Climate Change Denial

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July 31, 2012


George Marshall @ 5:06 pm

One of our biggest problems with climate change is that it simply refuses to fit conventional narratives. So when a leading skeptic makes a public conversion it makes a compelling story that calls for our attention.


We are far more inspired by narratives that speak to our social values than data that mumbles to our intellectual reasoning. This is why the most powerful storylines have, since the earliest recorded tales, been those with identifiable protagonists clearly representing opposing sides, with sequential events leading to a denouement that confirms social rules.

Climate change has always been hard to turn into a compelling narrative. It’s bad enough that it is a vast and overwhelming tableau with major uncertainties of causality, timing and outcomes. Even worse, though, is the absence of any external enemy. We cannot demarcate between the perpetrator and victim (us and them, good and bad), because everyone in our society contributes to the problem and everyone will be affected. Of course this is not a story without victims – the ultimate victims will be the poor, the vulnerable and our descendents- but then who wants to cheer for the Sheriff of Nottingham?

And this is one reason why the recent media coverage of climate change has been so abysmal. Climatologists are now too bullied to make public conclusions from the record breaking extreme weather and the media feel that they have already told that apocalypse story before. The problem is that the climate may be changing, but the story stays the same.

So it is hardly news when Richard Muller, a professor of physics at University of California at Berkeley, concludes, after two years study, that ‘human’s are almost entirely the cause’ of potentially catastrophic climate change. What makes this new is that he used to be an outspoken critic of climate science and has been funded, in part, by the libertarian oil billionaire Koch Brothers.

Here at last we have the narrative ingredients we needed all along: an individual protagonist and the human drama of one man’s personal struggle that leads him to cross sides in the interests of the truth. And Muller, with his twinkling eyes, high forehead and somewhat wild grey hair perfectly meets our visual expectations of an independent scientist tirelessly seeking the facts on which to build a better world.

Changing sides is potent content for stories: just think of the movies on this theme? There are countless whistleblower films such as The Informer, Silkwood,, The Firm, Serpico in which the hero discovers information that compels them to turn against powerful bureaucracies (big tobacco, the nuclear industry, a lawfirm, the NYPD respectively).

But in many ways a more interesting analogue for Professor Muller is with the stories about people who have an internal change brought on by moral conflict. For example Schindlers List or – one of my favourites- Angels with Dirty Faces. In the world of documentary this theme is captured in Marjoe or The Fog of War.

What is interesting in Muller’s opinion piece in yesterday’s New York Times is that the way he tells the story is shaped so knowingly by these narrative expectations. In his very first line: “Call me a converted skeptic” he infers a Damascene conversion. Later on he adds a dramatic flourish when he refers to “my total turnaround, in such a short time”.

He tells the story as an unfolding tale of discovery: “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… I concluded that global warming was real….. I’m now going a step further: Humans are almost entirely the cause”.

He also directly plays to the iconic image of the scientist searching for truth. He writes” It’s a scientist’s duty to be properly sceptical. Science is that narrow realm of knowledge that, in principle, is universally accepted. I embarked on this analysis to answer questions that, to my mind, had not been answered”.

To complete the story we might like a little more contrition. After all Professor Muller’s previous ‘skepticism’, however well founded he feels it was, contributed to a highly political battle to undermine action on climate change. Although the project was funded with numerous respectable sources, climate change research funding from the Koch Foundation is not really like any other research grant, and I will happily bet my house that he won’t get another grant from them. Having spent last night with my son watching James Bond battling Dr No, I feel that the shadowy Koch bothers add great appeal to the narrative

But maybe it is unreasonable to expect a mea culpa when he has already come so far. Muller has made a bold and brave step worthy of commendation. And, even if he still has some way to go, maybe his intervention is more effective when he maintains that “I still find that much, if not most, of what is attributed to climate change is speculative, exaggerated or just plain wrong”.

What is curiously missing in this storyline- and what I would dearly love to ask Professor Muller- is why he was a skeptic in the first place. Although the general public has a conception of the ‘Ur-Scientist’ as a polymath egghead at home among the bubbling retorts in any lab, professional scientists are usually very respectful of disciplinary boundaries and don’t assume that they have the authority to challenge the expertise of scientists in other areas. However Muller freely assumes that authority despite his lack of any expertise in climatology or atmospheric physics.

But he is an outstanding specialist in particle physics and this background provides an important clue to his motivation. In an excellent study on the psychology of prominent climate change sceptics Dr. Myanna Lahsen of the University of Colorado observes that many of them have, like Muller, a background in theoretical physics. She finds that they share a worldview that makes then reluctant to believe in the vulnerability of natural systems and leads them to have an excessive faith in technology – it is worth noting that Muller has been advocating increased fracking as a response to climate change.

Lahsen draws on anthropological studies to argue that physics, especially theoretical physics, has an internal culture that encourages “self confidant style of self-presentation and an inclination to discount techno-scientific risks and to approach even highly complex scientific problems with confidence”.

This description certainly seems to fit Professor Muller.  According to fellow Berkeley physicist Raymond Jeanloz: “he is a very, very independent thinker. He does not take it for granted when he is told something. His instinct is to go check it out for himself,”

In her study Lahsen interviews three physicists who were among the highest profile climate skeptics : Frederick Seitz, William Happer and William Neirenberg. During the Bush administration all three sat on the board of the George C Marshall Institute, a free market think tank and contributed to its reports on climate change. It was these men that President Bush had in mind when he responded to the first IPCC report by saying : ‘‘My scientists are telling me something very different’’.

Not only does Muller share the same discipline, but they have all sat at various times on the JASON Defense Advisory Group a small and highly confidential panel of scientific experts that reports directly to the Pentagon. We do not need to make too much of this, but given that there are no more than 60 scientists in the Jason group, we can surely assume that Professor Muller has been deeply embedded within a small network that enjoys having political influence, has a shared sense of its right to challenge people in other disciplines and has a strong propensity to challenge climate science.

This network also has its own narratives and storylines. Lahsen suggests, drawing on her interviews, that their position on climate change has been formed, in part, by their sense of diminishing personal influence in government and resentment that their authority has been undermined by the rise of oppositional progressive movements. Although they argue that their challenge to climate science is grounded in legitimate scientific scepticism, Lahsen puts a coherent and persuasive argument that it is more informed by their own cultural narrative about power and progress.

In this light Muller’s original scepticism is more comprehensible. And his change of position is even more admirable because it represents a turn against the views held by some of his closest colleagues. Muller presents his findings as a revelation but they can only be seen as such to someone immersed in a culture that never accepted climate change in the first place. The real revelation is that has finally out found that his peers and colleagues have been wrong all along.

The final conclusion to Professor Muller’s opinion piece in the New York Times would be touching were it not so exasperating. He writes: “I hope that the Berkeley Earth analysis will help settle the scientific debate regarding global warming and its human causes”.

It shows a remarkable political innocence to assume that any ‘debate’ on climate change will be settled by a single piece of research- especially given that it only confirms what every legitimate expert has been saying for 20 years. The lines are already firmly drawn up between the different world views and The deniers are already lining up to demean his work.

Professor Muller’s greatest contribution is not his actual findings, but the role model he provides for other climate change sceptics to change camp. My concern is that Muller may actually be a new species of climate change denier who has identified an unfilled niche in the pundit ecosystem f. Just as Bjorn Lomborg built his career on being a ‘skeptical environmentalist’ there is surely an opportunity for Muller to brand himself as a ‘real skeptic’  who sees everything as up for challenge. Whatever his intentions, people will not listen to the detail of what he concludes is right and will only hear that climate science is still unreliable and untrustworthy.

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  1. Adrian Tait says:

    George – I’m glad you’ve picked up on this story, not least because the psycho-social dynamics of it are such an important factor. I think there’s firm common ground between Dr Myanna Lahsen’s analysis of the Jason Group’s motivation and Clive Hamilton’s comments on dissident scientists in this field, as outlined in Requiem for a Species.

  2. Manda Brookman says:

    Excellent to see a long overdue synthesis of human behaviour, social norms and complex system thinking and its influences, and the “absoluteness” of scientific research. Spot on; much needed; and suggests much more is needed….

  3. Josie says:

    Hi George,

    Sorry for the long post!

    Think I mentioned it to you before but I have several friends who are climate sceptics, all of whom, without exception, are physicists (none of them know anything much about climate science). From talking to them, and thinking about it in light of my own interest in the philosophy of science, this is my guess as to why.

    The best characterisation of climate science, I think, is this: there is no ONE killer line of reasoning that demonstrates that the earth is warming as a result of human activity. There are hundreds of different bits of evidence, none of which are that strong on their own, but overall, as a whole picture, look very convincing. Partly this is because any one of them could be wrong and the conclusion would remain largely the same. Or as Dan Dennett said about evolution:

    “Like Gulliver tied down in Lilliput, it is unbudgeable, not because of some one or two huge chains of argument that might— hope against hope— have weak links in them, but because it is securely tied by hundreds of thousands of threads of evidence anchoring it to virtually every other area of human knowledge”

    Any knowledge tends to be a bit like this, but the knowledge that is most like this is knowledge that is to do with complex systems. When you are dealing with a complex system it just isn’t possible to have a single really certain, secure line of reasoning. So what do you do? You make do with lots of slightly insecure lines of reasoning.

    Physics deals with the simplest elements of reality: atoms etc. (Unlike, say, biology, which deals with much more complex systems: living organisms). So physicists are much less used to dealing with knowledge that is like this. They expect “the one killer line of reasoning”, preferably expressed as a formula. When they don’t get it, they become suspicious.

    What hasn’t helped is that, until recently, it was damn hard to find material on climate science that actually spoke to people who are reasonably scientifically literate but ignorant of the field. Most of it was either vastly oversimplified (“the atmosphere is like a blanket kids”), or required you to be quite knowledgeable about the subject already. That has now changed with the creation of websites like John Cook’s Skeptical Science. But still, people have to find his site.

    So I think that the combination has been deadly for some people, especially those who were already rather arrogant, impatient and predisposed to be hostile for political reasons. They could not find much explaining the science at the level which talks to them. They were looking for “the one killer equation” and didn’t find it. They found some sceptic websites that seemed reasonably convincing. And from then onwards, it was a done deal. This is my theory anyway, for why so many sceptics are physicists.

  4. Hugh McLean says:

    You nailed it, George: “the most powerful storylines have . . . been those with identifiable protagonists clearly representing opposing sides, with sequential events leading to a denouement”.

    The question is what to do about it – how can we find more powerful narratives to educate and motivate the public? Anyone have some ideas? Here’s one . . .

    Public debates on climate change are often less than illuminating for the simple reason that one side gets to distort the science and make stuff up, overwhelming the other side – and the audience – with so many fallacies that there’s no time for reflection or rebuttal. Strident presentation inevitably wins over nuance and honesty.

    To get at the reality of climate change, a more appropriate forum would be a court of law, with formal rules of evidence, one-at-a-time focus on specific lines of evidence, and a right to cross-examine. That the judiciary is capable of adjudicating issues of science is illustrated by recent lawsuits involving the US EPA (see, for example, and by the ongoing struggle between evolution and creationism in American schools (see

    So why not set up a television reality show – call it “Climate Court” – that would subject the most common memes of climate change denial to formal legal-style scrutiny? Invite retired judges to hear arguments on specific claims made by public figures (US senator Inhofe; scientists Pat Michaels, Roy Spencer and Richard Lindzen; bloggists Joanne Nova and Anthony Watts, serial disinformer Cristopher Moncton and Fred Singer, etc.), and render clear decisions on the merits of each position.

    Have NASA and CRU distorted global temperature data? Have temperatures fallen since 1998? Is recent Arctic melting just natural variability? Is it the sun? Is glacier melt in some regions balanced by glacier growth in others? Are climate models little more than guesswork and manipulation? Are recent weather extremes nothing to worry about? Does peer review unfairly limit dissenting views? Are climate tipping points an alarmist invention? Do fossil fuels need more subsidies? Are renewables too costly? Does government investment in renewable energy kill jobs? Are sea levels falling? Is it safe to wait to address climate change until there’s more scientific certainty that it’s real? Are climate scientists just in it for the money?

    Repeatedly holding public figures publicly accountable for statements like those above would make for compelling narrative, and having respected judges impose formal legal standards to specific issues, one at a time, would address the problem of runaway bullshit so common to denialist op-eds and speeches.

    “Climate Court” could invite audience intervenors, provide references to further evidence online and, over time, help its viewers understand the power and limits of science, explore further on their own, evaluate the urgent need for action, evaluate the readiness of renewable alternatives, and perhaps even demand political change.


  5. Jabu says:

    Just flicked across this site, this article and these comments. Really like your “climate court” idea Hugh, even as a thought experiment.

  6. David Lewis says:

    The trouble with the “narrative” is it is total BS.

    Muller may have done some work in physics, but he let whatever recognition he may have earned in that field go to his head. He forgot what independent thinking was.

    He bought what the deniers were shovelling. As for who his “colleagues” were, don’t give us Seitz or Neirenberg. Muller: “Anthony Watts… I regard him as a hero in this business”. When referring to Watts and McIntyre: “their amateur science is not amateur in quality; it is true science, conducted with integrity and high standards”

    You don’t have to ask him why he was a “skeptic” in the first place. He’s been making a big noise telling everyone for years. Eg: minute 4:30 in this video.

    In the video he makes it clear he was stupid enough to actually believe if the Mann “hockey stick” study had something wrong with it the entire global warming theory would come tumbling down.

    Never mind that whether the Mann study was valid was the subject of many independent studies over the years by many independent groups who published in the literature. (Mann provides a summary of the work on pages 98 to 106 in his book “The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars”.)

    Muller doesn’t have to read no steenking scientific literature. Muller ridicules Mann saying the study “would not have survived peer review in any journal I’m willing to publish in”. He denounces Mann: “you are not allowed to do this in science”.

    He then explains what you say you want to know: why he started his “BEST” study:

    “Jim Hansen who predicts things ahead of time, he’s going to find we have a group here [Mann] who feels it is legitimate to hide things. This is why I’m now leading a study to redo all this in a totally transparent way”

    The clown actually believed Hansen would have to reevaluate his entire understanding of climate science if there was anything wrong with the Mann study.

    What Muller has proven as a result of his study is that he knew nothing. He’s trying to divert attention from this obvious fact by proclaiming he’s made a significant contribution to climate science.

  7. trrll says:

    Dr. Muller exhibits a kind of attitude that is actually pretty common among scientists–suspicion of any science that he has not done personally. This can seem arrogant–and it is, sort of–but it can be good for science as it it is part of the self-correcting nature of science, as it impels scientists to re-check “settled” questions, and occasionally they do discover new wrinkles in the process. This is actually a kind of risky thing to do, professionally, because the most likely outcome is confirmation of the conventional wisdom, which has what has happened in Muller’s case. When that happens, it can be hard to publish your work, because people get kind of bored when somebody tries to tell them them what they already know.

    So Dr. Muller is now in the awkward position of trying to make the case, “You thought you knew that the US was warming but you didn’t really know it because [list of reasons why previous studies *might* have been wrong] , but now, by virtue of my definitive work, you now *really* know it.” (Needless to say, the people who have studied this previously generally are not too pleased to hear some guy trying to tell them that even though they were right all along, they don’t really deserve credit for it)

  8. Arno Arrak says:

    Very fine psychological explanation of Müller but all wrong on science. The entire case for the reality of global warming hangs on the reality of the greenhouse effect. It is real enough to keep the earth habitable. But the enhanced greenhouse effect from addition of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere simply does not work and never has. Let’s begin with Arrhenius’ original work. He was the first to calculate how much temperature would increase if we doubled the amount of CO2 in the air. His value was too high and present day calculations give something like a degree Celsius. This is not enough to frighten anybody so guess what? IPCC came out with an ad hoc addition to Arrhenius and claimed that positive feedback from water vapor will add to this. It works this way. The original warming from carbon dioxide warms the air and and warm air will be able to hold more water vapor. Water vapor is a greenhouse gas and its greenhouse effect will be added to that of carbon dioxide so that their combined greenhouse effect can be as high as four, five, six or more degrees. That is how predictions of dangerous warming are cooked up. But now comes Ferenck Miskolczi. Using NOAA database of weather balloon observations that goes back 1948 he proves that the infrared absorbance of the atmosphere has been constant for 61 years. At the same time the amount of carbon dioxide in the air increased by 21.6 percent. What this means is that the addition of all this carbon dioxide to air had no effect whatsoever on the absorption of IR by the atmosphere. And no absorption means no greenhouse effect, case closed. This is an empirical observation of nature, not derived from any theory, and it overrides any calculations from theory. Specifically, it overrides all predictions of dangerous warming emanating from the IPCC that are used to justify emission control policies. But there is more. It can be deduced that no warming we have experienced until now can be greenhouse warming. Since global temperature records are widely available we can check this easily. Starting with the twentieth century, its first ten years were taken up by cooling. But in 1910 warming suddenly started. It continued for thirty years until 1940 and then stopped equally suddenly. There was no parallel sudden increase of carbon dioxide in 1910 which rules out carbon dioxide as a cause of warming by the laws of radiation physics. In the fifties, sixties, and seventies there was no warming while carbon dioxide relentlessly increased. People were worried about a coming ice age and newspapers and magazines had articles about it. There is no satisfactory explanation of why raising carbon dioxide failed to cause warming for these thirty years, only contorted hypotheses trying to explain it away. One of them blamed smoke and aerosols from war production blocking out the sun. In the eighties and nineties there was no warming according to satellite observations while carbon dioxide kept on increasing. This period came to an end when the super El Nino of 1998 brought us a short spurt of warming. In four years global temperature rose by a third of a degree Celsius and then stopped. It is impossible for carbon dioxide to turn itself on and off on such short notice. The cause of this step warming was the large amount of warm water the super El Nino carried across the ocean. Since that time there has been no warming for over ten years now while carbon dioxide just keeps increasing on its own merry way. A third of a degree is actually substantial warming since IOCC allots just 0.6 degrees to the entire twentieth century. This, and not the greenhouse effect is the cause of the very warm first decade of our century. And if you think that Arctic warming surely proves the greenhouse effect, think again. Arctic warming started suddenly at the turn of the twentieth century thanks to a change in the North Atlantic current system. The new configuration of currents carries warm Gulf Stream water directly into the Arctic Ocean and this is what warms the Arctic, not that imaginary greenhouse effect.

  9. Robert I Ellison says:

    Do all comments end in a moderation que? Perhaps I can take advantage to correct a typo.

    I often think that things are potentially worse than people realise. Not slow climate change but the potential for abrupt and non linear change. Changes in temperature of 10’s of degrees in places in as little as a decade. A report was published a decade ago by the US National Academy of Sciences – Abrupt climate change: inevitable surprises – that describes this as the new climate paradigm. But it is a paradigm that is making slow progress despite support in scientific literature, the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, the Royal Society…

    So where might some of these surprises come from? To quote AR4 section ‘In summary, although there is independent evidence for decadal changes in TOA radiative fluxes over the last two decades, the evidence is equivocal. Changes in the planetary and tropical TOA radiative fluxes are consistent with independent global ocean heat-storage data, and are expected to be dominated by changes in cloud radiative forcing. To the extent that they are real, they may simply reflect natural low-frequency variability of the climate system.’ The earlier satellite data is most reliably ERBS and ISCCP-FD. It shows cooling in the infrared and warming in the short wave – that (if real) must arise as a result of change in cloud cover.

    Here is a relationship from Wong et al (2006) – Reexamination of the Observed Decadal Variability of the Earth Radiation Budget. Using Altitude-Corrected ERBE/ERBS Nonscanner WFOV Data – between ocean heat content from sea level measurements and net ERBS data.

    It is a pretty good fit. But it is all just data and as good as the instruments and modelling.

    We also have CERES – clouds and Earth’s radiant energy system – measuring Earth’s radiant energy out in reflected sw and emitted lw with unprecedented accuracy. It shows that there is some missing energy that should be there in the Earth system when considering the lack of tropospheric warming last decade. Again the big change is in SW. The interannual changes are largely related to ENSO and might provide one clue as to a source of ‘low frequency variability of the climate system.’

    More recent work is identifying abrupt climate changes working through the El Niño Southern Oscillation, the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, the North Atlantic Oscillation, the Southern Annular Mode, the Artic Oscillation, the Indian Ocean Dipole and other measures of ocean and atmospheric states. These are measurements of sea surface temperature and atmospheric pressure over more than 100 years which show evidence for abrupt change to new climate conditions that persist for up to a few decades before shifting again. Global rainfall and flood records likewise show evidence for abrupt shifts and regimes that persist for decades. In Australia, less frequent flooding from early last century to the mid 1940’s, more frequent flooding to the late 1970’s and again a low rainfall regime to recent times.

    Anastasios Tsonis, of the Atmospheric Sciences Group at University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, and colleagues used a mathematical network approach to analyse abrupt climate change on decadal timescales. Ocean and atmospheric indices – in this case the El Niño Southern Oscillation, the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, the North Atlantic Oscillation and the North Pacific Oscillation – can be thought of as chaotic oscillators that capture the major modes of climate variability. Tsonis and colleagues calculated the ‘distance’ between the indices. It was found that they would synchronise at certain times and then shift into a new state.

    It is no coincidence that shifts in ocean and atmospheric indices occur at the same time as changes in the trajectory of global surface temperature. Our ‘interest is to understand – first the natural variability of climate – and then take it from there. So we were very excited when we realized a lot of changes in the past century from warmer to cooler and then back to warmer were all natural,’ Tsonis said.

    ‘While in the observations such breaks in temperature trend are clearly superimposed upon a century time-scale warming presumably due to anthropogenic forcing, those breaks result in significant departures from that warming over time periods spanning multiple decades. Using a new measure of coupling strength, this update shows that these climate modes have recently synchronized, with synchronization peaking in the year 2001/02. This synchronization has been followed by an increase in coupling. This suggests that the climate system may well have shifted again, with a consequent break in the global mean temperature trend from the post 1976/77 warming to a new period (indeterminate length) of roughly constant global mean temperature.’ (Swanson et al 2009 – Has the climate recently shifted)

    Muller’s simple superposition of CO2 with temperature is too simple. ‘Make everything as simple as possible, but not simpler. Albert Einstein

  10. Jay says:

    “This network also has its own narratives and storylines. Lahsen suggests, drawing on her interviews, that their position on climate change has been formed, in part, by their sense of diminishing personal influence in government and resentment that their authority has been undermined by the rise of oppositional progressive movements. Although they argue that their challenge to climate science is grounded in legitimate scientific scepticism, Lahsen puts a coherent and persuasive argument that it is more informed by their own cultural narrative about power and progress.”

    Lahsen is a Ph.D Anthropologist, so she is BIASED to see all problems in terms of cultural conflicts. She is also BLIND to the physics of the problem, to the methodologies and empiricism of physics.

    How else could she tell her story EXCEPT in terms of cultural conflict?

    Perhaps the Ph.D Theoretical Physicists used to actual math, used to empiricism and theories derived from first principles, used to BOTECs, in an atmosphere where skepticism and questioning is expected are good watchdogs over climate science. They may even know something Lahsen is incapable of comprehending.

    The culture Lahsen first needs to study is Feynmanian.

  11. Henry Sullivan says:

    @Hugh McLean;
    Seriously, Climate court? Are you nuts?


  12. bicbic says:

    This Muller guy also once said that cigarettes don’t cause cancer. I suppose he backed down on that issue too.

    To me, he is wrong no matter what he says. He has spent his life in the “doubt anything for money camp”.

  13. Vernon Brechin says:

    George – I liked your perspective on Richard Muller’s recent announcement and how it plays into the media coverage. I learned of it and gained some exposure to Muller’s views via the following story.

    Changing Views About A Changing Climate – NPR Talk of the Nation, Aug. 3, 2012.

    Theoretical nuclear physicist tend to remain cloistered in their air conditioned offices and meeting rooms. Muller refers to ‘clean fracking’ as a major solution the same way that Dr. Edward Teller previously promoted using ‘clean thermonuclear explosives’ to release trapped natural gas supplies, under the U.S. Project Plowshare program. Such people have an almost religious belief that human technologies can solve any problems that come before us. In the interview it was clear that Muller perceives a primary solution lies in increasing energy efficiency and conservation. He suggested that most of the problem lies with others such as developing countries like China and India, what I perceive as the traditional cop-out. He views aiding them with our technologies as an opportunity for the U.S. His lack of urgency was stated at the end of the interview where he said a switch to natural gas will work for the next several decades. I’m my view, he remains cloaked in his fantasy world.

    Of course the primary component of the global warming equation, global human over-population, was not mentioned and presumably this factor is off-the-table for consideration as usual.

  14. Barry Woods says:

    Richard Muller was never a ‘sceptic’, but he seems to play on his’ conversion to the media (atleast by not correcting it, when he is introduced as conerting.

    Christain Hunt (former Greenpeace) interviewed him for the CarbonBrief)

    extract from transcript:

    Hunt: I was wondering… your Op-ed in the New York times, and previous media coverage, talks about you being a ‘sceptic’ who converted. And yet in your book, Physics for Future Presidents, even though you’re counselling against overstating the findings of climate science, you don’t question the fundamentals of climate science, or indeed that humans are contributing to the greenhouse effect…

    Muller: I’m glad you noticed that. I have considered myself only to be a properly sceptical scientist. Some people have called me a denier – no, that’s completely wrong. If anything, I was agnostic.

    Hunt: But I also just don’t hear you protesting very much against the media storyline that seems to have emerged that you were somehow a ‘sceptic’ beforehand, a sceptic in the way that…

    Muller: Come on, you know you can’t really counter the media. That would be a full-time job if I were to simply try to respond to everything, you know, write letters to the editor… I just hope that some people like you will read my books and read my papers, and read what I say – and not what people say I say.

  15. Brad Keyes says:

    I hate to spoil a good story, but Muller was never a climate skeptic.

    He admits it: “I was never a skeptic.”

    See :

    “It is ironic if some people treat me as a traitor, since I was never a skeptic — only a scientific skeptic,” he said in a recent email exchange with The Huffington Post. “Some people called me a skeptic because in my best-seller ‘Physics for Future Presidents’ I had drawn attention to the numerous scientific errors in the movie ‘An Inconvenient Truth.’ But I never felt that pointing out mistakes qualified me to be called a climate skeptic.”

    The reason his fake conversion has such appeal to the media is that, had it been genuine, it would have been very unusual, if not unique. Sure, it’s not unheard of for scientists to take a closer look at the evidence for themselves and then “switch sides”, but they go in the opposite direction.

  16. Aaron says:

    There’s quite a good book about ‘How to Cure a Climate Change Denier’ written by a former eco-activist who turned ‘climate denier’ about what it would take to cure him.

    • The author Paul Caruso, is playing to much the same storyline as Muller, that he used to be one of them and has shifted ground. This makes him more interesting: I do wonder how much of an activist he was or whether, like Bjorn Lomborg he is claiming that being a member of ‘Greenpeace’ qualifies him to be an activist. Of course there are many many more conservatives who hate environmentalists who have come to accept climate change, though we hear less about them.

      The real question is why climate change has come to be defined as ‘environmental’ in any case. If, as I argue, it is actually ,much bigger than this, then it makes no difference what anyone is.

  17. Brad Keyes says:


    “This Muller guy also once said that cigarettes don’t cause cancer.”

    I trust you have a quote for that. You wouldn’t just make something like that up, would you? Out of thin air? With zero evidence?

    Surely not.

  18. Brad Keyes says:


    I note you still haven’t acknowledged your fundamental error in believing Muller had been a climate skeptic. (He was never a climate skeptic—that was a fib all along—he’s explained this as clearly as it’s possible for anyone to explain anything, and Barry and I have both quoted and linked you to his explanation.)

    Care to share your insights into the brain pathology that prevents a person like you from accepting reality?

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