Published: Friday, October 28, 2011

There were, if you were paying attention last week, headlines that read essentially, “The thing that we knew all along is true, after all!”

The sad fact is that the confirmation was, in fact, the real news. It was a statement on the sad statement of how the Land of the Free perceives science.

A Berkeley physicist with the last name of Muller had assembled what he called a crack team of scientists, and with money that came in part from the infamous Koch brothers, declared his intention to finally settle the matter of whether the data supported the notion that the globe is warming.

Thanks to Muller’s past contrarian-sounding statements and the infusion of money from the ignorati, there was the distinct possibility that the eternal game of whack-a-mole that drives climate politics in this nation would continue, but with a more respectable sheen. This was a matter of concern for climate scientists and people who generally don’t believe that they are part of a massive global plot to shackle mankind in communist slavery; it was a matter of barely concealed delight among contrarians. Anthony Watts, one of the most prominent and vocal of climate contrarians, in fact vowed to accept Muller’s findings.

Well, Muller released his findings last week, and the only thing surprising about them is that anyone expected him to find that climate scientists have gotten everything wrong. In fact, he said that they’ve gotten things mostly right. A new and fresh look at the data failed to turn up anything out of order. Dog bites man.

Watts, a vocal critic of the peer review process right up until the announcement, announced that he was not able to accept Muller’s findings until they’d gone through proper peer review. In other words, he’ll wait around until a conclusion that doesn’t make him look like an utter fool is reached … even if one never presents itself.

For the rest of you, the results of Muller’s findings can be distilled to this: The atmosphere, of course, is warming.

Savvy contrarians were nonplused. Of course the world is warming. Everyone knows that. The question is whether mankind is driving it. It was as if it was silly for anyone to suggest otherwise.

Except that as recently as six months ago, climate contrarians were mostly arguing that we were in the middle of a cooling cycle, that things weren’t getting warmer but instead cooler. It’d been going on since 1998, and with sunspot activity expected to reach a low point in its 12-year cycle it was going to get even cooler. Between then and now came the disturbing news that last year was one of the hottest in recorded history, and that this year could well rank right up there.

If all that sounds inconsistent or even incoherent, it’s because consistency and coherence never have been hallmarks of climate contrarians. The unifying idea of their argument is that we need not change our behavior because of global warming. Anything that suggests the contrary is heresy; anything that abets it is welcome.

How they arrive at their destination changes depending on the day, possibly by the position of the sun and however their own internal sense of paranoia is affected by changes in the Earth’s magnetic field. Either the atmosphere is not warming, or it is not warming significantly or it is warming due to natural fluctuations. Sprinkled in between you can be assured of hearing that someone talked about global cooling in the 70s, that there was a bigger area of ice this year than last, or that Al Gore is fat and once flew on a jet. Take one from menu A and one from menu B, and make sure you get your complimentary egg roll before walking out the door.

Muller’s findings have been followed by what has become a familiar flow of editorial pieces: The contrarians are increasingly isolated, and that it’s time to have an adult conversation about climate and energy.

Of course we ought to do that, but the contrarians have been isolated for a very long time. The problem is that they don’t know it, and don’t know how alone they really are when it comes to support from scientists (from across basically every discipline). People who are unaware of how out-of-touch they are with reality aren’t going to give up just because they are once again told that they’re living in a fantasy world. In fact, since last week, contrarians have turned on Muller, suggesting that he was a sort of climate Manchurian candidate all along.

To longtime observers of the issue, this was something to be expected. Climate contrarians operate in their own echo chamber, and those who depart from it are considered worse than the enemy. They are considered apostates of the cause. A mere objective analysis of the evidence isn’t going to change their minds. In fact, it’s just evidence that the game has been fixed against them all along.

Eric Baerren is a Morning Sun columnist. He can be found at and can be reached at

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