The role of formal scientific processes in climate science appear to be under threat as never before.
Last year, physicist Prof Richard Muller and colleagues published – in the sense of posting material on their website – results from a new project analysing the Earth’s temperature record.
The Berkeley Earth (BEST) project basically backed up established temperature records from Nasa and others; the world is indeed warming, and by about as much as we previously thought, it concluded.
Prof Muller was attacked in some quarters for not waiting for the formal process of peer review in a scientific journal before launching the data publicly.
He responded that his method – to put the draft out there openly and let everyone respond who wants to – is increasingly the norm in physics and indeed has always been the norm in string theory, that most arcane of disciplines.
In his view, it’s the right way to do things.
A couple of weeks ago, in a New York Times article accompanying the release of five more BEST papers that are being submitted to scientific journals, Prof Muller went further, saying that the majority of 20th Century warming could be laid at the door of greenhouse gas emissions.
By contrast, analysis by established bodies such as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) holds that only after mid-Century did greenhouse gases drive the warming – prior to that, it was predominantly down to natural causes such as solar cycles and a decline in the frequency of large volcanoes.