Muller's Star Turn in Climate Soap Opera

By Keith Kloor | July 29, 2012 8:52 am

Last year, Berkley physicist Richard Muller excited the climate world with this WSJ op-ed:

The Case Against Global Warming Skepticism

He touted his Berkley team’s preliminary re-analysis of temperature trends that, as Brad Plumer drily noted,

appears to have confirmed the basic tenets of climate science.

At the time, many climate scientists rolled their eyes at Muller’s grandstanding announcement, but because he was a darling of climate skeptics and his work was partially funded by the Koch brothers, it was all great fodder for the long-running soap opera, “As the Climate World Turns.”

Today, Muller is back in the news with what seems like a slightly tweaked re-run of the original episode.

Roger Pielke Jr. yawns and Joe Romm calls it a bombshell. As this latest over-hyped drama plays out, I wonder if anyone will notice that Muller, in his current NYT piece, has foreshadowed his next op-ed (in the Washington Post?) sometime in the next year or two. In case you missed it:

I still find that much, if not most, of what is attributed to climate change is speculative, exaggerated or just plain wrong. I’ve analyzed some of the most alarmist claims, and my skepticism about them hasn’t changed.

How clever is that?! In one swoop, he throws a bone to the Koch Brothers while setting the stage for his next conversion.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: climate change, climate politics
  • grypo

    So he’s going to write an op-ed about “alarmist strawmen claims” polar bears, MWP, 2035?  That would be almost as new as claiming that the temperature has risen and mankind is mostly responsible!

  • Joshua

    Your post captures my reaction exactly.

    I did notice that particular paragraph. What is “much?” Does he think it’s “most” or not?

    Is he saying that he thinks that “most” of what is attributed to climate change is speculative? Well, isn’t that why error bars and CIs are included in analytical assessments? How does he determine which claims are the “most alarmist?” What constitutes “skepticism” about those claims, and who isn’t skeptical about the claims? (I.e., does being skeptical mean being less than 100% sure that the claims are accurate?)

    I fail to see why he refers to himself as a reformed “skeptic.” The logic of that paragraph is perfectly in line with much of what I read in the skept-o-sphere (yes, I stole it).

  • Pingback: 'Converted' Skeptic: Humans Driving Recent Warming -

  • Tom Fuller

    I detect the same mischievous grasping of the chance for notoriety previously exhibited on the skeptic side by Monckton and the alarmist side by Mann. 

    I’m okay with it, because I think BEST is a worthwhile addition to our knowledge base. But I ain’t looking at Muller’s various pronouncements as anything other than self-aggrandizement…

  • Zeke Hausfather

    Its worth noting that the Berkeley Earth site currently says: “New Berkeley Earth analysis Coming Soon. Berkeley Earth will be releasing its latest results and analysis on Monday 30 July.”All we have right now is an op-ed, as interesting as that is.

  • grypo

    Zeke,According to Revkin, who said he got it from Curry, “she’ll be posting a long analysis of the new paper later today written by Steven Mosher and Zeke Hausfather, who have examined the Berkeley work on her blog before.”  Accurate?

  • Mike Mangan

    Muller must cause involuntary muscle twitching and painful cognitive dissonance in Alarmist ground troops. They have been trained to despise anyone who goes off narrative like Muller does when he spits on their talking points of AGW- induced derechos and what not. It. Does. Not. Compute.

  • Tom Scharf

    Interesting in that he now claims attribution to CO2 for recent temperature rise. A win for the climate home team. Not so much for the CAGW team. I’m not so convinced by the “it’s the best correlation we can find so it must be true” argument but he states the case well and also is quite transparent with his data and methods. A model for good science. He also makes his best guess of where it is going which also adds credibility and some test ability. 

  • Sashka

    I didn’t understand, what he attributes the LIA to. If it’s not Sun and it couldn’t be CO2 then LIA sets the scale for natural variability that is not correlated with anything we know.

    Thus his attribution logic is unclear.

  • BBD


    Thus his attribution logic is unclear.

    Looked at another way, known climate behaviour (eg LIA; MWP) in response to what are apparently small changes in forcing does rather suggest that feedbacks must net positive. An insensitive climate system would not – could not – behave as observed. So Muller’s view that CO2 forcing is the most plausible cause of modern warming does make sense.

  • Jack Hughes

    If he is happy to lie about his “conversion” then what else is he lying about?

  • harrywr2

    #8An insensitive climate system would not ““ could not ““ behave as observed.It could if sensitivity was non-linear. Lot’s of stuff in nature exhibits behavior similar to a sine wave. We already know that clouds can be either positive or negative feed backs.

  • Steven Sullivan

    My, aren’t we cynical?

  • Sashka


    The point is that the system is rich and complex enough to both swing away and back to equilibrium. This means that there both positive and negative feedbacks.

  • Zeke Hausfather

    grypo,Accurate. Though at the time we were unsure if it would be posted around midnight EST or earlier in the day. The original plan was to release everything around midnight, but then Reason somehow was leaked the results early and everything sped up.

  • BBD

    Sashka, harrywr2

    Thanks for confirming that you really do not understand the basics at all.

  • Joshua

    Does anyone else find anything a tad ironic here?:

    From Pielke Sr.

    It certainly appears that Richard Muller is an attention-getter, which
    he has succeeded at, …The proper way to complete a research study is provided in the Watts et al 2012 article.

  • stan

    Diogenes would have had more difficulty if he’d searched for a humble climate scientist.

  • Stu

    Joshua says:”Does anyone else find anything a tad ironic here?”Watts pulled a Muller…

  • Sashka

    – If astrology were true, twins would have the same fate.

    -It is totally provable!

    -From gypsies?

    – Why wouldn’t it have an influence on our personalities?

    – You know who believes this? My babysitter.

    There is more crime during the full moon.

    Well, who knows?

    It’s like the universe knows this stuff.

    You guys just don’t get the fundamental basics.

  • willard

    If **Hamlet** was true, it would always be played the same way.

    **Hamlet** always have the same fate, so **Hamlet** is true.

    The EPR paradox shows that physics is not true anyway.

    Well, at least according to our Knight of Ni’s truth, which is just a bit weaker than Chuck Norris truth.

  • Sashka

    Next batch of bovine manure has arrived.

  • willard

    Have I steered our Knight of Ni wrong?

    Enjoy my vacation,


  • MarkB

    Ah, the Koch brothers! Where once we had ‘the Jews,’ now we have a bogeyman for a new age. Stay classy.

  • Steven Sullivan

    LOL, MarkB, gotta love this, given how you AGW denier crybabies whine that you’re tarred with a Holocaust brush.

  • Sashka

    The presence of Black Knight is irrelevant. His absence is always welcome.

  • Eli Rabett

    #24:  George Soros


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About Keith Kloor

Keith Kloor is a NYC-based journalist, and an adjunct professor of journalism at New York University. His work has appeared in Slate, Science, Discover, and the Washington Post magazine, among other outlets. From 2000 to 2008, he was a senior editor at Audubon Magazine. In 2008-2009, he was a Fellow at the University of Colorado’s Center for Environmental Journalism, in Boulder, where he studied how a changing environment (including climate change) influenced prehistoric societies in the U.S. Southwest. He covers a wide range of topics, from conservation biology and biotechnology to urban planning and archaeology.


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