Muller answers a couple questions

08 Apr

As I recently mentioned, Richard Muller has been fairly unpopular of late. I don’t think it’s quite fair to him or the BEST project. One particular injustice was an LA Times article written just before Muller gave his testimony. It reads like an attack on the objectivity and motivation of Muller and the entire BEST project. Interestingly, several prominent climate scientists (Trenberth, Santer, and Thorne) were quoted in the article, and they also seemed to question Muller’s motives:

“I am highly skeptical of the hype and claims,” said Kevin Trenberth, who heads the Climate Analysis Section of the National Center for Atmospheric Research, a university consortium. “The team has some good people but not the expertise required in certain areas, and purely statistical approaches are naive. I suspect they have an agenda.”

Why would a scientist accept funding from [Koch] an organization with no interest in advancing the science?” asked Benjamin Santer

Thorne said he was unsurprised by the Berkeley project’s focus on temperature data. “For those who wish to discredit the science, this record is the holy grail,” he said. “They figure if they can discredit this, then society would have significant doubts about all of climate science.”

Pretty strong stuff to say about another scientist. Remember, this was before his testimony. It seems like they are trying to discredit him for fear of his findings.

I sent Muller an e-mail showing my support for his project and asking him two questions. Here are the questions and answers:

> 1. Were you surprised by the sudden interest in the BEST project after your Congressional testimony?

Yes. I didn’t really say much, other than we are looking at the data and we believe it has sufficient integrity that we can draw conclusions about global warming — once we put in the methods that will reduce or eliminate effects from urban heat island biases, etc.

Anything new on global warming is typically used by commentators to bolster their preconceived notions. This makes it look like science is political, and that is unfortunate. I see refuge in science. In the end, if our analysis is done correctly and carefully, then that’s what matters. Intemperate statements by bloggers who are trying to guess what we will ultimate report — will all be forgotten. We don’t know what we are going to find, so how can they know?

> 2. Did the other scientist’s statements in the LA Times article, who claimed you had an agenda, bother you?

There were two LATimes articles, both by the same reporter. The first one, which came out the day before my testimony, announced that I had an agenda and was a global warming denier. It was supposedly a news story, but it read like an op-ed. I had the sense that the reporter was trying to negate any value in my testimony by showing that she could predict it based on her analysis of my politics. She got it completely wrong, but she made no retractions. I just don’t fit into her preconceived categories, which apparently don’t include “impartial scientist”.

The second story had some misquotes from other scientists about my agenda. I was contacted by them to let me know that the quotes were inaccurate. We are on good terms with the other groups.


I sent Muller a follow up question regarding the statements from Trenberth, Santer, and Thorne. I haven’t yet received a response. He says that he is on good terms with the other groups, which I assume means the other temperature groups. What I’d like to know is if those three apologized. They clearly were wrong about Muller having an agenda and being biased by Koch funding.



Posted by on April 8, 2011 in Uncategorized


2 responses to “Muller answers a couple questions

  1. Robert

    May 1, 2011 at 9:40 am

    “They clearly were wrong about Muller having an agenda and being biased by Koch funding.”

    This assertion seems to exhibit a lack of critical thinking. First, saying that there is reason to suspect a person has an agenda is not the same thing as claiming it as fact. Second, the fact that Muller has conceded the basic accuracy of the temperature record does not proven he is not biased. He may be biased, but unable to convincingly spin the unequivocal facts of the matter.

    Parenthetically, do you feel strongly in general about apologies to climate scientists if they have been wrongfully accused of misconduct? Although I think it is, at the very least, early to be demanding apologies to Muller for basically not lying through his teeth (how low the bar is set for “skeptics”!) there are many other scientists who indisputably deserve apologies. Mann, Hansen, and Schmidt come to mind.

  2. Sam

    May 1, 2011 at 9:43 pm

    When you talk to a reporter, making statements like “I suspect they have an agenda” or “why would they accept [Koch] funding?” are not idle statements. They are obviously questioning Muller’s motives. Do you disagree?

    Yes, Muller himself *might* be biased by Koch money, but that simply doesn’t come through in his work. What’s wrong with that? When someone questions his motives they aren’t questioning what he personally feels (who cares?), but if his WORK will be influenced by it. The preliminary results show that the work hasn’t been biased. In light of that fact, the scientist’s statements seem unfounded.

    If you want to wait until the final results are out until they apologize, fine. But questioning someone’s motives on nothing more than their funding source does not seem fair.

    Who should be apologizing to those other scientists?


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