in your cap, shame it came from an ostrich.

    Lionel A

    7 September 2012 at 12:58

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