2011-05-23 11:17:29Muller...again


He's back in SciAm and Joe Romm and Micheal Mann are quite upset, but that's all covered.  Also, he seems pretty invested, business wise, in the whole energy climate thing, so the idea that he is an interested outsider is nonsense. But my interest is in his text book CH 10 which he so graciously made available on his energy consulting website.

Here's an example of the slipperiness:

But most geophysicists believe that it is the temperature that is causing the CO2 to change, not the other way around.  Most of the CO2 in the biosphere is actually dissolved in ocean water.  When the water warms, the CO2 is driven out; gas doesn’t dissolve as well in warmer water. The fact that warming is causing the CO2 change is verified by other measurements that indicate that the CO2 changes lag the temperature changes by about 800 years.  In other words, the temperature changes first, and then it takes 800 years for the CO2 to finish coming out of the ocean.  That’s a reasonable number, because we know that deep ocean water takes about that long before it works its way to the surface, where the CO2 can escape.

Something else in the plot suggests that the CO2 is a result of warming, not the other way around.  Look at the recent CO2 rise, at the right side of the plot. The recent increase is about as much as the increases at the ends of the ice ages.  If the CO2 were causing the warming, we would expect to see a 10 to 15oF warming, not the 1 to 2oF warming that we have actually experienced.

Some scientists disagree, and think CO2 may have indeed been responsible. The situation is “complicated”.  Perhaps the 800-year lag has been misinterpreted.  There really is a reasonable controversy here.  What you really need to know is that the paleoclimate plot, Figure 10.9, is not clear and incontrovertible evidence that CO2 has driven climate in the past.  Even so, you should not conclude that therefore the evidence for CO2 greenhouse warming is weak.  It just cannot be based on this plot.  The evidence is based on the observed increase in temperature (1oF in the past 50 years), plus our understanding of the likely effects of CO2 on greenhouse warming.

Is there some kind of controversy here that I am unaware of?  This was predicted through models, then observed in Volstok cores.  Does he say that the only explanation for the extended warming is CO2?  Nope.  Kind of really important.


Nevertheless, the public did not pay much attention until advocates of action exaggerated the evidence.  They looked over recent climate records, picked everything that was bad, ignored those things that were good, and attributed all the bad effects to global warming.  This approach, called “cherry picking” (pick only the impressive cherries and tell people that they are representative of the whole crop) can be politically effective in the short term, but it runs the risk of an eventual backlash.  The public may eventually decide that scientists exaggerated, or lied, and they lose trust in science.  

Oh, the hypocrisy!

Do the strange pattern, and the fact that it doesn’t seem to follow the global trend of carbon dioxide, show that the melting of Alaska is not due to global warming? No, not at all. The temperature trends of Alaska could well consist of a rise due to global warming, with a downward fluctuation in the last decade caused by something else. (There have been serious papers suggesting that soot from Chinese coal power plants is responsible; another paper points to the possibility of a decadal El Nino kind of sea variation that takes place naturally in the Arctic Ocean.) However, advocates of action are unlikely to show you this temperature plot, because it raises awkward questions about the cause of the melt. That’s another kind of cherry picking. Show only the data that wows the audience, and avoid anything that seems to contradict the simple picture.Scientists who are trying to figure out real causes must not let themselves cherry-pick; they have to see all the evidence.  That’s why I show it, even though I agree with the IPCC that global warming is real, and very likely caused (at least in part) by humans. And, of course, continued warm weather is just as bad for Alaska as increasing warm weather; once the temperature is above freezing, the ground melts. The problem is not so much that Alaska is getting warmer, but the fact that it is staying warm, after a rise that took place before 1980.It is also interesting that the Alaska plot seems to suggest that the warming of Alaska was about the same as, or perhaps only slightly greater than, the warming of the whole earth.  The data do not yet show evidence for the widely predicted effect that warming in Alaska will be much greater than in the continental U.S.

I don't know the answer here, as the chart is absent from the page and I don't feel like looking into right now, but notice the references to cherry picking!  And then he says, 'there's a paper somewhere".

Another common problem in the news is the semantic confusion between the terms “global warming” and “human-caused global warming.”  They are often taken to be synonymous.  But remember that the IPCC concludes only that some or most of the warming since 1957 was very likely (90% confidence) caused by humans.  They do not conclude that the warming from 1850 to 1957 was human, because they can’t rule out the possibility that it was a natural recovery from the Little Ice Age, perhaps caused by changes in the intensity of the Sun.  It is important to recognize that when a politician or scientist claims that the warming prior to 1957 is human caused, that they are giving their own conclusion, and not representing the IPCC scientific consensus.  They may be right, but maybe not.Is there global warming?  Yes.  Is it caused by humans?  Well, it is very likely that some, maybe most of the warming of the past 50 years was caused by humans.  There is a 10% chance (according to the IPCC) that it wasn’t.



I bring this to everyone's attention because this is denial, but swathed in some romantisized idea of science while kind of, sort of agreeing with the science, but designed to sow confusion.  The entire chapter attempts to create a fake controversy and goes after Gore and the IPCC to bring the science down to his level.  This clinches it for me.  Muller Misinformation is a good idea.  At one time I thought he just wanted to get it right, but I doubt that now.

This is what he teaches his students.  Lots of commenters in the Professor Mandia thread would love this.

2011-05-23 13:07:08
Julian Brimelow


Thanks for this.  Well, "thanks" might be the wrong choice of words...

To say the least this has pissed me off.  Muller knows better; we know that, he cannot plead ignorance.  Mike Mann and others are also furious, and rightly so.  And note how he turns a blind eye to the antics of McIntyre and his ilk.....

The warming signs that Muller was up to no good appeared early, some of us called it then, others encouraged caution.  Well, this has really has sealed his fate.  What the hell is wrong with these people?!

Is there any of Muller's nonsense in the Scientific American piece that has not already been covered at SkS?


"....natural recovery from the Little Ice Age,"



"It is important to recognize that when a politician or scientist claims that the warming prior to 1957...."

Pardon my ignorance, but why is "1957" such a pinnacle moment?


"Well, it is very likely that some, maybe most of the warming of the past 50 years..."

 Holy cow, how many weasel words can one possibly cram into such a short phrase? Grypo, you are right--slippery indeed.  Fodder for the 'skeptics" and deniers....luscious, fodder.


Ugh, Grypo, you have just ruined my long weekend ;)


2011-05-23 23:10:52



This chapter, in a sense, encapsulates the new lukewarmer, wait-and-see, oh-but-its-a-real-problem-maybe, denial.  Denial 2.0.  The tell-tale signs are picking on Al Gore, making the IPCC and scientific consensus out to be somehow conflicted and alarmist, then begin arguing from that standpoint, pointing out different uncertainties, whether important or not, as it's importance isn't as necessary to the tactic as the general confusion it fosters within non-experts.  You need to make sure to not get into it too much, or the cover is blown.  Dig far enough to make people think that something is amiss and stop.  The CO2lag part in the chapter is good example of that.


Also, he says

What about other kinds of storms, such as tornadoes?  In his movie, “An Inconvenient Truth”, Al Gore claims that not only are hurricanes increasing (a fact we just showed to be in great doubt) but also that tornadoes are increasing. 

This is not really what was said.  http://www.hokeg.dyndns.org/AITruth.htm

Not that I really want to get into parsing Al Gore's movie communication style, but it's another example of tweeking an argument before arguing against it.  Strawman.


As an aside, has anyone figured out where the hell he got that polar bear/Gore/Cicerone story from yet?  I still find it hard to believe he would just make up a blatent, fairly detailed, easily checked lie like that.


He also gets his science from a oil think tank, disinformation artists:

 A plot of such hurricanes is shown below, based on a report by Marlo Lewis (Competitive Enterprise Institute) using data from the National Hurricane Center.

2011-05-24 02:31:46
Dana Nuccitelli

Further discussion of Muller and his book here.