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« When BEST is not quite good enough - Josh 176 | Main | Counterblast »

Not the BEST

Commenters on the climate debate have a tendency to see things in terms of black and white or of goodies and baddies. Typical of this kind of thing is the desperate attempts by MSM upholders of the IPCC consensus to portray Richard Muller as a former sceptic who has now seen the light. This idea only gains any credence at all because of Muller's role as an early supporter of McIntyre's work on the Hockey Stick. However, as has now been documented elsewhere, his characterisation as a sceptic is hard to square with most of his other comments on the climate issue and also with his flat denial that he has ever been a sceptic. It is probably safe to say that he is a firm upholder of the IPCC consensus who is honest enough to state clearly that the Hockey Stick was flawed.

It is probably also not stretching the truth to suggest that Muller enjoys being in the public eye, and today Ross McKitrick has revealed a rather sorry tale about the trouble Muller's publicity hunger has got him into. The story concerns the peer review of the last batch of Muller et al papers last year. As Ross explains, he was a peer reviewer of one of the papers:

I submitted my review just before the end of September 2011, outlining what I saw were serious shortcomings in their methods and arguing that their analysis does not establish valid grounds for the conclusions they assert. I suggested the authors be asked to undertake a major revision. 
   In October 2011, despite the papers not being accepted, Richard Muller launched a major international publicity blitz announcing the results of the "BEST" project. I wrote to him and his coauthor Judy Curry objecting to the promotional initiative since the critical comments of people like me were locked up under confidentiality rules, and the papers had not been accepted for publication. Richard stated that he felt there was no alternative since the studies would be picked up by the press anyway. Later, when the journal turned the paper down and asked for major revisions, I sought permission from Richard to release my review. He requested that I post it without indicating I was a reviewer for JGR. Since that was not feasible I simply kept it confidential.

Since then, there has been another round of peer review, in which McKitrick recommended rejection of the paper, since few of his earlier objections had been addressed. Now, in the face of the latest Muller publicity blitz, McKitrick has decided to reveal all. You can read his article here.

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Reader Comments (57)

Should be interesting to see how the msm and IPCC deal with this.

Reporting BEST, but not reporting Watts, would clearly show bias. Claiming not to have seen the press release is untenable. Ignoring BEST is untenable given the previous media coverage. Ignoring Watts is untenable.

If the IPCC use BEST and ignore Watts, we have clear bias. Ignoring both is untenable given previous history and even the use of "grey literature"

Clever move by Watts, although we all need to stay calm until the paper has passed peer review.

Jul 30, 2012 at 8:13 AM | Registered Commentermangochutney

Muller's disingenuous claims to have been a skeptic and his unsupported claims of even higher warming, are typical of the alarmist tactics. At the end of the day Muller has added nothing to the debate but has claimed a lot of credit.

Jul 30, 2012 at 8:17 AM | Unregistered CommenterConfusedPhoton

It's the end game. BEST is the equivalent of clutching at straws. They thought they has succeeded by grabbing a big one until Watts came along and showed it had been artificially expanded by the UHI!

Jul 30, 2012 at 8:20 AM | Unregistered Commenterspartacusisfree

The MFM will simply ignor Watts, claiming that he is a mere blogger on the Internet.


Jul 30, 2012 at 8:23 AM | Unregistered CommenterMailman

Mullers activity is simply a grab for market share by dissing all the compettitors. No wonder ‘the crew’ are so antagonistic.

Muller is after all making money from his climate consultancy business.

Jul 30, 2012 at 8:24 AM | Unregistered Commenterconfused

I have just finished reading Ross's reviews. They are quite damning (even in the eyes of a statistically-challenged person such as I).

As I had observed circa Oct. 31/11 (when I had asked Will the real Richard Muller please stand up):

BEST gave very little warning to those who were subsequently called upon by various media outlets to comment on the story; but, most bizarrely, because at least one of the papers submitted for peer review was to a journal that requires peer reviewers to maintain confidentiality until publication, Dr. Ross McKitrick is prevented from providing any informed comment – while Muller seems to have no such constraints placed upon him.

YMMV, but this suggests to me that there is something really wrong with this picture.[...]

Little did I realize just how very wrong Muller's "word pictures" would turn out to be!

Another pixel to add to the emerging picture:

Judith Curry declined to be named as a co-author, and has stated:

[...] the scientific analyses that the BEST team has done with the new data set are controversial, including the impact of station quality on interpreting temperature trends and the urban heat island effect.

Their latest paper on the 250 year record concludes that the best explanation for the observed warming is greenhouse gas emissions. In my opinion, their analysis is way over simplistic and not at all convincing [...] the big question is how much of this warming can be attributed to greenhouse gas emissions. I dont think this question can be answered by the simple curve fitting used in this paper, and I don’t see that their paper adds anything to our understanding of the causes of the recent warming.[...]

So it appears to me that - notwithstanding Muller Jr's "spin" in response to Revkin's questions - Muller has earned himself (and BEST) a big black-eye from which I cannot imagine how he might recover (except, perhaps, with some additional heavy-duty "spin" from the usual suspects on your side of the pond!)

Jul 30, 2012 at 8:28 AM | Registered CommenterHilary Ostrov

I don't see how the msm can ignore Watts without showing bias - it's not as though any msm outlet with their own environmental "journalist" is unaware of Watts and the surface stations project.

If Watts paper stands up to scrutiny, it really is a game changer which cannot be ignored

Jul 30, 2012 at 8:31 AM | Registered Commentermangochutney

An amusing section from the 2nd review:

The empirical demonstration is interesting, but we view it as a way to do the “trend analysis” part of our paper “correctly”. That isn’t our goal.

Jul 30, 2012 at 8:33 AM | Unregistered Commenterredc

double ouch for Muller

Michael Mann's facebook thoughts (borrowed from WUWT comments)


He’s made his headlines but isn’t making too many friends.

Mike Mann posting on Facebook:

Michael Mann:
"My view is that Muller’s efforts to promote himself by belittling the collective efforts of the entire atmospheric/climate research community over several decades, though, really does the scientific community a disservice. Its great that he’s reaffirmed what we already knew.

But for him to pretend that we couldn’t trust this entire scientific field until Richard Muller put his personal stamp of approval on their conclusions is, in my view, a very dangerously misguided philosophical take on how science works. It seems, in the end–quite sadly–that this is all really about Richard Muller’s self-aggrandizement ;( - Michael Mann


The self-aggrandizement comment seems to be spot on, though of course much disagreement exists elsewhere. Really, has the type of simplistic analysis performed by Muller not been done to death already?

Jul 30, 2012 at 8:40 AM | Unregistered CommenterBarry Woods

Ouch is right.
From anyone else the comment might have been binned. From Pielke Sr it carries weight.

Jul 30, 2012 at 8:42 AM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

What is meant by "recent warming"? No sign of it this millenium.

Jul 30, 2012 at 8:53 AM | Unregistered CommenterPhillip Bratby

I find it telling that Judith Curry backed out of having her name on the paper.

Jul 30, 2012 at 8:54 AM | Unregistered CommenterOtter

Given that Judith Curry bowed out of this round of the madness and that Ross contacted her as reviewer for JGR it will be interesting to see her manoeuvrings on the fence, if she was ever really on it.
Given the odd twisting and turning of our Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States recently, I do not envy any who would stand between the massive bureaucracy in place (seven of the ten richest counties in the US boarder Washington DC), let alone challenge it.
A dumbed down population and a compliant media equals a perfect storm.

Jul 30, 2012 at 8:57 AM | Unregistered CommenterJohn another

Richard Muller second BEST again, as usual. LOL

Jul 30, 2012 at 9:23 AM | Unregistered CommenterJim

I have also just finished reading McKittrick's reviews.
The BEST research, at least as Muller finally wrote it up, could be interpreted in just about whichever way the reader (or writer) chose.
I find myself in agreement with Michael Mann.

Jul 30, 2012 at 9:25 AM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson


I think you are being rather generous with Muller, claiming that others hold him up as a converted skeptic. Does he not state in his NYT Op-Ed piece:

"Call me a converted skeptic"


"My total turnaround, in such a short time, is the result of careful and objective analysis by the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature project, which I founded with my daughter Elizabeth."

Jul 30, 2012 at 9:39 AM | Unregistered CommenterGeckko

Jul 30, 2012 at 9:25 AM | Mike Jackson

I find myself in agreement with Michael Mann.

Ah, but the question is, Mike, with which Michael Mann do you find yourself in agreement?! The self-aggrandizing Mann recognizing a "kindred spirit" or Mann as portrayed by Hickman in yet another of his hallmark free-speech-for-me-and-no-comments-from-thee posts:

[Mann] added: "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. They are certain to be attacked by the professional climate change denial crowd for their findings."

Jul 30, 2012 at 10:05 AM | Registered CommenterHilary Ostrov

O/T but how does one pronounce Pielke ?

Jul 30, 2012 at 10:18 AM | Unregistered CommenterJack Hughes

For Pielke, from what I heard of his (Jr, not the dad) radio talk, it was PELL key but I'm the first to admit my industrial deafness does not make me a realiable source.

Jul 30, 2012 at 10:25 AM | Unregistered CommenterChrisM

Good to know that at least Mann has understood the consequences of worshiping Muller. There is still some functioning brain cell in the alarmist community

Jul 30, 2012 at 10:59 AM | Registered Commenteromnologos

If nothing else, Watts is having a lot of fun aping Muller here, and I expect the climateers will go to DefCon1 on this whole matter. If nothing else, this will expose a lot of double-standards, but as we always say, without double-standards, the Left wouldn’t have any standards at all.

Jul 30, 2012 at 11:22 AM | Registered Commentermatthu

Stop trying to confuse me!
I was actually referring to Barry's reference to Mann's Facebook comment that suggests that "with Muller for a friend who needs enemies."
But there is an interesting interplay here. Mann is obviously quite happy with BEST work as long as it supports the paradigm and can be defended. Once McKittrick drives a coach and horses through it and through its revision and Muller starts to look as if he might be an embarrassment then the situation changes.

Jul 30, 2012 at 11:22 AM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

" ...... without double-standards, the Left wouldn’t have any standards at all."

I LOVE it!

Jul 30, 2012 at 11:31 AM | Unregistered CommenterHuhneToTheSlammer

Seems Mueller is getting mullered over at Judith's blog. Only Mosher (is that the famous moshed potato guy?), some guy called Zeke and a rabbit are defending the paper.

naturally enough Titanthony comes in for a fair amount of criticism so it's going to be interesting to see how his paper pans out.



Jul 30, 2012 at 11:44 AM | Unregistered CommenterMailman

It's not the first time I've witnessed a physicist drop into another field, make spurious claims, and generally put everyone's back up with his arrogance and, um, flexible relations with propriety.

Jul 30, 2012 at 12:00 PM | Unregistered Commenterdearieme

It's not the end game, it's a total irrelevance.

Later on this year, the EU begins the process of auction of carbon permits under Phase 3 of the EU ETS. They're expecting to sell a billion of them every year between 2013 and 2020. Each is currently worth about 7 euros. That's 7 billion euros a year, 56 billion euros over the course of Phase 3.

Normally when governments levy a tax they have to convince electors that there's something important the money is needed to pay for, some urgent immediate need that requires taxpayers' money right now. They can collect billions for the NHS, for example, but there has to be an NHS. They can tax only if they spend.

Emissions are different; this is taxing air, and governments need not anything whatsoever with the revenue. They don't have to build anything or deliver anything. The point of the tax is for there to be a tax. That's all. That's it. Air is bad for you, so they're taxing it. Or rather, air is bad for the environment so they're taxing you. It is free money because the planet is in danger.

I was watching Robocop over the weekend. There is a scene in which ED209, an executive's pet police robot project, screws up publicly, and is suspended in favour of another executive's much cheaper Robocop project. Enraged, the first exec corners the other and rants: "'ve insulted this company with that bastard creation of yours. I had a guaranteed military sale with ED 209. Renovation program! Spare parts for 25 years! Who cares if it worked or not?"

That is exactly where we are. Governments have a guaranteed effort free tax revenue stream indefinitely. Originally this was based on the genius of the A Level geography class of 1975, but the revelation that they are idiots comes too late to change anything. The laws are here, the bureacracy is here, the money tree is here - who cares if the science works or not? It's about the money. It has always been about the money.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: UK income tax was invented over 200 years ago as a temporary measure to fund the defeat of Napoleon. It's still here. 200 years from now, so will the carbon taxes be.

Being right's not enough. It doesn't matter. Galileo was right 400 years ago but the Church still exists. Carbon taxes? Same thing.

Jul 30, 2012 at 12:01 PM | Unregistered CommenterJustice4Rinka

'If the IPCC use BEST and ignore Watts, we have clear bias.'

NO AGW NO IPCC ,that is the bottom line its not bias so much as self preservation at work, that turkey is not going to vote for Christmas .
As I said on other article this not an argument about the science and certainly not about the quality of the science , in the real word you can be right but lose because right and wrong is not how things are judge .
Right now BEST is in the driving seat not becasue of its 'scientific value ' but becasue of its political usefulness to those that have access to the press and yes do form the consensus within the area , that doe snot mean their right .

Jul 30, 2012 at 12:05 PM | Unregistered CommenterKnR

Stoat is not impressed and is dismissing Watts out of hand.

Jul 30, 2012 at 12:06 PM | Unregistered Commenterconfused

Stoat is not impressed and is dismissing Watts out of hand.

That's news right next to ursine forestry defecatory habits.

Jul 30, 2012 at 12:17 PM | Registered Commenteromnologos

I would also add that emissions trading has the makings of being the next LIBOR scandal. The key assumption made back in the day by the EU was that a tonne of carbon would cost about 30 euros. The current price is a quarter of that. This is a major problem because they were expecting to make 200 billion and now they're looking at a quarter of that.

With LIBOR, Barclays' case was that the referee got the players to cheat. We should expect to see the same with the carbon price. If it's only 7 euros to emit a tonne of carbon, then it's not nearly lucrative enough for governments. They will try to fiddle that price upwards, ostensibly to benefit the environment but in reality to rake in more money. This corruption will be passed off as acceptable because undertaken in a noble cause. Where have we heard that before, hmmm?

Jul 30, 2012 at 12:30 PM | Unregistered CommenterJustice4Rinka


ursine forestry defecatory habits.

Belly laughs!
I prefer the more sophisticated "does a rocking horse have a wooden dick?" (snip snip)

Jul 30, 2012 at 12:43 PM | Registered CommenterDung

Now now. Just because the man is a religious zealot and a member of the Mustelidae, doesn't mean he hasn't got a point . Even a clock is correct ...

Jul 30, 2012 at 1:10 PM | Unregistered Commenterconfused


Pretty much agree with all of that. It's dangerous to be right when the government is wrong.

Jul 30, 2012 at 1:21 PM | Unregistered CommenterSteveW

On the subject of double standards, there's a lovely example in the BEST use of volcanoes.

In the latest work they make much use of volcanoes to explain dips in the temperature record such as around 1991 due to Pinatubo. [They also seem to think that El Chichon (1982) was in the early 1960s!]

But in their FAQ section Has Global Warming Stopped they use the 1980 - 1995 period to try to claim that the present period of no warming is not unusual, without mentioning the two volcanic eruptions in that period!

Jul 30, 2012 at 1:28 PM | Registered CommenterPaul Matthews

I h think a most balanced view can be had at:

A recommended read.

Jul 30, 2012 at 1:41 PM | Unregistered Commenterconfused

German geologist Dr. Sebastian Lüning and chemist Prof. Fritz Vahrenholt react to Anthony Watts’s press release concerning the quality of US temperature data

Translated here

The result of the new study is shocking: Instead of correcting downwards temperatures that were heated by the urban heat island effect, the official US administration offices apparently corrected data from qualitively reliable stations upwards, which appears to be unjustifiable. If the result is confirmed, then it would be a shocking development. The warming in the USA over the last years would be far less rapid than what has always been assumed. And because similar errors are supected elsewhere, the issue could quickly gain global relevance.

Has anybody seen any reaction yet from the UK mainstream media? (Apart from Delingpole's blog of course!)

Jul 30, 2012 at 1:42 PM | Registered Commentermatthu


'If the IPCC use BEST and ignore Watts, we have clear bias.'

NO AGW NO IPCC ,that is the bottom line its not bias so much as self preservation at work, that turkey is not going to vote for Christmas .

Agreed. The IPCC will probably just morph another body saving the world from humanity

Jul 30, 2012 at 1:44 PM | Registered Commentermangochutney

A Watts, Christy & Pielke Sr. paper is not something that can be considered blog output.

Jul 30, 2012 at 2:26 PM | Unregistered CommenterPaul in Sweden

"Ex-sceptic says climate change is down to humans"
The bbc couldn't resist it. But who wrote it? Is it normal that articles in the bbc science-environment section get published anonymously? Or are they trying to wriggle out of a blogospheric Mullering? Richard Black - shame on you.

Jul 30, 2012 at 3:23 PM | Unregistered CommenterJustin Ert

McKitrick has really skewered this one. Particularly good is his explanation of how greater rural warming over urban warming is exactly what you would expect to see in the absence of climate warming but presence of false "warming" resulting from contamination due to population growth.

Jul 30, 2012 at 4:21 PM | Unregistered CommenterNicholas Hallam

@Justin Ert

Not sure it was Black, he's meant to be on annual leave according to his email response

But, definitely shame on the BBC for presenting a one sided story with no comments allowed

Write in everybody:

Jul 30, 2012 at 4:23 PM | Registered Commentermangochutney

Re: Justin Ert

Not only do the BBC only show one side, they also use a section of Mann's infamous hockey stick graph as an illustration.

Jul 30, 2012 at 4:46 PM | Unregistered CommenterTerryS

I think the Watts paper still needs a lot of tidying up before it is presentable. It was clearly finished in a hurry. Understandable. I've chipped in with my contributions, but still would like to read some more about the Leroy 2010 methodology, and some more detail on the 'experimental' section.

It certainly appears more convincing than Muller's story, but, then....The Emperor is not as forgiving as I am.

Jul 30, 2012 at 4:48 PM | Unregistered Commentermichael hart

Not wanting to defend the BBC but if you read the complete article you'll see that they do include Judith Curry's concerns, so there is some attempt at 'balance'... maybe not enough, but at least it's better than nothing

Jul 30, 2012 at 5:03 PM | Unregistered CommenterDave Salt

The BBC article also shows the Hockey Stick. Best is about the temperature record not the Paleo climate temperature record. Just shows how good the standard is at the BBC.

Jul 30, 2012 at 5:11 PM | Unregistered CommenterJack Cowper

Is it normal that articles in the bbc science-environment section get published anonymously? Or are they trying to wriggle out of a blogospheric Mullering? Richard Black - shame on you.

Jul 30, 2012 at 3:23 PM Justin Ert

I noticed that - maybe it's a new policy.

"All opinions expressed by the State Broadcaster represent the thoughts of right minded people everywhere - and are therefore not open to discussion or revision by unqualified citizens"

Jul 30, 2012 at 5:38 PM | Registered CommenterFoxgoose

I have to confess I am still grinning over the delicious footnote at Matt Briggs' blog. It notes:

"In a leaked, uncorrected draft of Muller’s piece, the word sophistical was originally in place of sophisticated."

Jul 30, 2012 at 5:59 PM | Unregistered CommenterDr K.A. Rodgers

Have the BBC added the bit at the bottom of the Muller article, because I'm sure it wasn't there earlier:

Jul 30, 2012 at 6:24 PM | Registered Commentermangochutney

Re: Mangochutney.

It wasn't. I've got both versions open in different windows and the following has been added:

Sceptical blogger Anthony Watts criticised elements of the team's findings, releasing details of his own analysis which claims to show that US temperature trends in recent decades show "spurious doubling".

Usually, when they modify an article the change the "Last updated" time, but both the old and the new claim the last update was at 13:05

Jul 30, 2012 at 6:33 PM | Unregistered CommenterTerryS

The have made "Judith Curry of the Georgia Institute of Technology" into a link to Climate Etc and added the following:

The Berkeley Earth project studies have not yet been published in peer reviewed scientific journals, but the team has submitted them to the Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres.

Jul 30, 2012 at 6:39 PM | Unregistered CommenterTerryS

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