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A prominent physicist and skeptic of global warming spent two years trying to
find out if mainstream climate scientists were wrong. In the end, he determined
they were right: Temperatures really are rising rapidly.
The study of the world’s surface temperatures by Richard Muller was partially
bankrolled by a foundation connected to global warming deniers. He pursued
long-held skeptic theories in analyzing the data. He was spurred to action
because of “Climategate,” a British scandal involving hacked emails of
Yet he found that the land is 1.6 degrees warmer than in the
1950s. Those numbers from Muller, who works at the University of California,
Berkeley and Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, match those by the National Oceanic
and Atmospheric Administration and NASA.
He said he went even further back, studying readings from Benjamin Franklin and
Thomas Jefferson. His ultimate finding of a warming world, to be presented at a
conference Monday, is no different from what mainstream climate scientists have
been saying for decades.
What’s different, and why everyone from opinion columnists to “The Daily Show”
is paying attention is who is behind the study.
One-quarter of the $600,000 to do the research came from the Charles Koch
Foundation, whose founder is a major funder of skeptic groups and the tea party.
The Koch brothers, Charles and David, run a large privately held company
involved in oil and other industries, producing sizable greenhouse gas
Muller’s research team carefully examined two chief criticisms by skeptics. One
is that weather stations are unreliable; the other is that cities, which create
heat islands, were skewing the temperature analysis.
“The skeptics raised valid points and everybody should have been a skeptic two
years ago,” Muller said in a telephone interview. “And now we have confidence
that the temperature rise that had previously been reported had been done
Muller said that he came into the study “with a proper skepticism,” something
scientists “should always have. I was somewhat bothered by the fact that there
was not enough skepticism” before.
There is no reason now to be a skeptic about steadily increasing temperatures,
Muller wrote recently in The Wall Street Journal’s editorial pages, a place
friendly to skeptics. Muller did not address in his research the cause of global
warming. The overwhelming majority of climate scientists say it’s man-made from
the burning of fossil fuels such as coal and oil. Nor did his study look at
ocean warming, future warming and how much of a threat to mankind climate change
Still, Muller said it makes sense to reduce the carbon dioxide created by fossil
“Greenhouse gases could have a disastrous impact on the world,” he said. Still,
he contends that threat is not as proven as the Nobel Prize-winning
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says it is.
On Monday, Muller was taking his results — four separate papers that are not yet
published or peer-reviewed, but will be, he says — to a conference in Santa Fe,
N.M., expected to include many prominent skeptics as well as mainstream