Year 3, Month 8, Day 28: Nice Work If You Can Get It

The Arizona Star discusses the problem and tries to be even-handed, while simultaneously pointing out that the denialists are full of shit:

The following appeared in the Chicago Tribune on Friday:

It’s official: July was the hottest month in the continental U.S. since the government began keeping those records in 1895.

For years, scientists have warned that climate change is happening. They reached that conclusion not because of a hot summer like this one, but from decades of data that show slowly rising temperatures.

In 2010, the National Academy of Sciences unequivocally warned: “A strong, credible body of scientific evidence shows that climate change is occurring, is caused largely by human activities, and poses significant risks for a broad range of human and natural systems.”

Americans have heard similar alarms before, and no doubt many have become adept at tuning them out, which is why we’d like to draw attention to physicist Richard Muller, a prominent climate-change skeptic who has changed his mind. Here’s what Muller wrote in a July 28 New York Times op-ed:

“Call me a converted skeptic. Three years ago I identified problems in previous climate studies that in my mind threw doubt on the very existence of global warming. 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.”

One reason Muller’s conversion is drawing attention: His Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature Project was heavily funded by the Charles Koch Charitable Foundation, which has a history of supporting groups that deny climate change.

Muller’s latest scientific paper will be pawed and poked by climate scientists – skeptics and believers alike. We’ll see how well it holds up.

One thing we can predict with certainty: Muller will not convince all climate doubters. But complete agreement usually isn’t necessary or achievable in science. Heck, there are still physicists who don’t think Einstein got it right.

Climate is complex and doesn’t yield easily to computer models and scientific calculations. Scientists won’t ever be able to predict with 100 percent certainty how bad warming will get and when.

And let’s acknowledge this isn’t just about data. Somewhere along the way, what started out as a scientific debate turned into a political, even ideological, spat. Highhanded advocates for slashing our use of fossil fuels backed extreme restrictions that would damage the world’s developed economies – America’s included. Skeptics pushed back, as aggravated by the righteousness of the climate-change Cassandras as by their doubts about the underlying – and incomplete – science.

Sent August 23:

Now that erstwhile skeptic Richard Muller has satisfied himself that the science of global warming is real and indisputable, the doubters are running out of scientists to reassure them that the greenhouse effect isn’t really happening. Leaving aside the voices of a few television weather forecasters and a phalanx of conservative pundits, the only scientists still supporting the denialist side are MIT’s Richard Lindzen and the University of Alabama’s Roy Spencer — names certain to appear frequently in the coming months as the evidence confirming climate change continues to accumulate.

Lindzen is notorious for his continued refusal to accept a causal relationship between cigarettes and lung cancer, and Spencer’s papers have been repeatedly debunked. Sure, these two contrarians could still be right, and thousands of climatologists could be wrong. But American energy and environmental policies should be based on the worldwide scientific consensus, not a handful of extreme minority opinions.