Richard A. Muller on Global Temperatures

The video above is an excerpt from a much longer lecture, which you can find here. I find it interesting because the man giving the lecture is Dr. Richard A. Muller, a professor of physics at the University of California, Berkeley. What makes this video so interesting is that Dr. Muller believes that global warming is real. In a paper published in Technology Review back in 2003, he said:

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

Thus, he is a “true believer” in global warming. He actually goes on to talk about what he would LOVE to believe, and then he shudders at the idea that as a scientist, he has a desire to believe in anything. He wants his views to be completely data-driven.

Of course, this lies at the heart of his problem, because as he so clearly shows in the video above, the data that have been used to promote global warming are severely flawed. They have been manipulated. Indeed, he says that he cannot even believe the surface temperature data that show a slight increase in global temperature, because the same scientists who botched the famous “hockey stick” graph are the ones who did the analysis of surface temperature data to produce that graph.

As a result, Dr. Muller is doing his own statistical analysis of the surface temperature data to see for himself whether or not surface temperatures are increasing. His analysis will be reported here. I personally think that satellite data are more important in the analysis of global warming, and they still show no significant warming trend. Nevertheless, it should be interesting to see what Dr. Muller reports on his analysis of surface temperatures.

***UPDATE*** The LA Times has run a story indicating that based on 2% of the data being analyzed, Muller says his surface temperature data agree with the surface temperature data linked above. If the agreement remains after the other 98% has been analyzed, this will give us significantly more confidence that surface temperatures are actually warming. (Thanks to Singring for linking this article in a comment!)

10 thoughts on “Richard A. Muller on Global Temperatures”

  1. Great info – thank you Jay. Also, thanks for all the great information you shared with us in your High School workshop at the Homeschool convention last weekend. I enjoyed it and learned a lot. I will be praying for you.

  2. Dr Wile, I am sorry to see you have fallen prey to Dr Muller’s known misrepresentation of the content of the actual eMail, the ‘trick’ that it refers to, the nature of the ‘decline’ (the ‘decline’ was a decline in the correlation of tree ring and temperature data, not a ‘decline’ in the actual temperature) and the supposed ‘secrecy’ of using the ‘trick’. This misconception is cleared up in detail at:

    I quote:

    ‘The “decline” has nothing to do with “Mike’s trick”.

    Phil Jones talks about “Mike’s Nature trick” and “hide the decline” as two separate techniques. However, people often abbreviate the email, distilling it down to “Mike’s trick to hide the decline”. Professor Richard Muller from Berkeley commits this error in a public lecture:

    “A quote came out of the emails, these leaked emails, that said “let’s use Mike’s trick to hide the decline”. That’s the words, “let’s use Mike’s trick to hide the decline”. Mike is Michael Mann, said “hey, trick just means mathematical trick. That’s all.” My response is I’m not worried about the word trick. I’m worried about the decline.”

    Muller quotes “Mike’s nature trick to hide the decline” as if its Phil Jones’s actual words. However, the original text indicates otherwise:

    “I’ve just completed Mike’s Nature trick of adding in the real temps to each series for the last 20 years (ie from 1981 onwards) and from 1961 for Keith’s to hide the decline.”

    It’s clear that “Mike’s Nature trick” is quite separate to Keith Briffa’s “hide the decline”. “Mike’s Nature trick” refers to a technique (in other words, “trick of the trade”) by Michael Mann to plot recent instrumental data along with reconstructed past temperature. This places recent global warming trends in the context of temperature changes over longer time scales.

    There is nothing secret about “Mike’s trick”. Both the instrumental and reconstructed temperature are clearly labelled. To claim this is some sort of secret, nefarious “trick”, or to confuse this with “hide the decline”, displays either ignorance or a willingness to mislead.

    The “decline” has been openly and publicly discussed since 1995

    While skeptics like to portray “the decline” as a phenomena that climate scientists have tried to keep secret, the divergence problem has been publicly discussed in the peer-reviewed literature since 1995 (Jacoby 1995). The IPCC discuss the decline in tree-ring growth openly both in the 2001 Third Assessment Report and in even more detail in the 2007 Fourth Assessment Report.

    The common misconception that scientists tried to hide a decline in global temperatures is false. The decline in tree-ring growth is plainly discussed in the publicly available scientific literature. The divergence in tree-ring growth does not change the fact that we are currently observing many lines of evidence for global warming. The obsessive focus on a short quote, often misquoted and taken out of context, doesn’t change the scientific case that human-caused climate change is real.’

    I hope you will correct your misleading post accordingly. I also look forward to Dr Mullers analysis of surface temperature data and his findings.

    1. Singring, thank you for the link. However, there is nothing misleading in my post. I don’t say anything about the “trick.” Indeed, in my original post on the subject, I am very hesitant to call the trick anything bad. As I say there:

      Is that bad? Not really. In science, the word “trick” is often used to mean “method to take care of something annoying.” Scientists use “tricks” all the time. I think the only thing this E-MAIL indicates is that determining the temperature of the Northern Hemisphere over the past 1,000 years is very difficult. It involves measuring things other than temperature and then attempting to infer temperature from them. As a result, all sorts of “tricks” must be employed. In the end, depending on what “tricks” you use, you can come up with a graph like the one presented above, or a graph like the one presented below

      What Muller points out, and points out very correctly, is that the “hockey stick” graph is incredibly misleading. If you are going to replace the proxies with real temperatures, you need a good reason to do so, and there clearly wasn’t one, other than that the proxies didn’t show what the researchers wanted them to show.

      I agree that the divergence between tree rings and actual measurements is well known in the literature. However, a well-known problem does not justify replacing data you don’t like for data that you like. Until you know WHY this well-known problem exists, you don’t mix the data sets. That’s Muller’s point, and it is spot on!

  3. ‘If you are going to replace the proxies with real temperatures, you need a good reason to do so, and there clearly wasn’t one, other than that the proxies didn’t show what the researchers wanted them to show.’

    See, there you go again. The reason they used actual temperature measurements instead of tree ring proxys is…and I’m sure you must know this…because the correlation between the actual measurements and the proxy has been going down these past decades. There are numerous credible explanations for this (droughts, poor environmental conditions etc.).

    What you are basically alledging is that these scientists were trying to deceive people by using actual temperature measurements rather than proxy measurements. Now for a PhD in any discipline I would expect it to be patently obvious that it is preferrable to use actual, direct measurements rather than proxies, especially if the latter are demonstrably diverging from the current data.

    ‘Until you know WHY this well-known problem exists, you don’t mix the data sets. That’s Muller’s point, and it is spot on!’

    As I have stated, good reasons have been put forward for why the proxy accuracy has gone down (for one of the proxies, mind you – as you can see in the video for yourself, two of the ‘unhidden’ data sets still indicate a strong recent warming trend), the data was clearly labeled in the graph and it is the peak of irony that Muller is critiquing otehr scientists for ‘deceiving’ the audience when he himself

    a) demonstrably misquotes the eMail in question
    b) demonstrably misrepresents what is meant by the ‘trick’ and ‘hiding the decline’
    c) pretends as if these scientists were intentionally misleading their audience when they in fact were very transparent and indicated the source of the data!

    Never mind the fact that Dr Muller apparently is a strong believer in anthropogenic climate change despite his false accusations of deceit, which, if anything, is an indicator that ACC is real and is happening, not some concocted conspiracy as you apparentyl want to make it out to be.

    1. Singring, I am sorry that you try to mischaracterize things rather than actually dealing with the serious scientific issues, as Muller does. I agree that there are NUMEROUS POSSIBLE explanations for why the tree ring proxies do not agree with the more recent temperature measurements. However, until you KNOW the PROPER explanation, you have no reason to believe ANY of the proxy data that cannot be compared to measured temperatures. How do we know that the conditions that are causing the disagreement now were not the prevailing conditions over the course of the graph? The answer is that we do not. As a result, if you are going to use proxies at all, you need to use proxies the whole way. Without a specific reason (the one we know is right), there is simply no excuse for mixing proxies with real measurements. Muller is spot on there.

      I am not at all implying that the researchers were trying to DECEIVE. I am sure they thought that what they did was legitimate. However, any outside observer can easily see that it is not. As a result, their preconceived notions warped their scientific views to the point that they started to do poor science. They didn’t do that because they wanted to deceive. They did it because, as Muller points out in his earlier article, scientists often WANT to believe something, and that makes them do crazy things sometimes.

      Obviously, you are 100% incorrect on your claim that Muller misquotes the E-MAIL. In fact, the E-MAIL says, “I’ve just completed Mike’s Nature trick of adding in the real temps to each series for the last 20 years (ie from 1981 onwards) and from 1961 for Keith’s to hide the decline.” Muller says, “Let’s use Mike’s trick to hide the decline.” He then goes on to say he doesn’t care about the word “trick.” He is worried about “hide the decline,” and that’s what he talks about, exposing the authors’ incredibly poor scientific conduct. So the only relevant part of the quote is “hide the decline.” He can’t be misrepresenting the ‘trick,’ because he says he doesn’t care about that. He is not pretending that the scientists were intentionally misleading their audience, he is just showing how poorly they acted as scientists. Once again, most likely because they just desperately WANTED to believe in global warming.

      Once again, Muller is spot on, and regardless of how you view his presentation, it points out a glaring issue that must be addressed. Thankfully, Muller is worried enough about the data to find out for himself.

  4. A little update:,0,772697.story

    I quote:

    ‘The Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature project was launched by physics professor Richard Muller, a longtime critic of government-led climate studies, to address what he called “the legitimate concerns” of skeptics who believe that global warming is exaggerated.

    But Muller unexpectedly told a congressional hearing last week that the work of the three principal groups that have analyzed the temperature trends underlying climate science is “excellent…. We see a global warming trend that is very similar to that previously reported by the other groups.”

    […]in his testimony Muller praised the “integrity” of previous studies,[…]’

    Turns out Muller’s little bonanza was funded in part by the infamous Koch brothers – oil billionaires, no less. And despite this possible conflict of interest, Muller says the data fully supports an ‘excellent’ global warming trend.

    I suggest you update your blog accordingly.

    1. Thanks, Singring. The article is not discussing Muller’s legitimate problems with the botched “hockey stick” graph. It is saying that after analyzing 2% of the land temperature measurement data, Muller says that his results agree with the currently-accepted surface temperature graph, which is linked in the blog post. I have added an update to the blog post at the end.

      I note that despite the fact that the Koch brothers are partially funding the project, Muller is reporting results that the Koch brothers won’t like. That speaks highly of Muller’s integrity as a scientist.

  5. I agree that it speaks highly of Muller’s integrity. Thanks for updating your blog post.

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