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Climate Change study causes skeptic to jump ship

Recent findings from the Berkeley Earth Project show that the average temperature of the Earth’s land has risen by 1.5°C over the past 250 years, and its results have made global warming skeptics – like the project's founder Richard Muller – jump ship.

The project finds that the “most straightforward explanation” for the warming would be increased man-made greenhouse gas emissions, after putting historical carbon dioxide records and record temperatures into account.

The analysis also measured the Earth’s temperature from 1753, about 100 years earlier than previously done analyses by agencies such as N.A.S.A. and the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. “The limited land coverage prior to 1850 results in larger uncertainties in the behavior of the record; despite these, the behavior is significant,” the press release noted.

Lead scientist Robert Rohde said sudden drops in temperature during 1753 to 1850 were attributed to known volcanic events like the eruption of Mt. Tambora in 1815, which was the largest volcanic eruption in recorded history at a Volcanic Explosivity Index of 7.

“Volcanoes spew particles into the air, which then reflect sunlight and cool the earth for a few years,” the press release added. “Sudden dips in temperature caused by large volcanic explosions are evident back to the late 1700s.”

Meanwhile Berkeley Earth Founder and Scientific Director Richard Muller, who himself was a climate change skeptic, was surprised with the findings, saying the “best match” was to the record of atmospheric carbon dioxide, measured from atmospheric samples and air trapped in polar ice.

“I was not expecting this, but as a scientist, I feel it is my duty to let the evidence change my mind,” he said. In an opinion piece for the New York Times, he claims he is now a “converted skeptic” and his views had undergone a "total turnaround" in a short span of time.

Mr. Muller stresses though that the match between the data and the theory doesn’t prove that carbon dioxide is responsible for the warming, but the fit makes it the “strongest contender.” “To be considered seriously, any alternative explanation must match the data at least as well as does carbon dioxide,” he adds.

Another climate change skeptic, billionaire and U.S. coal magnate Charles Koch, also took part in the research by donating $150,000 by way of his eponymous Charles G Koch Charitable Foundation, according to a report from The Guardian. Another $100,000 came from fellow billionaire Bill Gates’ Fund for Innovative Climate and Energy Research.

An earlier Berkeley Earth study in October last year already found that land-surface temperature had risen by about 0.9 degrees Celsius, though the team did not look for possible fingerprints to explain this warming that time.

Elizabeth Muller, Berkeley Earth co-Founder and Executive Director, says “One of our goals at Berkeley Earth is complete transparency – we believe that everyone should be able to access raw climate data and do their own analysis. Scientists have a duty to be ‘properly skeptical’, and we are trying to lower the barriers to entry into the field.”

She also adds though that the data does not include ocean temperatures, which will be added in further Berkeley Earth Studies. “Another next step for our team is to think about the implications of our findings.” – EcoSeed Staff

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