Richard Muller, Professor of Physics at UC Berkeley in the United States, is an interesting and controversial figure in the climate debate, and has been in the news quite a lot, in recent years. On this YouTube video, he is being interviewed by Greg Dalton of Climate One, and I’ve transcribed the entire session here.
In some sections of the activist press, such as MSNBC, Prof. Muller is framed, simplistically, as a “climate change denier” who was funded by the evil Koch Brothers to study the Earth’s surface temperature records, and as a result recently underwent a Damascene conversion when he realised that the planet has actually warmed, renouncing his earlier denierhood (is that a real word?) and joining the forces of light and reason. A triumph!
The reality – to anyone who has been following the debate closely, and has more than an ounce of native intelligence – is rather more nuanced.
In the Climate One interview and Q&A, Richard Muller has plenty to say, and not much of it sounds very encouraging for those who are calling (in effect) for the West’s economies to be sacrificed on the altar of CO2 mitigation.
On the infamous Hockey Stick Graph, Michael Mann and the Medieval Warm Period:
What was compelling about what he had done was that he had argued that the signal went back a thousand years. That was shown invalid by the National Academy study. And that it was evident in a wide range of world data. In fact, what had been discovered was that the Hockey Stick that Michael Mann did was derived almost entirely from a few tree ring datasets that were from North America. So, basically, the end of the National Academy study – although it was kind on Mr. Mann – it said that none of the new things that he had come up with his papers in 1998, 1999 – none of them proved out to be correct.
He takes a few swipes at electric cars:
A typical automobile in the United States costs 10 cents per mile to drive, mostly gasoline. The electric cars – the Volt, the Chevrolet Volt, the Nissan Leaf – they cost between 50 cents and 70 cents per mile to drive, when you include the fact that the batteries are only good for 500 recharges. So you don’t save any money.
We have to take actions that will be meaningful in China. Building Tesla automobiles is not a leadership step. They will never be adopted in China.
And at Al Gore:
Back when I first saw An Inconvenient Truth, I predicted that people would discover that most of what is in that movie is either misleading or wrong. And when they discover that, people are deeply offended, and they overreact. I mean, the fact is climate change is a serious problem, but they were oversold with distortions and exaggerations.
And at the insurance industry, who know which side their bread is buttered on (both sides, actually!), and have positioned themselves to benefit handsomely, whatever happens to the climate:
Not that climate change is good but that the perception of climate change is good. You get people to insure against climate change, and then they make more money. That’s certainly true, whether or not – if the climate actually does change, they’ll make more money anyway, because they’re more things to insure. And if it doesn’t change, they make a whole lot more money.
There’s also a statement about winning over CAGW sceptics, which I find somewhat ironic:
So let’s agree on the science, but we don’t do that by consensus, we don’t do this by vote. We do this by addressing the issues raised by other people, and when you’ve addressed those issues, I find myself remarkably capable of convincing sceptics that global warming is real. Then they say “Well okay, I always accepted that. The question is how much it’s caused by humans”.
Actually, there are huge numbers of us who have always accepted that “global warming is real” but think that the important (and unanswered) question is how much it’s caused by humans. That’s been my position from about 2006 and it hasn’t been changed by BEST and their press releases.
Professor Muller’s stance is that the only meaningful action that could halt dangerous future global warming, is if China could be persuaded to convert from coal to natural gas. And when a woman in the audience asks him what the average individual could do, to alleviate global warming, his response is, basically:
In the end – no. You can’t do anything. I’m sorry – you can’t.
To sum up, here’s a bona fide physics professor, whose position is that man-made global warming will be a future danger to us all, but who also believes that:
* The famous Hockey Stick Graph is based on flawed studies.
* The IPCC produces a “policy report, affected by science” but which “doesn’t follow the standards of peer review.”
* The scientists implicated in Climategate behaved in an underhand way.
* Al Gore and others have been guilty of distortions and exaggerations.
* Electric cars may be neat, but they do nothing to mitigate climate change.
* The only thing that would make a difference is if China was converted to natural gas (which is a development that I think most CAGW sceptics would be comfortable with – or indifferent to – anyway.)
* Nothing that ordinary individuals could do would have an impact on climate change.
My summary doesn’t really do the interview justice, and I recommend that you watch the video (and read the transcript) to get the true sense of what he is saying. Then decide whether or not he is an asset to the proponents of CO2 mitigation!
But one thing I think both sides in the climate debate can agree on, whatever their feelings about the man; Professor Richard Muller is certainly not dull.