Professor Richard Muller of UC Berkeley isn’t the first scientist to be converted to the idea that humans are causing a change in the climate through carbon dioxide emissions. Nor is he, by a long shot, the most expert among them. But he’s one of the most famous, now, because he was also a loud skeptic not long in the past. He’s described the reasons for his conversion, based on a scientific study that he organized and helped lead, in a recent op-ed post in the New York Times. It’s a little self-serving at best, but makes for interesting reading.
Immediately, of course, he’s being lambasted for everything he’s done, on all conceivable grounds. Discredit him as fast as possible, is the approach — instead of let’s look at the study carefully and see if it does or does not have flaws. Well, I’m sure most of those attacking him right now haven’t had time to read his study yet, because it was just posted. Let’s wait a few days and see if anyone makes more intelligent remarks about its limitations.
One interesting question here is Judith Curry, who disagreed with the majority view on Muller’s panel. I’d like to understand her point of view more clearly, though honestly she didn’t make a good impression on me with her objections last November, which seemed thin and statistically flawed. My impression is that this time she views the approach to the data used in the most recent Muller et al. paper as disturbingly simplistic. Maybe it is. The data is open for any expert to use, so this is an objection that I would think could be settled. If she’s right, more complex and complete models applied to the data should give qualitatively different results; let’s see if they do.
Unlike many bloggers, I’m not willing to pontificate on a subject in which I’m not expert. But personally, I think this whole debate is missing the point anyway. What we are doing, folks, in dumping all of this carbon dioxide into our atmosphere is an uncontrolled and difficult-to-reverse scientific experiment on our planet… the only one we’ve got. (Hmmm… let’s see what happens to the Earth if we turn up the CO2! Gosh, won’t that be interesting to watch!) Would you do an uncontrolled scientific experiment inside your own home? You probably wouldn’t think it very smart to do that. And if a bunch of apparently intelligent people started warning you this might turn out disastrously — even if other people who are apparently intelligent disagreed with them — you might consider that given the uncertainty, the question might turn on an issue of prudence. Perhaps it would be wise to get control of this experiment before it has a chance to take control of us.