Beware The Trojan Horse.

The Climate Wars could be entering the ‘end-game’ here if a new strategy deployed by the ‘denier’ lobby is successful. Denier is a term often used here to denote an individual who denies the science behind climate change. That will all change now.

Professor Richard A. Muller, head of the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature (BEST) project and physics professor at the University of Berkeley, has just written an article in the New York Times declaring his “conversion” to what has been mainstream science for a long, long time. Professor Muller has even gone one step further and declared that “Humans are almost entirely the cause” of global warming as opposed to IPCC reports which suggest that human industrial activity may only be one cause, in combination with natural cycles. (Check out the article here)

Excellent news, no? The war between sceptics and believers is over. All are agreed that climate change is caused by human activity. Natural sciences departments in universities across the world have rejoiced. UNEP offices will witness many a sunrise and dark moon as cleaners put them back in working order. Professor Michael Mann, vilified by the engine of denial and its boot-lickers, magnanimous in victory has congratulated Professor Muller for behaving like a “good scientist”. Blogs of poison can cease. Quite terrible name-calling is needed no more. Finding the solutions for a bright new world with a planetary temperature of no more than a two extra degrees can begin.

Sadly not. What we are witnessing instead is a very cunning shift in denier strategy. That game is up. No longer could they deny the science brought together by the IPCC and nor could they come up with a better theory as to why the planet was warming. They could not even keep on pretending that the planet was not indeed warming. They have, however, shifted the goal posts. Rather than deny that the basic science is accurate, they will now deny that climate change poses any threat to human well-being. This is nothing new but merely a shift in emphasis. Professor Muller’s article is the perfect Trojan Horse and could be the final tactic that makes sure this war is really over.

Muller’s article is uncontroversial except for the part where he predicts warming to increase to a level above IPCC predictions. That was worrying, but not as worrying as the paragraph where he essentially states that the threat of climate change is overblown, unsubstantiated or just plain false. He then goes on to list several examples to support his point. I’ll deal with those, courtesy of Skeptical Science, at the bottom of this page. For now though let’s focus on the New York Times article.

It’s written in a very clever way to achieve what the main objective of the denier lobby has always been – to delay meaningful action on climate change for as long as possible. Muller points out that the BEST methodology is indeed the best; better than the IPCC’s. He argues that his data is superior and therefore gives better results. It is important to link this to what I’ve written above. By framing the article in this way Muller seeks to position himself as the true scientist, the one with integrity who didn’t go leaping to conclusions just like those inferior scientists from the IPCC did. Now that Professor Muller and his team have truly, scientifically established that humans are warming the planet, he can now go on to find out what the negative effects from this warming will be. Do not trust what the IPCC has to say, for their methodology is weak and inferior. Wait for us to provide the real answers. It’s the waiting, as the sea ice caps melt and the deserts expand, that Muller wants. It’s the waiting which is what the oil industry needs, more and more time to extract that oil before those bothersome scientists obstruct their work.

If this is the case then it could signal a slight shift in the debate from one that argues over what was fairly established science, and thank God for that at least, to one that is certainly less established – predicting the future. We cannot know what the future is, but good science can help us to make good predictions. The war will now rage over what is good science in this department and what makes a good prediction. But before these new battles commence we have to beware this Trojan Horse sent to us by Professor Muller. It would be a disaster for progress if climate scientists were to come out en masse and congratulate Professor Muller, or not to challenge the inevitable news coverage, because it would give him legitimacy, therefore making it easier for the “sceptical” lobby to employ the argument I outlined above. Muller has been the closest thing to legitimate that the denial industry, filled with crackpots, has. For the scientific community to ignore what is blatantly a new way to further delay investments in renewable energy, energy efficiency and wholesale system change is to allow it to succeed.

And how does this all fit together? Oil money. It’s no secret that the Koch brothers have funded this project and it’s no secret that big oil has funded the denial machine, just as the tobacco industry did for lung cancer. People were shocked, and many environmentalists satisfied with the delicious irony, when the Koch-funded BEST project results came in and confirmed what was already known for a very long time. If big oil could fund a project that confirmed the scientific consensus then clearly we can now trust oil-funded research. Now it’s all very clear why this was done. It began the implementation of a long term strategy of delay. It is still not yet time to party – or it really will be game, set and match to the oil industry.

What Muller is probably wrong about in the article

Skeptical Science provides the rebuttal.

1) Polar bear populations are decreasing

2) The Himalayan Glaciers will not be gone by 2035, but most are retreating. An excellent deployment of the cherry picking tactic.

3) Hurricanes. Even if they are decreasing in frequency in the US, it is certainly not possible to claim with much certainty that they are decreasing globally.

4) The warming in the US is offset by cooling elsewhere in the world. It seems contradictory to ‘discover’ that global temperatures are increasing but then somehow imply that the warming witnessed in the US cannot be attributed to global climate change? Perhaps the BEST results are only for the US?

5) Medieval warm period.