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Monday, March 21, 2011

Nail in the coffin of BEST project's credibility: Richard Muller's BEST project not at all independent -- noted climate change denier and misrepresenter of climate science, Steven Mosher, claims (on March 19, 2011) to have already begun writing a paper on the results. Mosher is a noted tool of the Climate Denial Machine

BREAKING UPDATE:  The head of the Berkeley team, Richard Muller, confirmed at a public talk on Saturday that they have started writing a draft report and based on their preliminary analysis, “We are seeing substantial global warming” and “None of the effects raised by the [skeptics] is going to have anything more than a marginal effect on the amount of global warming.”

BOMBSHELL:  In the comments, discredited climate science disinformer Steven Mosher asserts, “There is no DRAFT paper….  There are some draft figures, some charts, that a few of us have seen.”  Yes, Mosher, who is not to anyone’s previous knowledge associated with this project in any respect (unlike climatologist Ken Caldeira), has full, up-to-the-minute access to everything BEST is doing. Amazing. So much for it being an independent, fully transparent study.  In fact, Muller stated on Saturday,”We’re even starting to write the paper.”

To repeat, Climatologist Ken Caldeira sent me the following email message for publication this weekend (and he had rechecked this message before I ran it):
I have seen a copy of the Berkeley group’s draft paper, which of course would be expected to be revised before submission. 
Their preliminary results sit right within the results of NOAA, NASA, and HadCRU, confirming that prior analyses were correct in every way that matters. Their results confirm the reality of global warming and support in all essential respects the historical temperature analyses of the NOAA, NASA, and HadCRU. 
Their analysis supports the view that there is no fire behind the smokescreen put up by climate science deniers.
Note:  Caldeira helped fund the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature Study, but didn’t participate in it.

In one sense, this finding isn’t news, since there have never been any credible challenges to the surface temperature data other than the smoke blown by the climate science deniers.

Indeed, we have very good reason to believe the data that were attacked the most, that collected by the Hadley Center and Climate Research Unit (CRU) of the University of East Anglia, (unintentionally) lowballed the rate of recent warming (see The deniers were half right: The Met Office Hadley Centre had flawed data — but it led them to UNDERestimate the rate of recent global warming).

But in another sense, this finding is news, since the study looked like it was a set-up from the start.
I first broke the story of the dubious nature of BEST back in mid-February — see “Richard Muller, Charles Koch, Judith Curry and the implosion of the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature Study:  How to kill a potentially not-bad idea in 5 easy steps.”

The goal of the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature Study was to assemble some clever scientists and statisticians “to resolve current criticism of the [global] temperature analyses, and to prepare an open record that will allow rapid response to further criticism or suggestions.”  

For a study supposedly aimed at boosting credibility in the surface temperature data record, however, its flaws in conception and operation were beyond head-exploding:
  1. It was co-chaired by Richard Muller (author of widely debunked books, blog posts andWall Street Journal op-eds).  Muller himself has actually worked to undermine credibility in well-established science and doesn’t have a great grasp of basic climate science (see here) or energy (see “here).
  2. Muller got co-funding for the study from the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation!  It’s hard to imagine a more irresponsible and anti-scientific person than Charles Koch.  CP and CAP have long detailed the role of the billionaire brothers of Koch Industries, Charles and David Koch, in destroying American prosperity.  We now know Koch Industries outspends Exxon Mobil on climate energy disinformation.
  3. BEST claims its team includes “climate experts,” but the only climatologist listed is Judith Curry, one of the most debunked climate scientists (see Schmidt and Annan and Steig and Verheggen, and CP for starters).  Curry mainly seems on the team to give Muller the thinnest veneer of climatology credibility, since she herself has written, “I participated loosely in this project, mostly as a resource person calling their attention to any new papers or blog posts that I thought were relevant and as a sounding board for ideas.  As they have begun analyzing the data, I have completely refrained from commenting on the process or preliminary results, I have only made suggestions regarding where they might publish their analyses, etc.”
  4. In a remarkable demonstration of bad judgment, Muller installed his daughter Elizabeth Muller, as project manager!
  5. In even more remarkable demonstration of bad judgment and conflict of interest, it turns out Muller has a consulting company,, part of Muller & Associates, whose aim is to “provide politically-neutral counsel that is broad in scope while rooted in the hard facts of state-of-the-art science and engineering” in energy and climate policy.  Richard Muller is President and Chief Scientist.  Who is the CEO? Elizabeth Muller! Two other members of the BEST team are technical advisors to Muller & Associates.
  6. [Readers, I am adding no. 6:  giving the "results" to one of the most infamous climate deniers, Steve Mosher, before publicizing the results -- apparently, he has had the results since at least March 19, and is working on a paper.  He is absolutely infamous for his smearing of honest scientists and their work and for misrepresenting everything he touches -- this is the nail in the coffin of the so-called BEST project's credibility.]
So it looked to several climate scientists that I have spoken to that the BEST effort was stacked with confusionists and funded by deniers in order to push a dubious message and advance Muller’s for-profit consulting business.
The problem for Muller, however, was that there’s really no way to turn the surface temperature data into something that it isn’t.  Even hard-core deniers haven’t been able to put a dent into it:
And BEST isn’t run by hard-core deniers, the kind who don’t have any professional scientific reputation and hence can just make crap up.

So it’s no surprise at all that, as Caldeira reported to me, “Their results confirm the reality of global warming and support in all essential respects the historical temperature analyses of the NOAA, NASA, and HadCRU.”

Still, it will be interesting to see if Muller finds a way to spin this dog-bites-man result into something that can generate media attention and business for his consulting company.

In that regard, it must be pointed out that BEST looked only at the global LAND temperatures, so they have completely ignored the place where climate science predicts the overwhelming majority of the warming is going.

Ocean temperatures set records in 2010.  And two major scientific studies from 2009 demonstrate that when you look at where 90% of the human-caused warming was expected to go — the oceans — you find steady warming in recent years.  Here’s the key figure from one of those studies:

Time series of global mean heat storage (from 0 to 1.24 miles).
The second study, led by NOAA, “An observationally based energy balance for the Earth since 1950,” concluded:
[S]ince 1950, the planet released about 20% of the warming influence of heat-trapping greenhouse gases to outer space as infrared energy. Volcanic emissions lingering in the stratosphere offset about 20% of the heating by bouncing solar radiation back to space before it reached the surface. Cooling from the lower-atmosphere aerosols produced by humans balanced 50% of the heating.  
Only the remaining 10% of greenhouse-gas warming actually went into heating the Earth, and almost all of it went into the ocean.

“Total Earth Heat Content [anomaly] from 1950 (Murphy et al. 2009). Ocean data taken from Domingues et al. 2008.”
See also the Skeptical Science post on ocean warming.

Because BEST ignored the ocean data — and the myriad other independent datasets that demonstrate human-caused warming — their confirmatory analysis of the land data simply can’t make any broader  conclusions, much as Muller may try.   

The bottom line is that the climate system is warming, which the 2007 IPCC report called “unequivocal” and which the 2010 National Academy of Sciences review called a “settled fact.”

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