2011-02-28 20:48:11Richard Muller
Paul D


Someone just emailed me this link:


I got the impression that Muller took the side of the skeptics regarding the climategate incident.

What are opinions here?

(I don't know much about him)

2011-02-28 21:08:16Muller
John Cook

Muller has said some outrageous things about climate scientists, accusing them of dishonesty, corruption. I'm going to do a post debunking his "hide the decline" schtick (he ignorantly refers to it as Mike's trick). I think he's trying to pull a Curry, position himself as a middle ground between skeptics and warmists.
2011-02-28 21:14:26
Mark Richardson

It looks like a good idea and a quick scan of the steps they're doing seems sensible. And the open source nature is very very thumbs up.



I'm just a little worried that they're not going to play straight, based on some of the staff and funding. They might fiddle the choices to try and hide as much global warming as possible. WUWT's reaction made me think they might do this: WUWT has studiously avoided rigorous analysis in the past (e.g. surfacestations project and their joke 'citizen science' slices of ignorance) and they came out in favour of this which makes me think they've been given a heads up.

We can be pretty confident of the level of warming from all the independent sources (satellite MSUs, altimeters, gravity field etc) but there are still important regional uncertainties that this could clear up and add confidence to the state of our knowledge.


But it's possible they will release something their paymasters want that will later be shown to be wrong. But by that point, the damage will have been done and Koch will have got what they paid for. 

2011-02-28 21:16:04
Paul D


Thanks, I'll pass on the info when you have the article up.

2011-02-28 21:18:47
Paul D


Who are their pay masters??

2011-02-28 21:32:42
Rob Painting
The paymasters are the Koch brothers. The Koch's, Rupert Murdoch, it kinda feels like we're seeing the real life equivalents of the Sith.  
2011-02-28 21:54:51
Paul D


Rob do you have any reputable links that show Muller is funded by Koch??

I know the person (and others on the list) that sent me the link wouldn't be so impressed if they knew funding come from the Koch brothers.

2011-02-28 22:01:31I'm hoping you guys are wrong about Muller


Politically, he's a bit conservative; but I don't think he would want to be associated with designing a flawed study.

I know he's mouthed off in the past about the "decline" issue; but there is a difference between writing a chapter in a popular book and putting his name on a study that he has designed. He's known as an experimentalist/observer, not a theorist.

I think we would be better off using whatever influence we have in the public eye to ensure that the design of the study is such that outsiders (especially the external experts) can access the input & output data easily and check the sensitivity to assumptions and to alternative selection procedures.

That way, we have the rope; if he wants to put his neck in the noose, that's his problem.

2011-02-28 22:02:13
Paul D


Actually forget that (my last comment).

The Gaurdian article says funding comes from Koch.

2011-02-28 23:07:10Some comments on the article in The Guardian


"We are bringing the spirit of science back to a subject that has become too argumentative and too contentious," Muller says, over a cup of tea. "We are an independent, non-political, non-partisan group. We will gather the data, do the analysis, present the results and make all of it available. There will be no spin, whatever we find." Why does Muller feel compelled to shake up the world of climate change? "We are doing this because it is the most important project in the world today. Nothing else comes close," he says.

I think this is a reasonable approach. Face it, guys, the climate science community DOES NOT have the public credibility to beat back the skeptics in the arena of public opinion, although enterprises like SkS are helping. This study could be a game-changer.

You might think three groups was enough, but Muller rolls out a list of shortcomings, some real, some perceived, that he suspects might undermine public confidence in global warming records. For a start, he says, warming trends are not based on all the available temperature records. The data that is used is filtered and might not be as representative as it could be. He also cites a poor history of transparency in climate science, though others argue many climate records and the tools to analyse them have been public for years.

All three data sets he's starting from show warming. He would have to do triple-gymnastics to NOT show warming.

Then there is the fiasco of 2009 that saw roughly 1,000 emails from a server at the University of East Anglia's Climatic Research Unit (CRU) find their way on to the internet. The fuss over the messages, inevitably dubbed Climategate, gave Muller's nascent project added impetus. Climate sceptics had already attacked James Hansen, head of the Nasa group, for making political statements on climate change while maintaining his role as an objective scientist. The Climategate emails fuelled their protests. "With CRU's credibility undergoing a severe test, it was all the more important to have a new team jump in, do the analysis fresh and address all of the legitimate issues raised by sceptics," says Muller.

This latest point is where Muller faces his most delicate challenge. To concede that climate sceptics raise fair criticisms means acknowledging that scientists and government agencies have got things wrong, or at least could do better. But the debate around global warming is so highly charged that open discussion, which science requires, can be difficult to hold in public. At worst, criticising poor climate science can be taken as an attack on science itself, a knee-jerk reaction that has unhealthy consequences. "Scientists will jump to the defence of alarmists because they don't recognise that the alarmists are exaggerating," Muller says.

This is the most worrisome point: he does use the term "alarmist". However, I guess he has to say something that makes him sound like he'll give the skeptics a fair shake.

The Berkeley Earth project came together more than a year ago, when Muller rang David Brillinger, a statistics professor at Berkeley and the man Nasa called when it wanted someone to check its risk estimates of space debris smashing into the International Space Station. He wanted Brillinger to oversee every stage of the project. Brillinger accepted straight away. Since the first meeting he has advised the scientists on how best to analyse their data and what pitfalls to avoid. "You can think of statisticians as the keepers of the scientific method, " Brillinger told me. "Can scientists and doctors reasonably draw the conclusions they are setting down? That's what we're here for."

For the rest of the team, Muller says he picked scientists known for original thinking. One is Saul Perlmutter, the Berkeley physicist who found evidence that the universe is expanding at an ever faster rate, courtesy of mysterious "dark energy" that pushes against gravity. Another is Art Rosenfeld, the last student of the legendary Manhattan Project physicist Enrico Fermi, and something of a legend himself in energy research. Then there is Robert Jacobsen, a Berkeley physicist who is an expert on giant datasets; and Judith Curry, a climatologist at Georgia Institute of Technology, who has raised concerns over tribalism and hubris in climate science.

- I know Art Rosenfeld: He's been interested in energy and conservation issues since the 1970's, and I took a class in classical analytical mechanics from him. He's OK.

- The most questionable name is Curry.

Despite the scale of the task, and the fact that world-class scientific organisations have been wrestling with it for decades, Muller is convinced his approach will lead to a better assessment of how much the world is warming. "I've told the team I don't know if global warming is more or less than we hear, but I do believe we can get a more precise number, and we can do it in a way that will cool the arguments over climate change, if nothing else," says Muller. "Science has its weaknesses and it doesn't have a stranglehold on the truth, but it has a way of approaching technical issues that is a closer approximation of truth than any other method we have."

I think this is reasonable: Muller will try to achieve an unimpeachable methodological approach.


- Jim Hansen, NASA

- Peter Stott, UK Met Office

- Peter Thorne, formerly UK Met Office: "We need groups like Berkeley stepping up to the plate and taking this challenge on, because it's the only way we're going to move forwards. I wish there were 10 other groups doing this," he says.


For the time being, Muller's project is organised under the auspices of Novim, a Santa Barbara-based non-profit organisation that uses science to find answers to the most pressing issues facing society and to publish them "without advocacy or agenda". Funding has come from a variety of places, including the Fund for Innovative Climate and Energy Research (funded by Bill Gates), and the Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley Lab. One donor has had some climate bloggers up in arms: the man behind the Charles G Koch Charitable Foundation owns, with his brother David, Koch Industries, a company Greenpeace called a "kingpin of climate science denial". On this point, Muller says the project has taken money from right and left alike.

Yes, Koch is sponsoring; but so is Bill Gates and LBL (US DoE's Steve Chu's previous home). And Novim appears to be a science-driven organization.


No one who spoke to the Guardian about the Berkeley Earth project believed it would shake the faith of the minority who have set their minds against global warming. "As new kids on the block, I think they will be given a favourable view by people, but I don't think it will fundamentally change people's minds," says Thorne. Brillinger has reservations too. "There are people you are never going to change. They have their beliefs and they're not going to back away from them."

Waking across the Berkeley campus, Muller stops outside Sproul Hall, where he was arrested more than 40 years ago. Today, the adjoining plaza is a designated protest spot, where student activists gather to wave banners, set up tables and make speeches on any cause they choose. Does Muller think his latest project will make any difference? "Maybe we'll find out that what the other groups do is absolutely right, but we're doing this in a new way. If the only thing we do is allow a consensus to be reached as to what is going on with global warming, a true consensus, not one based on politics, then it will be an enormously valuable achievement."

I think this is about right.

I think this is about getting the methodology right. Muller will not be messing around adjusting temperatures on the thermometers. Out of pure self-interest, he's going to want to get this done right. When all three input data sets are going "hot", his result is going to be "hot." If it comes out otherwise, the climate-research community will never accept it, so it won't be definitive. Whereas MacIntyre has already "pre-accepted" it. 

I think this is going to be OK. I think it could be the stake in the heart for the "non-warmists": we'll definitely move off the "it's not happening" phase to the "it's not our fault" phase; later we'll get to the "it won't be so bad" and the "it's too late" phases.

2011-02-28 23:27:37My prediction
John Cook

Important point that seems to escape most people's attention - a pivotal member of the BEST team who is doing most of the grunt work is Robert Rohde. He does Global Warming Art and is a solid guy.

So while Muller and Koch raise warning signals, my guess is the temperature will match GISS and the other reanalysis products because it will contain so many stations, meaning I guess more Arctic stations. Which means a stronger warming signal. Considering McIntyre, Watts and Singer are glowing about the project, if it does turn out to be consistent with the others... well, I'll be bringing popcorn to watch the denialosphere reaction.

2011-02-28 23:51:41


Did Singer really endorse it?

He must be delusional.

2011-03-01 00:11:07
Paul D


Actually what concerns me is that it is another American project. I would prefer to see such work distributed around the world in different nations.

2011-03-01 00:18:24


The Ville,

Why? It seems to me that the intransigence of the Americans is the most important single factor blocking progress on AGW.

If we get the US to move, China and India will move. No disrespect to the Australians, but I view their significance as coming from their influence on what Americans think: American are more likely to pay attention to what the Australians do than what the Europeans do.

And the more American the study, the more Americans will be likely to trust it.

2011-03-01 01:35:48
Paul D


Concentration of eggs in one basket always has big risks. That's why people that have all their money in one bank or one company, will eventually have problems or at least some stress.

The fact that people on this thread have highlighted problems associated with American politics/economics and culture that could influence this group, means that it just adds to the American political quagmire. From the perspective of a global endeavour it doesn't help having so much effort focused in American instituitions.

2011-03-01 02:54:37
Mark Richardson

If done scientifically it will be really interesting.


The thing that worried me most was WUWT's reaction. They wouldn't normally stick their flag to genuine science that might have a chance of showing them wrong. Admittedly they've allowed real scientists to write for them sometimes...

We can be pretty confident about the scale of warming from all the 'how we know it's warming' evidence John has put on SkS. If this study were done properly I'd be surprised to see any major changes to our understanding of the scale of warming.


I'm worried that it will be bastardised from the off to allow the 'skeptics' to get a quick punch in before it is reviewed and corrected later on.


If it is done properly, then my prediction is that it will largely agree with the reconstructions we already have. Their might be some changes in regional rates, and it will probably be within the bounds of uncertainty in current data. This will help show that station drop-out has been a relatively small effect and hopefully improve our understanding by being a 'better' product (in some ways) than GISTemp/HadCRUT3. This is good. But the small changes will be published as 'another nail in the AGW coffin' by the climate idiots and leave SkS to try to clean up the mess. As usual, most of the public who hear about it, will only hear the liars.

2011-03-01 03:14:24


Anything different from a confirmation of warming will be highly controversial amongst climate scientists, so Muller will have to be damned sure before that goes out.

If there are small changes, nonetheless Muller will have every reason to highlight the big picture (this is, after all, supposed to be the study to end all studies), not to focus on the small deltas.

I think you guys are being too paranoid. A better use of time would be to collect the pre-approval statements from the skeptics - the better to hit them over the head when they're experiencing buyer's remorse.


the Ville: The problem is that the US is the 400-lb gorilla, along with China. Neither wants to accept more pain than the other, and so won't want to move before the other agrees. If neither move, the rest of the world is not gonna make the difference.

It's not fair; it's just the way it is.

2011-03-01 03:56:45
Daniel Bailey
Daniel Bailey

I'm in agreement with neil & John on this one. 

My thoughts:

  • Muller & Rohde will combine to make sure that all the bases are covered and that the final report will visually illustrate their findings well.
  • The study will be undertaken no matter what anyone on our side of the fence wants.
  • When the study is completed and the architects sit down to write it up is when the real brouhaha will begin.  Internal bickering & infighting may doom it to membership turnover & disavowal by disaffected individuals.  It might then be a while before a final version is released.
  • Any findings not fitting denialist preconceptions will be cause for immediate disavowal by said denialists ("Those damn warmists gremlined our data somehow!").


2011-03-01 04:22:25



I think there will be little room for bickering, because it's a small team with what looks like well-delineated areas of responsibility: not much overlap. The "weak sister" is Curry. However, if everyone around her is a good scientist, my feeling is that she will act like a good scientist as well.

Indeed, if any one is going to flounce out in dismay, it will be her. But I don't think she will: When everyone else is acting like an adult, so will she.

2011-03-01 04:30:12overhyped
Dana Nuccitelli

I think Muller is massively overhyping the thing.  The most important project in the world?  Geez.  It's just one more temperature analysis to add to the long list of already-in-agreement temperature analyses.

We know unless they somehow completely fudge it up, their analysis is going to be broadly consistent with existing analyses.  So really the only benefit it might have is getting the denialists to shut up about UHI and surfacestations.org.

My prediction is that it will be consistent with GISS, but they'll probably make some statement that warming over the past decade was less than 0.1°C, and deniers will focus on that.

2011-03-01 04:39:16



He's a very ambitious and successful scientist.

Of course he's over-hyping it. That's how people succeed in the academic world.

I knew Richard Feynman. He was an incredible genius. But he spent half of his energy making sure you knew he was a genius.

2011-03-01 22:58:57More on Muller


I stumbled across a fawning article in Forbes' on Richard Muller: "Physics for the Rest of Us: A Berkeley professor dares to debunk the popular wisdom about the future of energy." (Forbes' is very business-oriented, of course.)

The article plays up Muller's doubts about the efficacy of popular proposed measures. But here's an interesting segment:

"Muller, 65, named a MacArthur 'genius' in 1982, teaches a course called 'Physics for Future Presidents,' voted best class at Berkeley in 2008. Since 2000 it has grown from 54 students to 500, with a 100-person waiting list. Last year he put out a book with the same title (for a general audience). Over the past eight years he's attracted attention in public policy circles with his efforts to inject scientific understanding into the debates about terrorism, nuclear power, energy and global warming.

Muller concedes that the Earth is getting warmer and that this is worrisome. He agrees with studies that show global temperatures have increased roughly two degrees Fahrenheit over the last century and that carbon dioxide levels have risen 36% over the same period. But he says a vast amount of misinformation has been spread by scientifically uninformed folk: 'deniers' on the one hand and 'exaggerators' like Gore and Friedman on the other. 'No one actually pays attention to the IPCC,' he sighs, referring to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a group of scientists, diplomats and politicians who have come to a consensus on the science."

Put aside for the moment his snotty attitude about the IPCC: He's agreeing that AGW is happening. He's denigrating Gore, but he's also denigrating the deniers.

The only thing that matters for the BEST study is that he doesn't mislead about what's actually happening with the temperatures. Well, he's already admitted what's happening with the temperatures. I believe the BEST can only put a nail in the coffin of the phase 1 ("It's not happening!") folks.

Will he use his position to denigrate proposed solutions? Very likely, as he clearly does not think much of many of them. But, you know what? Neither do I. I think we have a long way to go before we get to a soft landing on the CO2 issue.

My opinion is that if we let Muller stake his claim as having helped establish the GW trend as beyond controversy, he will eventually expand his scope to actually wanting to do something about it. From all reports, he's a resourceful and inventive guy, and he knows other folks like that. Maybe he could help engage more scientific inventiveness in the quest for solutions.

So I think BEST is going to be good for us. Let's not burn Muller at the stake, at least not until he's turned Lindzen.

PS: I've never actually looked at Muller's book. Is the boldface text in the excerpt from the Forbes' article compatible with what he actually wrote in his book? It seems unlikely they would otherwise include it; unless he made some statement in the interview.

2011-03-02 02:01:17
Paul D


"No one actually pays attention to the IPCC,' he sighs"

I would have interpreted that as being he agrees with the IPCC and is annoyed that no one pays them attention!
But maybe I'm missing some context?

Someone posted a video of Muller in the comments on one of the blog posts here that implied that he didn't believe that the CRU emails were stolen. My problem with him is that he goes beyond science, the reality was that he didn't have a clue whether the emails were stolen or not, so he shouldn't have been speculating and stuck to his apparent debunking of the 'hide the decline'.

Also if this project is to go over all the data from scratch, then he should now be confirming that his past assumptions and analysis (the skeptic 'hide the decline' stuff) were no longer valid, at least not until he has re-evaluated the data. 

2011-03-02 04:12:20


The Ville,

You could be right about that reading of his comment on IPCC. If so, that would be good.

The important point is that there's a difference between shooting from the hip with an opinion and leading a high-profile study. Muller is not a Curry, who, IMHO, has really shot her credibility (now lower than Lindzen) by how she's conducted herself in public writing: I guess the expression was "credibility suppuku". People, even scientists, are allowed to be loud-mouthed at times. In the '70s, Richard Feynman made a number of jokes that some people found offensively sexist: He didn't apologize, he just blew them off. The problem with Dyson's mouthing off is that that is ALL he does: If he were to apply himself to some real data and try to make sense of it, he would rapidly come to a different point of view. But Muller is an experimentalist, and a good one: He has to know how to design an experiment/system/study that gives results that are not biased by one's prejudices, because that is the art of experimental physics.

Muller is NOT going to create a high-profile situation and then try to pull a fast one: He wants to be the guy who ENDED the GW debate, not just another guy who threw more gasoline on the fire. He is going to set this up so that what he personally thinks about the implications doesn't make any difference to the results, because it is more important to him that it be accepted as the last word than that it come out higher or lower. And what he or anyone else thinks about "hiding the decline" is completely irrelevant: It's going to be about the numbers on the thermometers and the algorithms applied to compensate for known problems (which wiil also be public information and subject to considerable scrutiny).

C'mon guys, don't be so paranoid, have a little faith: Science is Muller's life. He's not gonna throw away his reputation for money: He has too much ego invested. I only wish Curry had a little more of her ego invested.

2011-03-02 08:24:22
Paul D


BEST has been raised at realclimate, although it looks like Gavin isn't commenting:


2011-03-02 09:21:29


Not much is said about it, so far.

However, I found a reference to an interesting film clip, about a journalist confronting Inhof.

2011-03-04 14:05:54
Stephen Leahy


Is there really a debate about the science ? I don't think so. Since there isn't then this debate is about something else as hi-lited in the Hertsgaard's video.  Fossil energy interests are spending hundreds of millions in funding the denial industry and buying politicians according to this environmental economist in my interview with him

2011-03-04 15:49:49
Rob Painting

Meh, don't see the point in another temperature record in order to confirm the bleeding obvious.

2011-03-04 16:00:36Great interview, Stephen
John Cook


BTW, I've been meaning to say Stephen, if you ever wish to repost your own blog posts on SkS or if they're articles published elsewhere that you don't have the full rights to, perhaps an excerpt with links, you're welcome to. I'd like to drive traffic to your site - the more people reading your site, the better.

2011-03-04 16:08:50
Rob Painting

Ditto, John's comment about the interview.  

2011-03-05 05:37:04
Peter Miesler

nealjking:  "But Muller is an experimentalist, and a good one: He has to know how to design an experiment/system/study that gives results that are not biased by one's prejudices, because that is the art of experimental physics."

He gives a good lecture too (I've watched a few of them on YouTube), so he get's a A in the communication department.