Multiple head-vise alert!

Let’s say you’re a major national lab, affiliated with a major university, concerned about critiques of the global temperature record.  Let’s say you get the bright idea to assemble some really smart scientists and statisticians “to resolve current criticism of the [global] temperature analyses, and to prepare an open record that will allow rapid response to further criticism or suggestions.”

Let’s side aside the fact that the various groups involved from NASA to NOAA to the Met Office have been undertaking their own reviews (see The deniers were half right: The Met Office Hadley Centre had flawed data — but it led them to UNDERestimate the rate of recent global warming and “Watts not to love: New study finds the poor weather stations tend to have a slight COOL bias, not a warm one“).

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You know that because you are prestigious, independent institution, you can bring fresh eyes and credibility to this supposed problem.

How would you go about killing this potentially not-bad idea?   How about picking a co-chair whose knowledge of the subject has been widely criticized?  How about including a bunch of prestigious scientists who know very little about the subject and who have little involvement in the actual study?  How about having your only actual climate scientist — presumably chosen for extra credibility — be Judith Curry?  How about having a family member of the ill-informed co-chair be project manager?   How about taking money from one of the biggest funders of anti-science disinformation in the world?

What’s that you say?  No serious organization on the planet would do something like that, especially in an effort whose entire purpose is to boost credibility?

Let me introduce you to the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature Study, launched in part with a grant by the prestigious Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, co-chaired by Richard Muller (author of widely debunked books, blog posts and Wall Street Journal op-eds), and co-funded by … wait for it … the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation!

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I warned you about the head vises!

Let’s start with Muller.

It is hard to imagine a worse choice to co-chair a study on anything to do with the temperature record aimed at using mathematics to restore some supposedly lost credibility.  Muller himself has actually worked to undermine credibility in well-established science.  He doesn’t have a great grasp of basic climate science (see “Confusing Future Presidents, Part 1“).  Or energy (see “Confusing Future Presidents, Part 2“).

Muller bought into the entire McIntyre and McKitrick nonsense that there was a fundamental flaw in the “hockey stick” analysis by Michael Mann and others that recent warming is likely unprecedented.  He still has on his website an essay, “Global Warming Bombshell,” that he published in Technology Review, aiming to show that

… the hockey stick, the poster-child of the global warming community, turns out to be an artifact of poor mathematics.

Not!  It is Muller whose conclusions are an artifact of poor mathematics.

You’d never know it from Muller but the Hockey Stick was affirmed in a major review by the uber-prestigious National Academy of Scientists (in media-speak, the highest scientific “court” in the land) — see NAS Report and here.

Muller claims that  “In the end, there was nothing new left in Mann’s papers that the National Academy supported, other than the idea that using principal component analysis was, in principle, a good one.”  More objectively, the news story in the journal Nature (subs. req’d) on the NAS panel was headlined:  “Academy affirms hockey-stick graph“!  Nature wrote, “In its report, released on 22 June, the NAS committee more-or-less endorses the work behind the graph.”

Muller seems completely unaware that the Hockey Stick has been replicated and strengthened by numerous independent studies:

And Muller continues to push his contrarian views in venues that delight in such nonsense, including a December 2009 Wall Street Journal Lomborgian opinion piece, “Naked Copenhagen,” which includes such flippant statements as:

Will Happer, a former director of research for the Department of Energy, argues that additional CO2 may have helped the agricultural revolution. And chilly Berkeley might be nicer with a few degrees warming.


In case you think Muller has somehow changed his stripes, here’s a ‘news‘ article from the student-run newspaper Friday about the study:

Global warming is real, Muller said, but both its deniers and exaggerators ignore the science in order to make their point.

“There are the skeptics – they’re not the consensus,” Muller explained. “There are the exaggerators, like Al Gore and Tom Friedman who tell you things that are not part of the consensus … (which) goes largely off of thermometer records.”

Some scientists who fear that their results will be misinterpreted as proof that global warming is not urgent, such as in the case of Climategate, fall into a similar trap of exaggeration.

The Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature Study was conducted with the intention of becoming the new, irrefutable consensus, simply by providing the most complete set of historical and modern temperature data yet made publicly available, so deniers and exaggerators alike can see the numbers.

That is truly a nasty and false smear on two leading Americans, a Nobel laureate along with a three-time Pulitzer Prize winner.  Not exactly a great pitch if your goal is to restore credibility.

Muller appears to be the one who went out and raised money for the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature Study.  It’s hard to imagine anyone else associated with LBNL or the University of California, Berkeley who would ever have asked the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation to fund a re-examination of climate date in an effort to restore credibility.  After all, UCB has already been widely criticized for taking $500 million from British Petroleum for its biofuels Institute — see “UC Berkeley’s BP Deal Tainted By Oil Spill.

It’s hard to imagine a more irresponsible and anti-scientific person than Charles Koch.  ClimateProgress and WonkRoom and ThinkProgress have long detailed the role of the billionaire brothers of Koch Industries, Charles and David Koch, in destroying American prosperity.  The post Koch Industries outspends Exxon Mobil on climate and clean energy disinformation explains:

In a must-read report, Greenpeace details how Koch Industries has “become a financial kingpin of climate science denial and clean energy opposition,” spending over $48.5 million since 1997 to fund the anti-science disinformation machine.

Of course, the Kochs like to burnish their reputations by funding  museum exhibits and opera halls, but, as I’ve noted, even the Koch-funded Smithsonian exhibit whitewashes danger of human-caused climate change.  And it’s not like you have to read blogs to learn of their disinformation campaign.  It has been written about by NYT columnist Frank Rich and the New Yorker.

So I can see why the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation would want to associate itself with Berkeley, as part of the Kochs’ ongoing greenwashing efforts.  But why in the world would Berkeley want to associate itself with Charles Koch?

Do check out the other funders, as the this is quite interesting.

As for the team members, you can go to this page to learn:

The Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature team includes statisticians, physicists, climate experts and others with experience analyzing large and complex data sets.

Actually there is only one climatologist listed.  You guessed it — Judith Curry.

Pretty much the entire science blogosphere have written at length about my old friend Curry.

If you were trying to restore credibility in the temperature data record, if you were looking for one climatologist in the entire country to put on your team, Curry probably wouldn’t be on your short list or your long list.  On her website, Curry states:

I’m not exactly sure what my originally intended role in this was, other than that they viewed me as person that was concerned about uncertainties in the temperature data set, relatively unbiased, and making public statements about the need for transparency and openness in the data sets.  I participated loosely in this project, mostly as a resource person calling their attention to any new papers or blog posts that I thought were relevant and as a sounding board for ideas.  As they have begun analyzing the data, I have completely refrained from commenting on the process or preliminary results, I have only made suggestions regarding where they might publish their analyses, etc.

So even Curry isn’t doing much.

Based on my communications with other people familiar with the study, I am quite confident that many if not most of the other members aren’t doing very much either.  It also appears that most of the other members know little about the controversies surrounding Curry — or Muller, for that matter — let alone that one of the funding sources is Koch.

As but one last example of Muller’s bad judgment, the student newspaper ends:

The Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature Study was conducted with the intention of becoming the new, irrefutable consensus, simply by providing the most complete set of historical and modern temperature data yet made publicly available, so deniers and exaggerators alike can see the numbers.

“We believed that if we brought in the best of the best in terms of statistics, we could use methods that would be easier to understand and not as open to actual manipulation,” said Elizabeth Muller, Richard Muller’s daughter and project manager of the study. “We just create a methodology that will then have no human interaction to pick or choose data.”

C’mon, people!  Can you imagine what would happen if Pachauri or Hansen put together such a team and had their kid as the project manager?  I really hope she’s not getting paid for this.

Ironically, the BEST study (that acronym inspires another, ROTFLMAO) could conceivably come up with some interesting results.  Too bad it imploded.