In a turnabout that is considered devastating to the people still trying to deny the existence of global warming, one of the leaders of the climate change deniers has come out and proclaimed that indeed the Earth is getting warmer and it’s the fault of humans. Richard A. Muller, physics professor at University of California Berkeley, announced his change of mind in one of the most public forums he could find: the Op-Ed page in the New York Times.
“Three years ago I identified problems in previous climate studies that, in my mind, threw doubt on the very existence of global warming,” wrote Muller, co-founder of the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature project. “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.”
Muller’s opinion is considered especially meaningful because his Berkeley project is heavily financed by the Charles Koch Charitable Foundation, a vehicle used by controversial petrochemical billionaire Charles G. Koch (who, along with his brother David make up the powerful “Koch Brothers” who are the sworn enemies of liberals across America) to back groups that deny the existence of climate change.
Muller called his current stance “a total turnaround.”
But Tonya Mullins, a spokeswoman for the Koch Foundation, said her organization puts no pressure on scientists to influence the outcome of their work.
“Our grants are designed to promote independent research; as such, recipients hold full control over their findings,” Mullins said in an email to Tribune reporter Neela Banerjee. “In this support, we strive to benefit society by promoting discovery and informing public policy.”
Climatologists say the conversion of Muller is important in the field.
Muller’s conversion might help shape the thinking of the “reasonable middle” of the population “who are genuinely confused and have been honestly taken in” by attacks on climate science, said Michael E. Mann, director of the Earth System Science Center at Pennsylvania State University.
“There is a certain ironic satisfaction in seeing a study funded by the Koch Brothers—the greatest funders of climate change denial and disinformation on the planet—demonstrate what scientists have known with some degree of confidence for nearly two decades: that the globe is indeed warming, and that this warming can only be explained by human-caused increases in greenhouse gas concentrations,” Mann wrote on his Facebook page. “I applaud Muller and his colleagues for acting as any good scientists would, following where their analyses led them, without regard for the possible political repercussions.”