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Prominent climate change denier now admits he was wrong (+video)

Richard Muller, who directed a Koch-funded climate change project, has undergone a 'total turnaround' on his stance on global warming, which he now admits is caused by human activity.

By Neela BanerjeeTribune Washington Bureau (MCT) / July 30, 2012

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Washington

The verdict is in: Global warming is real and greenhouse-gas emissions from human activity are the main cause.

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Richard Muller is not a climatologist, yet he is one of the most controversial figures in climate science. Climate Watch Senior Editor sat down with Muller to talk about his upcoming book, "Energy for Future Presidents," his view of global warming as "secular religion." Posted June 15, 2012.

This, according to Richard A. Muller, professor of physics at the University of California, Berkely, a MacArthur fellow and co-founder of the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature project.

The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and hundreds of other climatologists around the world came to such conclusions years ago, but the difference now is the source: Muller is a long-standing, colorful critic of prevailing climate science, and the Berkeley project was heavily funded by the Charles Koch Charitable Foundation, which, along with its libertarian petrochemical billionaire founder Charles G. Koch, has a considerable history of backing groups that deny climate change.

In an opinion piece in Saturday’s New York Times titled “The Conversion of a Climate-Change Skeptic,” Muller writes:

“Three years ago I identified problems in previous climate studies that, in my mind, threw doubt on the very existence of global warming. 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.”

The Berkeley project’s research has shown, Muller says, “that the average temperature of the earth’s land has risen by 2½ degrees Fahrenheit over the past 250 years, including an increase of 1½ degrees over the most recent 50 years. Moreover, it appears likely that essentially all of this increase results from the human emission of greenhouse gases.”

He calls his current stance “a total turnaround.”

Tonya Mullins, a spokeswoman for the Koch Foundation, said the support her foundation provided, along with others, has no bearing on results of the research.

“Our grants are designed to promote independent research; as such, recipients hold full control over their findings,” Mullins said in an email. “In this support, we strive to benefit society by promoting discovery and informing public policy.”

Some leading climate scientists said Muller’s comments show that the science is so strong that even those inclined to reject it cannot once they examine it carefully.

Michael E. Mann, director of the Earth System Science Center at Pennsylvania State University, said 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.

On his Facebook page, Mann wrote: “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. 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.”

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