The unapologetic physicist takes shots at colleague Michael Mann and Al Gore; offers unsupported assertions about debunked 'Climategate'; calls for conservation and 'clean fracking'; stands by charge that most Global Warming concerns are 'exaggerated'...
By D.R. Tucker on 8/3/2012, 4:15pm PT  

Guest blogged by D.R. Tucker

On Wednesday, Progressive Radio Network host/veteran green journalist Betsy Rosenberg and I were honored to interview, the one-time climate change skeptic Dr. Richard Muller, whose Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature (BEST) project --- which was funded in part, ironically enough, by the notorious climate change deniers at the Charles G. Koch Foundation --- recently came to the same conclusion that virtually all climate scientists not affiliated with libertarian think tanks have long since recognized: climate change is "real" and "humans are almost entirely the cause," thanks to the the anthropogenic release of greenhouse gases. [Our audio interview is posted in full below.]

As a Republican who had a similar climate awakening nearly two years ago myself, I looked forward to speaking to Dr. Muller; in the moments before the interview, I wondered if we could find some common ground.

Let's just say I was too naïve for my own good...

The interview, before it became rather feisty, began as pleasantly as possible, with Rosenberg asking Muller about the study's conclusions. Muller was quite proud of the so-called "BEST" team, boasting of the group's qualifications and objectivity.

I then asked Muller about his contention that Hurricane Katrina had nothing to do with global warming. Considering that Boston Globe reporter-turned-environmental activist Ross Gelbspan noted in 2005 that Katrina's "real name was global warming," I found Muller's claim curious to say the least. Muller suggested that Gelbspan was trafficking in exaggeration, though a plain reading of Gelbspan's piece indicates that Gelbspan only contended that Katrina was a sign of things to come climate-wise. Muller resisted this interpretation, and also firmly rejected Bill McKibben's 2011 contention that Hurricane Irene's "middle name" was global warming.

Rosenberg asked Muller about one of his old assertions: that Al Gore exaggerated the risks of global warming in Davis Guggenheim's 2006 documentary An Inconvenient Truth. Muller doubled down, alleging that Gore played fast and loose with the facts regarding sea level rise --- a point debunked by Peter Sinclair in this 2009 ClimateCrocks.com video --- and suggesting that climate activists were ill-served by making what he viewed as hyperbolic claims about future peril. He even went so far as to offer a tortured definition of the idea of "skepticism" by equating Gore with climate change skeptics, just "on the other side" of the data spectrum, somehow.

But the interview's friendly climate changed and really began to heat up when I asked Muller if his findings finally put to rest the far Right's claim that the cockamamie (and debunked-many times-over) "Climategate" affair "proved" that climate scientists linked to the pseudo-scandal were fudging their global warming data.

Incredibly, Muller asserted that "Climategate" was not a settled issue, and that the scientists involved were found to have "hidden" data. (He also asserted, without evidence to support it, that the "controversial" e-mails at the center of the pseudo-scandal were intentionally "leaked by a member of the team," rather than hacked. He claims that "most people" believe that to be the case, though he was unable or unwilling to back up that element of his charge either.) I pointed out that eight different investigations all found that no data manipulation took place; he asserted that temperature data had been "hidden", not manipulated. When I asked if "hiding" data was not a form of manipulation, he gave a muddled non-answer (though he made sure to get in some particularly nasty, and seemingly personal, shots at acclaimed Penn State climate scientist Michael Mann).

Rosenberg then addressed America's recently-shattered temperature records, wildfires and unrelenting drought, asking Muller if there was a clear link between these extreme weather events and climate change; Muller, again, curiously downplayed any connection, ultimately suggesting that the drought wasn't that much different from the 1930s Dust Bowl.

I told Muller that those of us who are concerned about carbon pollution are frustrated for good reason: the efforts to educate the public about the risks of climate change have been sabotaged by corporate libertarians who have used a political party and a "news" network to sell folks on the falsehood that the world is getting cooler when it is not. Muller agreed that the disinformation campaign (which is, of course, financed by such figures as his own benefactors, Charles and David Koch) is part of the problem, but once again suggested that alleged climate alarmism is also a problem.

We concluded with a short discussion of the benefits and drawbacks of nuclear energy, Muller's belief in the potential of so-called "really clean fracking...in which you just fine the hell out of the companies if they spill anything or upset the water tables"; the benefits of conservation ("there's enormous return on investment in energy conservation, too much energy conservation has been sold as 'make a sacrifice'," he says, to his credit); and the moral integrity (or lack thereof) of the Brothers Koch, before bidding Muller farewell.

As we noted on the program, we would love to have him return to the show to discuss the "Climategate" matter with Mann himself, who was bombarded with death threats and hate e-mail after the Republican media exploited the pretend "scandal" for all it was worth.

For his part, Mann recently commented on Muller's new findings, and on his self-proclaimed conversion from skeptic to, shall we say, skeptical believer.

"There is a certain ironic satisfaction in seeing a study funded by the Koch Brothers --- the greatest funders of climate change denial and disinformation on the planet --- demonstrate what scientists have known with some degree of confidence for nearly two decades: that the globe is indeed warming, and that this warming can only be explained by human-caused increases in greenhouse gas concentrations," Mann noted on his Facebook page.

"I applaud Muller and his colleagues for acting as any good scientists would, following where their analyses led them, without regard for the the possible political repercussions (they are of course almost certain to be attacked by climate change deniers for their findings)."

In a separate post, Mann --- who told us that he's refuted Muller's attacks on his data in his book The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars: Dispatches from the Front Lines --- followed up to say:

Muller's announcement last year that the Earth is indeed warming brought him up to date w/ where the scientific community was in the the 1980s. His announcement this week that the warming can only be explained by human influences, brings him up to date with where the science was in the mid 1990s. At this rate, Muller should be caught up to the current state of climate science within a matter of a few years!

Even as Muller's own scientific findings continue to come closer and closer to Mann's long-standing and well-documented assertions, there is clearly no love lost between the two men, as evidenced by the shots Muller took at Mann during our interview, and one more comment Mann posted a bit later on Facebook:

My view is that Muller's efforts to promote himself by belittling the collective efforts of the entire atmospheric/climate research community over several decades, though, really does the scientific community a disservice. Its great that he's reaffirmed what we already knew. But for him to pretend that we couldn't trust this entire scientific field until Richard Muller put his personal stamp of approval on their conclusions is, in my view, a very dangerously misguided philosophical take on how science works. It seems, in the end --- quite sadly --- that this is all really about Richard Muller's self-aggrandizement

I'm still stunned by Muller's assertions regarding the Climategate matter, which have been so thoroughly debunked by study after study, and the ethics of the Brothers Koch, libertarian oil barons who, according to Muller, are legitimately interested in what the scientific community says on this issue. (If I were to look for examples of ethical behavior, I would look not to the Kochs, but to people like our second guest, Charley Blandy, the co-creator of the progressive New England blog Blue Mass Group. With rhetorical grace, Blandy pointed to the urgent need to take action to reduce emissions and the bizarre behavior of such commentators as George Will of the Washington Post and Jeff Jacoby of the Boston Globe with regard to the issue of climate change.)

As always, listen and make up your own mind. Our interview is posted in full below.

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The full 8/1/12 interview with Dr. Richard Muller by the Green Front's Betsy Rosenberg and myself was first posted at the Progressive Radio Network.

You can download the MP3 here, or listen online below. Our Muller interview is in the first 26 minutes, followed by our discussion with Charley Blandy. [Complete file appx 48 mins]...

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D.R. Tucker is a Massachusetts-based freelance writer. He has been a contributor to the Huffington Post, the Boston Herald, ClimateCrocks.com, Human Events Online, FrumForum.com, the Ripon Forum, Truth-Out.org, TheNextRight.com, and BookerRising.com. In addition, he also hosted a Blog Talk Radio program, The Notes, from August 2009 to June, 2010. You can follow him on Twitter here: @DRTucker.