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November 08, 2011
I Was Never a Climate Change Skeptic, Physicist Richard Muller Now Says
    by Robert Kropp

In a study partly funded by the Koch brothers, a team of Berkeley physicists conclude that climate change is real and that studies debunked by skeptics were in fact accurate.

Charles and David Koch own Koch Industries, a Kansas-based oil company that is one of the leading emitters of greenhouse gases (GHGs) in the US. The Koch brothers also happen to be entrenched climate deniers, and have used their considerable wealth to fund opposition to climate change legislation.

So when the Charles Koch Foundation helped fund a study of climate change by Berkeley physicist Richard Muller, one might well have expected that the results would conform to their agenda. After all, Muller himself had raised questions about the veracity of climate science, arguing that data obtained from many weather stations around the world was so poor that the margin of error was scientifically unacceptable.

Muller also excoriated climate scientists for emails stolen by hackers from the Climatic Research Unit at the UK-based University of East Anglia, which, skeptics and deniers were quick to argue, revealed a conspiracy among climate scientists to manipulate data. However, a study of Muller's criticism of one such email suggests that he may well have manipulated its contents to alter the meaning of its message.

So what did the study by Muller and his team of scientists at the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature project conclude? "Global warming is real," their report concluded, finding that the earth's temperature has indeed increased by about one degree Celsius since the mid-1950s.

Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Muller himself stated, "When we began our study, we felt that skeptics had raised legitimate issues, and we didn't know what we'd find. Our results turned out to be close to those published by prior groups," including the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). IPCC had been attacked by climate skeptics for a single statistical error addressing the rate of melt of arctic ice in its authoritative Fourth Assessment Report, published in 2007.

"We think that means that those groups had truly been very careful in their work, despite their inability to convince some skeptics of that," Muller continued. "They managed to avoid bias in their data selection, homogenization and other corrections."

While acknowledging the reality of climate change, the Berkeley report declined to conclude to what extent it is due to human activity. Nor did it factor in the effects of global rises in ocean temperatures, although it did conclude that warming has been greatest on land.

Do the results of the study suggest that the debate will now move from whether climate change is real to what to do about it? Apparently not to the Koch brothers. The Charles Koch Foundation was quick to point out that the Berkeley study "did not examine ocean temperature data or the cause of warming on our climate, as some have claimed."

In an interview with the Huffington Post, Muller contended, "I was never a skeptic—only a scientific skeptic."

However, "I certainly feel that there is lots of room for skepticism on the human component of warming," Muller continued.

But in another inter view, Muller stated, "Greenhouse gases could have a disastrous impact on the world."


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