UPDATE April 2, 2011: Rich Muller emails:
In the olden days, you would have checked with me before publishing something about me. It is interesting how the time pressure of blogging has changed the standards. You might consider writing an article about that.
Here is a guideline that I strive to maintain: I am often mistaken, but I never lie.
It would be good to discuss the facts of "An Inconvenient Truth" sometimes. In my book, "Physics for Future Presidents", I go into some details about the misleading statements former VP Al Gore makes. I'd be happy to send you a paperback copy.
Original Post March 29, 1011: Joe Romm:
Climate Progress: Muller launched the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature Study.... [A]s Muller revealed in a public talk last week, BEST’s results to date show “We are seeing substantial global warming” and “None of the effects raised by the [skeptics] is going to have anything more than a marginal effect on the amount of global warming.” Muller, clearly, isn’t a denier like Koch. But he does share one thing in common with Koch — Gore Derangement Syndrome.... Brad Johnson has the story of just how far Muller will go to smear Gore:
Unlike Koch, Muller recognizes that fossil fuel pollution is threatening civilization, Muller argues that existing climate policy is corrupt and misguided, and that many leading climate scientists are guilty of academic fraud — just as Koch argues.... As with Koch, a particular target of Muller’s righteous scorn is Vice President Al Gore, whom he calls an “extremist” and “alarmist.” In a recent lecture at the University of California at Berkeley.... Muller claimed that Gore’s documentary, An Inconvenient Truth, was lambasted by esteemed climate scientist Dr. Ralph Cicerone, the head of the National Academy of Sciences:
Al Gore, when he talks about the polar bears being killed by the receding glaciers, no basis for that. In fact, let me jump ahead and tell a little story. Ralph Cicerone, head of the National Academy, said there are lots of things wrong in his movie, and Al Gore asked him to come and explain this to him, and he did come. And he said, “Well, what’s wrong with my movie?”
“Well, lots of things, like the polar bears. We track polar bears. Not a single polar bear has died because of retreating ice.”
And Al Gore turned to his movie producer and said, “So, why did we put that in?” The movie producer said, “Well, it really gets people emotionally involved.”
See, this is what politicians do. They put in things that they consider a real danger that represents what they consider to be reality. Doesn’t matter if it’s technically true or not. So, there’s so much misinformation on this field. Global warming is real. I am deeply concerned about it. I am leading a major study on global warming. But most of what made the newspaper headlines is either wrong, or backward, or simply exaggerated.
Muller’s story is not “technically true.” In fact, it’s false. The meeting between Gore and Cicerone that Muller describes is apocryphal.... Bill Skane, the Executive Director of News & Public Information for the National Academy of Sciences explained in an email that the supposed conversation never took place:
There was no meeting or conversation between Dr. Cicerone and Vice President Gore or his film producer regarding An Inconvenient Truth and thus no comment about polar bears. We’ve contacted Dr. Muller today about his speech and are hoping to hear back from him.... Dr. Muller’s remarks regarding Dr. Cicerone were in error....
Not only did the conversation not take place, Muller’s depiction of An Inconvenient Truth was false as well. Here’s the transcript of what Gore actually said about polar bears in his documentary, which was released in 2006:
Right now, the Arctic ice cap acts like a giant mirror, all the sun’s rays bounce off, more than 90%. It keeps the Earth cooler, but as it melts, and the open ocean receives that sun’s energy instead, more than 90% is absorbed, so there is a faster buildup of heat here, at the North Pole, in the Arctic Ocean, and the Arctic generally than anywhere else on the planet. That’s not good for creatures like polar bears, who depend on the ice. They’re now, actually, looking for other ecological niches. It is sad what’s going on in the Arctic ecosystem.
Unsurprisingly, Cicerone said essentially the same thing a year before Gore’s documentary came out, in testimony before the U.S. Senate:
The Arctic has warmed at a faster rate than the Northern Hemisphere over the past century. A Vision for the International Polar Year 2007-2008 (2004) reports that this warming is associated with a number of impacts including: melting of sea ice, which has important impacts on biological systems such as polar bears, ice-dependent seals and local people for whom these animals are a source of food; increased rain and snow, leading to changes in river discharge and tundra vegetation; and degradation of the permafrost...
My view is that "An Inconvenient Truth" is not perfect--for example, the "hockey stick" is much more a demonstration of our ignorance of pre-1800 climate than convincing proof of low climate variability in previous centuries relative to the twentieth century--but is on balance quite good on the issues...