‘Converted’ Climate-Change Skeptic’s Assumptions Too Simple, ‘Falls Way Short:’ Ex-Collaborator

By iScience Times Staff Reporter on July 30, 2012 5:59 PM EDT

Rich Muller
Rich Muller (Photo: muller.lbl.gov)

Rich Muller, a noted former climate-change skeptic, may have changed his mind. But one scientist and former collaborator has criticized the basis of his stance-altering study for being too simplistic.  

Muller wrote in the New York Times that he used to doubt global warming. Now, because of his studies in the last few years, he not only believes in global warming, but believes "humans are almost entirely the cause."

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Muller's reasoning is essentially that there is no better explanation at the moment.

His studies explored and dismissed some of the alternative global warming explanations raised by people who doubt the warming was man-made. He then concluded that the increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide, presumably as a result of human activities, is "by far the best match" to his data.

"These facts don't prove causality and they shouldn't end skepticism, but they raise the bar: to be considered seriously, an alternative explanation must match the data at least as well as carbon dioxide does," he wrote.

Judith Curry, a climatologist and well-credentialed scientist at the Georgia Institute of Technology, disagrees. She thinks the conclusions Muller drew were too simplistic, believing the Earth and climate shifts to be much more complex issues.

Curry was Muller's former collaborator on climate studies, according to BBC.

"Maybe the climate system is simpler than I think it is, but I suspect not.  I do know that it is not as simple as portrayed by the Rhode, Muller et al. analysis," she wrote in her blog.

"Judged by standards set by the IPCC and the best of recent observation-based attribution analyses, in my opinion the Rhode, Muller et al. attribution analysis falls way short...If the attribution problem was as simple as Muller makes it out to be (curve fitting to CO2 concentration), then why are others wasting all their time with complex modeling studies, data analyses etc."

For better or for worse, the climate debate often spills outside the realm of science, and this latest clash was no exception.

Michael Mann, a climatologist from Penn State University, felt "a certain ironic satisfaction" because Muller reached his conclusion partially on research funding from the billionaire Koch brothers, who are well-known for their climate-change skepticism, reported BBC.

In 2011, Curry admitted that being vilified simply for skepticism has pushed her to aggressively challenge the prevailing climate-change consensus, which is that humans caused it.

© 2012 iScience Times All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.

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