By Jay Bookman
October 24, 2011
Richard Muller, a physics professor at Cal-Berkeley, has been a celebrated skeptic about the true extent of climate change.
Muller has questioned whether the data had been skewed by the “heat-island effect.” He has had his doubts about the so-called “hockey stick,” which shows global temperatures rising much faster since the early 19th century than at any point in the last thousand years. In the past, he has called the hockey stick “an incredible error” and “the artifact of poor mathematics.” And he has been quite harsh in his condemnation of fellow scientists involved in the s0-called ClimateGate scandal:
“I frankly as a scientist — I now have a list of people whose papers I’m won’t read anymore. You’re not allowed to do this in science. This is not up to our standards.”
So Muller, acting in the best traditions of science, decided to redo that work. He put together a top-notch team that included Saul Perlmutter, who just recently won the Nobel Prize in physics, and Judith Curry of Georgia Tech, another noted scientist who has been critical of some of the work of some of her peers. Their project — funded in part by a grant from the Charles M. Koch Foundation — just completed its two-year work.
Last week, Muller and the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature team released its findings (the results have yet to undergo peer review). As Muller described it:
Our biggest surprise was that the new results agreed so closely with the warming values published previously by other teams in the US and the UK. This confirms that these studies were done carefully and that potential biases identified by climate change skeptics did not seriously affect their conclusions.
As he wrote in the Wall Street Journal:
“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. We think that means that those groups had truly been very careful in their work, despite their inability to convince some skeptics of that. They managed to avoid bias in their data selection, homogenization and other corrections.”
Here’s a chart produced by Muller’s team, documenting the findings of three other research teams as well as the BEST team. Note how closely the findings track each other.
This is how science works. It checks upon itself. And when the position that you had previously taken has been proved false, you do what Muller has done:
You change your position.