A climate change denier studies the data, changes his opinion

Even the naysayers have now changed there minds. Well, some have. This is an update to this story from October: SCIENCE WIN: A skeptical physicist ends up confirming climate data

Richard Muller writes in the New York Times:
The Conversion of a Climate-Change Skeptic.

Three years ago I identified problems in previous climate studies that, in my mind, threw doubt on the very existence of global warming. Last year, following an intensive research effort involving a dozen scientists, I concluded that global warming was real and that the prior estimates of the rate of warming were correct. I’m now going a step further: Humans are almost entirely the cause.

My total turnaround, in such a short time, is the result of careful and objective analysis by the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature project, which I founded with my daughter Elizabeth. Our results show that the average temperature of the earth’s land has risen by two and a half degrees Fahrenheit over the past 250 years, including an increase of one and a half degrees over the most recent 50 years. Moreover, it appears likely that essentially all of this increase results from the human emission of greenhouse gases.

These findings are stronger than those of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the United Nations group that defines the scientific and diplomatic consensus on global warming. In its 2007 report, the I.P.C.C. concluded only that most of the warming of the prior 50 years could be attributed to humans.

How definite is the attribution to humans? The carbon dioxide curve gives a better match than anything else we’ve tried. Its magnitude is consistent with the calculated greenhouse effect — extra warming from trapped heat radiation. These facts don’t prove causality and they shouldn’t end skepticism, but they raise the bar: to be considered seriously, an alternative explanation must match the data at least as well as carbon dioxide does.

Science is that narrow realm of knowledge that, in principle, is universally accepted. I embarked on this analysis to answer questions that, to my mind, had not been answered. I hope that the Berkeley Earth analysis will help settle the scientific debate regarding global warming and its human causes.


Tip: Thomas Holtz (@TomHoltzPaleo on Twitter)

Yes, this was an opinion piece. The papers have not yet been published in support. Muller makes some strong claims. This piece in the LA Times outlines the good and bad reactions to his coming out on global warming:

“If you go into public arena and claim to have generated evidence that is stronger than the IPCC, where is the detailed, scientific evidence? Has he used fundamental new data sets?” Santer said. “Publish the science and report on it after it’s done.”

He added: “I think you can do great harm to the broader debate. Imagine this scenario: that he makes these great claims and the papers aren’t published? This (op-ed) is in the spirit of publicity, not the spirit of science.”

Elizabeth Muller, co-founder and executive director of the Berkeley project and Richard Muller’s daughter, said the papers had been peer-reviewed, but not yet published. But because of the long lead-up to publication, the Berkeley team decided to place its papers online, in part to solicit comment from other scientists. She said all the papers, including the latest, would be on the BerkeleyEarth.org website by Sunday evening.

“I believe the findings in our papers are too important to wait for the year or longer that it could take to complete the journal review process,” Elizabeth Muller wrote in an email. “We believe in traditional peer review; we welcome feedback [from] the public and any scientists who are interested in taking the time to make thoughtful comments. Our papers have received scrutiny by dozens of top scientists, not just the two or three that typically are called upon by journalists.”

Here’s the question you must ask of the holdouts against AGW at this point: IS there any evidence that WILL make you change your mind? No? Then you are not being rational and your belief is based on your wishes, not the truth.

  2 comments for “A climate change denier studies the data, changes his opinion

  1. Massachusetts
    July 29, 2012 at 7:13 PM

    Well, this is rather encouraging. I hope the peer reviewed paper does fulfill the promise.

    Is it really that outrageous to comment on a peer reviewed paper before publication? Is that a mark against his research?

    “IS there any evidence that WILL make you change your mind? No? Then you are not being rational and your belief is based on your wishes, not the truth.”

    Well said. That should be the gold standard of all inquiry to distinguish scientific intentions from other motivations. Though I do wonder sometimes what it would take for me to change my mind about certain things–a lot I suppose, in some circumstances.

  2. Still Skeptical
    July 31, 2012 at 12:44 PM

    As the man said himself, “These facts don’t prove causality and they shouldn’t end skepticism”

    A central tenet of science and skepticism is that “correlation does not equal causation” and I’m glad to see this in the press release.

    I do not “deny” the A in AGW, I am waiting for something more definitive than a “correlation”. I am always searching for that definitive bit of data that will push me one way or the other.

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