Berkeley Panel Concludes that Global Warming Is "Real" and That IPCC Estimates Understate the Average Temperature Increases

Wall Street Journal
October 21, 2011

The Case Against Global-Warming Skepticism: There Were Good Reasons for Doubt, Until Now.
Richard A. Muller

The Berkeley Earth Temperature Project released its four detailed papers on the results of its study of global temperature change. The Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature project was launched by physics professor Richard Muller, a longtime critic of government-led climate studies, to address what he called “the legitimate concerns” of skeptics who believe that global warming is exaggerated. The Berkeley project’s biggest private backer, at $150,000, is the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation. Oil billionaires Charles and David Koch are the nation’s most prominent funders of efforts to prevent curbs on the burning of fossil fuels, the largest contributor to planet-warming greenhouse gases. According to the Berkeley Earth website, the purpose of the study is to offer a “transparent” approach to the issue, based on data analysis:

The most important indicator of global warming, by far, is the land and sea surface temperature record. This has been criticized in several ways, including the choice of stations and the methods for correcting systematic errors. The Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature study sets out to do a new analysis of the surface temperature record in a rigorous manner that addresses this criticism. We are using over 39,000 unique stations, which is more than five times the 7,280 stations found in the Global Historical Climatology Network Monthly data set (GHCN-M) that has served as the focus of many climate studies.

Our aim is to resolve current criticism of the former temperature analyses, and to prepare an open record that will allow rapid response to further criticism or suggestions. Our results include not only our best estimate for the global temperature change, but estimates of the uncertainties in the record.

According to Mr. Muller’s Op-Ed piece in the Wall Street Journal, the Berkeley Earth studies “discovered that about one-third of the world’s temperature stations have recorded cooling temperatures, and about two-thirds have recorded warming. The two-to-one ratio reflects global warming. The changes at the locations that showed warming were typically between 1-2ºC, much greater than the IPCC’s [United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] average of 0.64ºC.” On this point, Mr. Muller states that “[o]ur results turned out to be close to those published by prior groups. We think that means that those groups had truly been very careful in their work, despite their inability to convince some skeptics of that. They managed to avoid bias in their data selection, homogenization and other corrections.”

Of course, Mr. Muller was quick to point out that while the studies demonstrate that global warming is “real,” the Berkeley Project made “no independent assessment” of “how much of the warming is due to humans and what will be the likely effects.” The studies should nonetheless end the portion of the climate debate about whether global warming is in fact occurring. Not the outcome the Koch Brothers were looking for, of course, but the origin of the studies and the rigorous temperature gathering methodology should lend considerable legitimacy to the Berkeley Project’s findings.