A tale of two “converts”: Richard Muller & Patrick Moore
August 12, 2012 7 Comments
There’s a program I like to listen to on CBC Radio on Sunday mornings. It’s called The Sunday Edition which most of the year is hosted by Michael Enright. During the summers there are guest hosts; this week the host was Kevin Sylvester. As I’ve mentioned in the past, the CBC is dedicated to the promulgation of all the alarmist memes, and rarely does any truly investigative reporting on this issue.
So I suppose I should not have been surprised when the first item on today’s edition was heralded as:
Climate change is for real. Now, that won’t be news to most of you … everyone from Al Gore to the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate, the IPCC, has been trumpeting that from the mountaintops for years.
But when Richard Muller says it, people tend to sit up and take notice. That’s because up until he made that statement, Professor Muller had been one of the leading voices in the climate change skeptics camp. He’s a professor of Physics at the University of California at Berkeley, and runs the Berkeley Earth Science Temperature Project. His research is funded by the Charles Koch Foundation, an arm of the billionaire oil industrialists Charles and David Koch. [emphasis added -hro]
Listening to this half-hour interview, Muller seemed to be recycling portions of a recent hour-long interview he gave on Climate One Clearly no one at the CBC had done any “homework” on Muller – beyond reading his latest science-by-press-release Op Ed in the N.Y. Times.
[UPDATE 10/3/2012 06:36 PM PDT: Alex Cull has transcribed the Climate One interview. It is a fascinating read!]
I would have thought that the first thing Muller would have done would be to correct the two items I have bolded in the above CBC intro. On second thoughts, the first would have been somewhat difficult for him since recycled born-again-non-skeptic is his most recent reinvention of himself, as he wrote in the NYT Op Ed:
CALL me a converted skeptic. 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.
My total turnaround, in such a short time, is the result of careful and objective analysis by the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature project, which I founded with my daughter Elizabeth. Our results show that the average temperature of the earth’s land has risen by two and a half degrees Fahrenheit over the past 250 years, including an increase of one and a half degrees over the most recent 50 years. Moreover, it appears likely that essentially all of this increase results from the human emission of greenhouse gases. [emphasis added -hro]
But surely if the man possessed even an ounce of modesty and humility, he would not have let “one of the leading voices in the climate skeptic camp” remain unchallenged – and uncorrected. Surely he would have noted that the Koch brothers were merely one of several funders of BEST:
The Lee and Juliet Folger Fund ($20,000)
William K. Bowes, Jr. Foundation ($100,000)
Fund for Innovative Climate and Energy Research (created by Bill Gates) ($100,000)
Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation ($150,000)
The Ann & Gordon Getty Foundation ($50,000)
We also received funding from a number of private individuals, totaling $14,500 as of June 2011.
William K. Bowes, Jr. Foundation ($100,000)
The Ann & Gordon Getty Foundation ($50,000)
Anonymous Foundation ($250,000)
Needless to say, Muller – who strikes me as being very much a do-as-I-say-but-not-as-I-do kind of guy – corrected neither. Further examples of his, well, double-standards can be found in his earlier attempts to grab the spotlight. As I had noted previously, in December 2003, Muller had declared:
It was unfortunate that many scientists endorsed the hockey stick before it could be subjected to the tedious review of time. Ironically, it appears that these scientists skipped the vetting precisely because the results were so important.
In most fields of science, researchers who express the most self-doubt and who understate their conclusions are the ones that are most respected. Scientists regard with disdain those who play their conclusions to the press. [emphasis added -hro]
Has Muller’s work been “subjected to the tedious review of time”? Hell, it hasn’t even passed peer-review yet, let alone the “tedious review of time”! And he doesn’t seem to have any qualms whatsoever about “playing [his] conclusions to the press” – not to mention misrepresenting those of others (but that’s another story!) Nor does he mention that at least one of the five BEST papers was actually rejected by the journal to which it had been submitted.
Back in October 2011, Muller was mischaracterizing the skeptic position in a very simplistic and disrespectful way. This time around, contrary to his advice that scientists should “respect” the public, not only does he fail to articulate the skeptic position, he muddies the waters further by suggesting that Al Gore and other extreme alarmists are “deniers” – because they go beyond the conclusions of the IPCC.
Will I buy a copy of Muller’s latest book (he seems to be killing two PR birds with one stone with his latest media blitz)? Based on what I’ve heard from him about Energy for Future Presidents: The Science Behind the Headlines so far, it’s not very likely to reach the the top of my must read list in the near or distant future.
I have heard little that would suggest that his conclusions in this book – bolstered by BEST’s not yet “subjected to the tedious review of time” findings – are more than a reworking of views he has held since the early 2000′s. Including his 2009 emphasis on China being the main problem, and his December 2003:
Let me be clear. My own reading of the literature and study of paleoclimate suggests strongly that carbon dioxide from burning of fossil fuels will prove to be the greatest pollutant of human history. It is likely to have severe and detrimental effects on global climate.
In contrast to the “converted” skeptic-who-never-was, consider the case of Dr. Patrick Moore, a Canadian ecologist whose work the CBC in its infinite wisdom chooses to ignore.
Unlike Muller and his “conversions” of PR convenience, Moore really did undergo a “conversion”. He was a co-founder of the original Greenpeace. His Facebook page notes:
Dr. Patrick Moore is a co-founder and former leader of Greenpeace and Chair and Chief Scientist of Greenspirit Strategies Ltd. in Vancouver, Canada. His latest book is “Confessions of a Greenpeace Dropout: The Making of a Sensible Environmentalist”
Like Muller, Moore has a consultancy, as an “advisor to industry and government” which he founded in 1991: Greenspirit. You can get a strong sense of the man – and the consistency of his thoughtful positions from his long history of articles that (IMHO) deserve circulation at least as wide as (if not wider than) those of Muller. Most recently, he was interviewed by Joseph F. Cotto in a series of two articles (part 1, part 2) in the Washington Times. Some excerpts (my emphases added -hro):
Cotto: Why do you think that contemporary environmentalists have become more hardline in their views?
Dr. Moore: By around the mid-1980s, when I left Greenpeace, the public had accepted most of the reasonable things we had been fighting for: stop the bomb, save the whales, stop toxic waste dumping into the earth, water, and air. Some, like myself, realized the job of creating mass awareness of the importance of the environment had been accomplished and it was time to move on from confrontation to sustainable development, seeking solutions. But others seemed bent on lifelong confrontation, “up against the man” “smash capitalism”, “join the world-wide struggle against globalization” (I actually saw this on a cardboard sign at a demo).
In order to remain confrontational as society adopted all the reasonable demands, it was necessary for these anti-establishment lifers to adopt ever more extreme positions, eventually abandoning science and logic altogether in zero-tolerance policies. In addition, with the ending of the Peace Movement, which was decidedly left-wing politically and essentially anti-American, many peaceniks moved into the environmental movement brining their far-left agendas with them. This was very unfortunate as environmentalism by nature should be down the middle politically. Nature is not left or right and there are good ideas on both sides of the political spectrum, in particular market-based policies on the right and environmental regulations on the left. A balance of these two approaches would be optimum.
The “green” movement has not only become more hard line, they have also become irrational and fanatical.
Cotto: In the past, you have said that human activity is not the only cause for climate change. What do you believe is the greatest contributing factor?
Dr. Moore: First, we don’t know precisely how the many factors affecting climate contribute and interact in producing the earth’s climate at any given time. The cause of the onset of Ice-Ages, one of which we are presently experiencing, is a puzzle we don’t fully understand. I explain in my presentations that as a scientist who is fully qualified to understand climate change, I seem dumber than the people who say they “know” the answers because I do not profess to know the future, especially of something so complicated as the global climate.
Seems to me that whether or not Moore is familiar with Muller’s “advice”:
In most fields of science, researchers who express the most self-doubt and who understate their conclusions are the ones that are most respected. Scientists regard with disdain those who play their conclusions to the press.
Moore understands – and governs himself by – the principles involved. An interesting excerpt from part 2:
Cotto: In 1977, you were elected the president of the Greenpeace Foundation. Less than ten years later, however, you left the organization. Why did you leave Greenpeace? Do you believe that it currently does beneficial work for the environment?
Dr. Moore: I left Greenpeace because I found myself, after 15 years in the leadership, the only director of six directors of Greenpeace International with any formal science education. I have an Honors BSc in biology and forest biology, a PhD in ecology during which I was the recipient of a Ford Foundation Fellowship, an honorary doctorate of science (North Carolina State), the Einstein Society’s Award for Nuclear Science and History, and have over 40 years experience in all aspects of the environmental movement.
Yet at the time one of my fellow director’s said “Oh Pat, we’re all ecologists”. They began to adopt policies, on what were by this time quite complex issues of chemistry and biology, that I could not support with my knowledge of science. The most prominent of these was a policy to “ban chlorine worldwide” (they now publicly deny this even though the media archives provide extensive proof). I tried to convince them that a more nuanced approach to the 11th most common element in the earth’s crust was probably wiser than calling for an outright ban. Especially seeing there is no denying that chlorine is the most important of all the elements for public health and medicine. Adding chlorine to drinking water is the biggest advance in the history of public health, and chlorine chemistry is involved in a majority of our synthetic pharmaceuticals.
So I was forced to leave and glad I did (but sad I had to) because I saw the writing on the wall. Since I left, Greenpeace has adopted many positions, including hanging on to the mistake of being against nuclear energy, that I do not agree with from an environmental perspective. The only issue I have changed my opinion on since leaving GP is nuclear energy. [...]
Cotto: Since leaving Greenpeace, you have continued your environmental activism. How has this come along? Is it easier to accomplish your goals now than it was during your years with Greenpeace?
Dr. Moore: I have said many times that the task of successfully incorporating environmental values into the economic and social fabric of civilization is far moe difficult than popularizing those values in the first place. Sustainable development, or sustainability, requires finding solutions for environmental issue that do not compromise our ability to feed ourselves, provide the energy required for transport, industry, and infrastructure, and obtain the materials (minerals and wood) to build the infrastructure.
The term “sustainable development” did not come into popular usage until 1987 with the publication of the UNCED book “Our Common Future”. It will take 100 years or more to fully implement this idea. In comparison the highlighting of problems such as the threat of nuclear war and the potential extinction of whales was relatively easy. That said I believe there has been tremendous progress towards sustainability: sustainable forestry, ecosystem restoration (reclamation) of mining sites, protection of wild lands, especially wetlands but also all types of ecosystems, drastic reduction in toxic discharge, at least in the developed countries and as other countries develop they will follow suit, a new surge of nuclear energy with 65 plants under construction today and 100s more planned.
My work with Greenspirit Strategies in helping develop sustainability policies for industry and government has contributed to this progress.
U.K. readers who are familiar with Bob Ward’s antics during the course of his tenure with the Royal Society will be pleased to see the recently added 2006 letter I found from Moore in the archives of news releases on the Greenspirit Strategies blog (my emphasis added -hro):
September 21, 2006
Dear Mr. Bob Ward,
I am in receipt of a copy of your letter to ExxonMobil in which you accuse them of misleading the public on the science of climate change.
I would be pleased to have your qualifications in science and to know how you have decided the question of human causation of global warming has been conclusively determined.
While I may agree with certain statements made by the IPCC, surely you and the Royal Society would respect my right to disagree with other statements or at least to call them into question.
You cite the IPCC as the authority yet surely you are aware that science does not work by committee or by “consensus.”
Certainly the Royal Society would agree there is no scientific proof of causation between the anthropogenic increase in atmospheric CO2 and the recent global warming trend, a trend that has been evident for about 500 years, long before human-caused increase in CO2 was evident.
I am sure the Royal Society is aware of the difference between an hypothesis and a theory. It is clear the contention that human-induced CO2 emissions and rising CO2 levels in the global atmosphere are the cause of the present global warming trend is an hypothesis that has not yet been elevated to the level of a proven theory. Causation has not been demonstrated in any conclusive way.
This is no doubt why the authors of the IPCC report use the word “likely” in their concluding statement “most of the global warming over the past 50 years is likely due to the increase in greenhouse gases.”
Even more important, it is a fundamental precept in science that rigorous objection to “consensus” be encouraged in order to avoid “politically correct” conclusions that stifle dissent and intellectual exploration.
I say shame on the Royal Society—one of the world’s top science bodies—for allowing such a political “blame” letter to be sent. The correspondence smacks of a repressive and anti-intellectual attitude that can only harm our efforts to understand the true nature of climate change, both non-human and human in origin.
Please retract this letter and instead encourage debate and dialogue on this most important subject for the future of humankind and the environment
Patrick Moore, PhD
I have added Moore’s Confessions of a Greenpeace Dropout: The Making of a Sensible Environmentalist to my must read list. And I regret that I somehow missed the three excerpts that were featured in the National Post last March. Moore has copies of these (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3) on his Greenspirit site.
So, Muller or Moore. Who (OK, whom, if you prefer!) will you trust – and whose book will you add to your “must read” list, eh?!