“The global warming crowd has a problem”

Such a weird lede in this op-ed from Berkeley physicist Richard Muller.  “The global warming crowd has a problem” sounds like he’s going to lay down 800 words of climate change denial!  But no — what he means is something more like:

“Climate scientists have a PR problem, because we’re experiencing a short period of flat temperatures, which makes people think incorrectly that warming has stopped — and part of the blame for this is down to climate scientists themselves, who underrated the amount of natural variation and led people to expect an uninterrupted warming trend.”

Cheers to him for trying to say something this complicated in a NYT op/ed (though warning:  if Brad DeLong is right about the way Muller gets his “temperature plateau,” the article sort of falls apart.)

Still:  I wonder what proportion of people read this quickly and took away from the piece that Muller was smacking down the “global warming crowd” and rejecting the claims of climate change as hooey.

This is related to the question of whether Malcolm Gladwell is to blame for people thinking there’s no such thing as talent and all you have to do is practice oboe for 10,000 hours and you’ll be whatever somebody who’s really good at oboe is called.

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4 thoughts on ““The global warming crowd has a problem”

  1. Rob H. says:

    Seems like it would’ve been easy to start with: “The global warming crowd has a PR problem.”.

  2. Brad is right. Only a charlatan (certainly not a physicist with anyexperience in the statistical analysis of data) would claim that the temperature data reveals that we are currently experiencing “a short period of flat temperatures”.

    Muller seems to be trying to walk the knife-edge of maintaining his Koch funding whilst not being dismissed as a complete nut by his colleagues. That’s a tough balancing act…

  3. Nonlinearity says:

    As someone who is familiar with global temperature trends, I can say that people who claim global warming has flattened are being dishonest. 1998 was an unusually warm year, in part due to a strong El Nino, and it is abundantly clear in looking at the temperature trends that global temperatures are still increasing. The fact that an average year now is like a sharp one-year temperature spike 15 years ago shows how fast global temperatures are increasing. If 1997 or 1999 had been chosen instead, there would be nothing to discuss.

  4. gowers says:

    It’s hard to believe that a serious physicist would make the elementary mistake of declaring, on the basis of a temperature spike in 1998, that there has been a pause in global warming. And yet that seems to be what he is doing. I’m confused.

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