Will Charles Koch follow his climate scientist’s “total turnaround” on global warming?

by Aliya Haq

July 30, 2012

Long-time climate skeptic Richard Muller, UC Berkeley physics professor, has completed his total turnaround and now believes that carbon pollution from human activity causes global warming.

Since the vast majority of climate scientists reached this conclusion decades ago, Mullers temperature study is noteworthy mainly because the oil-billionaire Charles Koch, climate-denier extraordinaire, provided the lions share of funding for Mullers work.

Not even Koch oil money could prevent Richard Muller from accepting the evidence that climate change is happening and humans are causing it. Indeed, Muller told Greenpeace radio that Charles Koch just wanted [the issue] to be put on a firm footing. So will Koch listen to Mullers findings now? After $61 million spent on climate-denial front groups, will Koch finally cease funding to organizations that deny climate science?

In a November 2011 interview with Greenpeace Radios James Turner, Muller said he believes that work will convince open-minded people, and he implies that his major funder, Charles Koch, is among the open-minded:

  • As people study what we did, we will bring over the open-minded peopleOver the coming months as people begin to appreciate how carefully we did our work that they will come to agree that global warming is real. (min 4:15)
  • “We seek refuge in science. People attack us on all sides. In the end, science is that realm of knowledge in which ultimately all people agree. As people get to study our papers, a lot of this political contentiousness will go away. (min 7:00)
  • “I did talk to Charles Koch. He emphasized from the beginning that he was concerned about valid issues in the science. He wanted us to straighten out those issues. He didnt know what answer we would get. He just wanted it to be put on a solid, firm foundation. Thats what weve done. (min 9:40)
  • Listen to Richard Muller’s Greenpeace Radio interview here

Richard Mullers latest conclusions about human-caused global warming have been publicized through his July 28 New York Times op-ed, where he states:

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. Im now going a step further: Humans are almost entirely the cause.

Muller goes on to say:

It appears likely that essentially all of [the global temperature] increase results from the human emission of greenhouse gases. These findings are stronger than those of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the United Nations group that defines the scientific and diplomatic consensus on global warming.

In response to Mullers op-ed, Charles Koch Foundation spokeswoman Tonya Mullins wrote in an email to the Los Angeles Times:

“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.”

Will Charles Koch continue funding of Richard Mullers work, now that Muller has discredited the Koch climate-denier position? Will Mullers conclusions change Kochs position on climate policy and funding of climate denial? It is not encouraging to see that other climate deniers remain unconvinced, such as the blogger Anthony Watts.

Not only does Watts disagree with Richard Mullers new revelations, but in a panicked and desperate attempt to bury Mullers story, he pre-released his own study of temperature data claiming estimates of global temperature increases are exaggerated. Watts has received $88,000 from the Heartland Institute for his so-called “Weather Station Project.”

Based on current media coverage of the converted-skeptic story, it appears that Watts is sadly losing this media battle: a quick Google News search of the last four days shows Watts with only 240 news results, compared to over 3200 news results about Muller. I suppose climate-denier blogger digs in his heels doesnt make much of a story.

Incidentally, one of Wattss co-authors was long time denier and Alabama State Climatologist, Dr John R Christy, who is set to appear in front of the Senate Environment Committee this Wednesday, August 1st. With temperature records continually being broken, is Christy really going to tell our legislators that nothing out of the ordinary is occurring?

The response to Mullers study from other climate scientists has ranged from warm reception to mild exasperation. Michael Mann responded on his Facebook page:

There is a certain ironic satisfaction in seeing a study funded by the Koch Brothers—the greatest funders of climate change denial and disinformation on the planet–demonstrate what scientists have known with some degree of confidence for nearly two decades: that the globe is indeed warming, and that this warming can only be explained by human-caused increases in greenhouse gas concentrations. I applaud Muller and his colleagues for acting as any good scientists would, following where their analyses led them, without regard for the the possible political repercussions.”

Ken Caldeira, Stanford climate scientist, said to Climate Progress:

I am glad that Muller et al have taken a look at the data and have come to essentially the same conclusion that nearly everyone else had come to more than a decade ago.

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