There is an overwhelming scientific consensus on the question of anthropogenic (human-induced) climate change. In fact, most people would say that it is no longer a question. A number of the most prestigious scientific institutions in the world, including the American Physical Society, the National Academy of Science and numerous others have issued formal statements affirming their conviction that global warming is real and that it is man-made. There remain a few skeptics, however, some of them in prestigious positions, who, like tiny ball-bearings beneath a large edifice, undermine the confidence in this crucial understanding, providing a leverage point for those powerful interests who would rather not see a sudden curtailment in the consumption of fossil fuel.
One of these skeptics, until a week ago, was Richard Muller, a highly regarded physicist at the University of California Berkeley. He gave lectures asserting that climate change was a not to be taken seriously (see video). His reputation as a climate change denier grew based on comments he made after the 2010 Climategate scandal suggesting that the scientists in question might not be trustworthy, that there were risks of bias and, more seriously, they had hidden data, a position that he apparently still maintains.
These comments drew the attention of oil and coal magnates, the Koch brothers who were already on a shopping spree, looking for any reputable scientist they could find who was willing to sow enough seeds of doubt to immobilize any serious action on the issue.
They funded Muller and his team to establish the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature project, to take a more critical look at the available data. The team examined some 1.6 billion temperature measurements. Then, last March, Muller testified before the House Science Committee and surprised his sponsors by reporting “a global warming trend that is very similar to that previously reported by the other groups.” His conclusion was that “the world temperature data has sufficient integrity to be used to determine global temperature trends.”
However, he still continued to criticize the science, the methodology, and the “tricks” being used to cover up “inconvenient” data, that might cast on the “hockey stick” graph that Al Gore popularized, and has therefore still been considered a climate skeptic.
Last week, he clarified his position, which has clearly evolved, in an editorial in the NY Times which opens with “Call me a converted skeptic.” He goes on to say,
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.
This, of course, is no surprise to most of us. But it is still significant in that one more pillar of the castle of falsehoods, manufactured by the oil and coal industries, following the lead of the tobacco industry before them (and using some of the same PR firms) has toppled, bringing the entire charade closer to total annihilation.
To say, “not a moment too soon” would be an understatement, especially in light of James Hansen’s recent study which links global warming with recent extreme weather. The study claims that, “We can say with high confidence that such extreme anomalies would not have occurred in the absence of global warming.”
In other words, climate change is not some abstraction or something that might happen in the future. Climate change is here now. Buckle your seat belts folks; it’s going to be a rough ride.
RP Siegel, PE, is an inventor, consultant and author. He co-wrote the eco-thriller Vapor Trails, the first in a series covering the human side of various sustainability issues including energy, food, and water in an exciting and entertaining format. Now available on Kindle.
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