The global warming movement is losing steam. The state of anxiety that was once present among the electorate has ratcheted down. This is why Muller is “striking” now. The professionally outraged will remain outraged that “nothing” is being done. But the man-in-the-street won’t be able to sustain his worry — even to the point of some saying, “Yeah, this guy Muller is probably right. But so what? I can live with a little heat. Winter’s are too damn cold anyway.” The majority would just as soon forget about it.
“Our Berkeley Earth approach used sophisticated statistical methods developed largely by our lead scientist, Robert Rohde, which allowed us to determine earth land temperature much further back in time.” (NYT)
Ah, yes. Statistical methods. And sophisticated ones at that (1). Case closed, right? After all, you can’t go wrong with proof by statistics.
Last October, I advanced a number of (sophisticated!) criticisms of BEST’s “sophisticated” methods (here and here). At least some of the study authors know of these criticisms: I emailed Muller, Charlotte Wickham, and Judy Curry, but only received a reply from Curry (on her blog).
As far as I can tell, none of the criticisms I made, nor any of the criticisms advanced by D.J. Keenan, have been answered satisfactorily; indeed, they have not been answered at all. I must admit that in politics, it is sometimes best not to acknowledge your critics. In this sense, Muller may be wise.
Muller has two op eds out today, a double whammy meant to influence politics. Well, this blog is meant to influence politics, so there’s noting in the world wrong with that. But just you count how many people, in support of Muller’s position, will call his pieces “science” and not polemic; whereas the opposite labels will be applied to Muller’s critics.
There is nothing new scientifically in Muller’s press releases, except announcements the BEST papers that were long available are still available.
Muller says, as people in his position have long been saying, that he himself, a one-time skeptic, a veritable prodigal son, has settled “the scientific debate.” The fallacy he makes is to say to himself, “I do not know of any flaws in my work, therefore there are none.” Common enough in academia.
I imagine the New York Times won’t be publishing a rebuttal; news that is unwelcome is not newsworthy there. So the interesting test will be how much “traction” Muller’s ploy evinces on the left. The perpetually offended will raise a stink—blog posts with lots of exclamation points, arguments that if one skeptic converts all should, pieces filled with angry glee, that sort of thing. But what effect on the citizen? Nothing more than brief interest on a slow news day, and all forgotten next week? Or a resurgence in fear that, if we don’t start taxing and regulating peoplenow, the end is nigh? Tax dollars, see, absorb carbon dioxide.
Muller has a bit of luck on his side (it’s hot and dry in a few places in the USA this summer; but, for instance, England is cold and wet). Some man will say to himself, “Maybe this guy is right. I had to sweat yesterday.” But then that man will soon be distracted by Romeny’s and Obama’s attack ads, by worries the economy is again suffering, by the closing ceremonies of the Olympics, and so forth.
I’m guessing that the global warming movement is losing steam. The state of anxiety that was once present among the electorate has ratcheted down. This is why Muller is “striking” now. The professionally outraged will remain outraged that “nothing” is being done (besides the billions already being spent, of course). The EPA will reason that it has more reason to swell in size. But the man-in-the-street won’t be able to sustain his worry—even to the point of some saying, “Yeah, this guy Muller is probably right. But so what? I can live with a little heat. Winter’s are too damn cold anyway.” The majority would just as soon forget about it.
1In a leaked, uncorrected draft of Muller’s piece, the word sophistical was originally in place ofsophisticated. The leaked draft also showed Muller has an antipathy toward apostrophes.