Richard Muller Is (And Isn't) A Former Skeptic

Tons of desperate journalists and bloggers couldn’t help themselves when talking about the Muller/BEST’s press release, and filled the net with what must have been one of the largest collective display of idiocy this side of the carpal tunnel syndrome epidemic of old (tellingly, even Tamino was too enthusiastic to bother reading things properly whilst RC’s Steig did, so poor Grant F felt compelled to busy himself in disagreeing with Muller about something).

One of the most popular claims concerns the depiction of Muller as some kind of “reformed skeptic”, some pretty soul who’s finally seen the data, and the light alongside. Here’s the UK’s Independent repeating the party line, for example.

Professor Richard Muller, a physicist at the University of California, Berkeley, who has been an outspoken critic of the science underpinning global warming, said that there is little doubt in his mind the phenomenon of rising land temperatures is real.

In the meanwhile, Don Surber of the Charleston Daily Mail and Steven J Milloy of Junk Science fame have posted almost-definitive evidence demonstrating that Muller has never really been a climate skeptic. Muller quotes include:

back in the early ’80s, I resigned from the Sierra Club over the issue of global warming. At that time, they were opposing nuclear power. What I wrote them in my letter of resignation was that, if you oppose nuclear power, the U.S. will become much more heavily dependent on fossil fuels, and that this is a pollutant to the atmosphere that is very likely to lead to global warming

and

Muller estimates 2 in 3 odds that humans are causing global warming

Well, I can now report (with no worry of being refuted) that Richard Muller has been a climate skeptic all along. And he has not. At the same time!

The important point, in fact, is the definition of “climate skeptic”.

In a saner world, a “climate skeptic” would simply be any person approaching the field of climate change with a critical eye, and especially about the more outlandish claims of impending catastrophes caused by humans burning “fossil fuels” and doing all the other nasty things humans do. Of course, in a saner world 99.999% of the people would be “climate skeptic” and there would be little or no discussion about “global warming” or “climate change” being the “the world’s greatest challenge“.

From the sane point of view then, Muller, a guy who resigned decades ago about the “global warming” issue and believes humans are quite likely causing it, is no skeptic at all. From Muller’s own “Physics for Future Presidents” (chapter 10, page 18):

Humans have very likely contributed to global warming, and that suggests that
the worst effects are still ahead of us.

Coming back instead to the insane world we live in, definitions change. In particular, in the eyes of AGW True Believers a “climate skeptic” (aka “climate denier”) becomes anybody that questions anything about the IPCC-led climate change orthodoxy. And by that I mean, anything. It doesn’t matter if one surmises the world has been warming (the very definition of “global warming”), and that humans are “very likely” causing that (the very definition of “anthropogenic global warming”): all it takes is an expression of uncertainty or doubt about whatever topic, and immediately the brainless hordes will descend in full fascistic gear.

From the insane point of view then, Muller, a guy who famously discounted the Hockey Stick graph as “an artifact of poor mathematics“, is a fully-fledged skeptic (ie “denier). From Muller’s own “Physics for Future Presidents” (chapter 10, page 2):

In fact, much of what you hear every day is exaggerated, often on purpose.
People feel so passionately about climate change, and they are so frightened about
what is coming, that they overstate their case (either pro or anti) in an attempt to
enlist proselytes

All in all, it looks like nobody knows who Richard Muller actually is. Expect surprises.