Former climate change skeptic Richard A. Muller, in a New York Times op-ed, stepped back from his earlier dismissal of global warming. (Los Angeles Times / March 30, 2011)
Koch-funded climate change skeptic reverses course
WASHINGTON – The verdict is in: Global warming is occurring and emissions of greenhouse gases caused by human activity are the main cause.
This, according to Richard A. Muller, professor of physics atUC Berkeley, MacArthur Fellow and co-founder of the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature project. Never mind that the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and hundreds of other climatologists around the world came to such conclusions years ago. The difference now is the source: Muller is a long-standing, colorful critic of prevailing climate science, and the Berkeley project was heavily funded by the Charles Koch Charitable Foundation, which, along with its libertarian petrochemical billionaire founder Charles G. Koch, has a considerable history of backing groups that deny climate change.
In an opinion piece in Saturday’s New York Times titled “The Conversion of a Climate-Change Skeptic,” Muller writes: “Three years ago I identified problems in previous climate studies that, in my mind, threw doubt on the very existence of global warming. Last year, following an intensive research effort involving a dozen scientists, I concluded that global warming was real and that the prior estimates of the rate of warming were correct. I’m now going a step further: Humans are almost entirely the cause.”
[Updated, 4:17 p.m., July 29: Tonya Mullins, a spokeswoman for the Koch Foundation, said the support her foundation provided, along with others, had no bearing on the results of the research. “Our grants are designed to promote independent research; as such, recipients hold full control over their findings,” Mullins said in an email. “In this support, we strive to benefit society by promoting discovery and informing public policy.”]
Some leading climate scientists welcomed Muller’s comments, proof, they argued, that the science is so strong that even those inclined to reject it cannot once they examine it carefully. Michael E. Mann, director of the Earth System Science Center at Pennsylvania State University, said that Muller’s conversion might help shape the thinking of the “reasonable middle” of the population “who are genuinely confused and have been honestly taken in” by attacks on climate science.