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Richard Muller and the conversion of a climate change sceptic

I had lunch with my younger son (in his early 50s!) today and, as nearly always, the issue of climate change came up. Getting other people’s perspective is important when you are concerned about a serious issue, and this conversation really proved that point.

He alerted me to a physics Professor at University of California, Berkeley, called Richard Muller, so after I came home, I looked him up.

This video – “Richard Muller: I was wrong on Climate Change” – covers the significant part of the conversion process.

And there were additionally two areas which my son drew to my attention, which had arisen from Professor Muller’s research, which were a new look at the place of nuclear energy and the role of prediction.

What follows is my personal summary of the gist of the conversation and you are welcome to fact check and correct!

Firstly, we start from the fact that we need to transition away from fossil fuels as quickly as possible, since the continuing release of CO2, in increasing quantities, guarantees rising global temperatures.

Clearly two of the greatest emitters are China and India – both of which were allowed more latitude over their rate of emission reduction, because their economies, while catching up fast, are less advanced than are most others in the developed world.

Muller’s research indicated that safe storage of plutonium might be more readily practicable than has been thought, which would provide these two countries with a viable alternative to coal, with sufficient nuclear energy resources without the accompanying pollution.

As an aside, nuclear energy has always been linked to nuclear bombs, which has led to the reluctance of those countries which already have a nuclear arsenal to allow others to have access to nuclear capacity – witness the stoush USA and Syria, for example. In my view, the rate at which our emissions are increasing puts us at considerable risk of annihilating ourselves quite successfully, without waiting for a nuclear bomb to do the trick!

So – introducing the currently excluded nuclear source – while not providing an overnight solution – would reduce the need to develop more coal-fired power stations.

The second issue raised was the reliability of predictions.

Certainly, the early research done by Exxon and Shell carried predictions as to the extent of the rise of carbon levels, which have been shown to be accurate.

To some extent, predictions about changing weather patterns have also appeared to be borne out. The point is not so much that climate change will cause certain weather phenomena but that the change will facilitate more severe outcomes. The jury is still out on that, although the bush-fires appear to support the argument.

While we ought not to cause alarm – because, like a startled rabbit, frozen in the headlights, alarm can lead to inaction! – we do need to take far more action to reduce emissions than we are doing.

And the first step to reducing emissions is to stop digging up coal, drilling for oil and fracking for gas!

Whether we use or export the resulting product, it is the shared atmosphere of our planet which is polluted. The east coast of Australia is currently enduring the results of the catastrophic bush-fires!

And it is not a good look, Scott Morrison, to say the volunteer firies want to be out there doing their job, so you would not consider paying them – while you go off to enjoy all the Christmas parties to which you have been invited and they grab a few more hours sleep and go out in the heat and the polluted air for another long day of saving others!

You are failing to do your job, while they are putting their own lives and livelihoods (for how long will their employers grant them leave?) at risk. Thoughts and prayers are of no use if not backed up by actions!

Australia is a relatively wealthy country – although that wealth is very unevenly distributed! – and we should be doing more to pull our weight and make up the shortfall in emissions reductions by other less well-endowed countries, not asking for special accounting tricks!

And just one last point to be stressed – pollution in general.

Our oceans are sick, our landfills are overflowing and yet efficient recycling methods are available but not being established. Why?

We have lots of unnecessary over-use of resources for packaging and too much use of non-reusable plastic. These are issues that could be addressed by governments in planning, policy-making and legislation.

I hope out politicians will come back from their Christmas break, brimming with clear ideas on these issues!

Forget protecting religion.

Start protecting the planet!


Reduce waste and pollution, recycle all that can be re-purposed and work with others to ensure a future for generations to come!


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  1. Phil Pryor

    We cannot get through, get heard, nobody seems to be able, common sense will not prevail, in requiring the basic intelligent response from an earless turd, a stinker of no known awareness, named Morrison, the P M, but meaning ” Probable Moron” in terms of intelligent responsible duty. We have a government of donor driven, fanatical, profit and career driven gutless wonders of irresponsibility. SHITS.

  2. RosemaryJ36

    Phil Pryor- I am glad I facilitated your getting that out of your system!
    But you are right. They have their own agenda and it does not include worrying about mere mortals like us!
    Sadly, there are billions of lives at risk!

  3. Keith

    Richard Muller had been resourced by the Koch bros to show that climate science was a hoax. Except through extensive assessments he found that climate science was right on the mark, official increases in temperature were accurate. Berkley Earth was subsequently formed by Professor Muller; but now, Berkley Earth are saying that we are already at 1.5C over pre-Industrial levels. They go deeper into temperature of the pre-Industrial period to come to this conclusion.

    Protecting religion at present is but a diversion, the LNP have been caught short on climate policy. We have a Prime Minister and Opposition leader out of phase with what needs to happen in relation to climate change. Opening new coal mines is mutually exclusive to any policy on climate change. The emissions created will come back and bite us. The meeting at Madrid has recognised that Australia reaching climate goals at a canter has been seen as bs.

    Other Nations at Madrid have identified Australia as being at the bottom of the heap in relation to action on climate change.

  4. Phil Pryor

    To Rosemary, it is a duty to be aware, to not deny truth, to advance humanity, to aim at foresight and awareness, to seek some wisdom out of careful and fair observation. BUT, the world and local range of politicians are deliberate, shitheaded, profit seeking, personal greed appeasing, self focussed, insolent and uncaring unwiped anuses, fit only for regular abuse, denunciation, condemnation, accusation. Further to the article, this planet has c. 7.75 billion or so people now, and can perhaps can process and manage c. 50 billion tonnes of resources/product/waste/emissions per year. BUT, we are now using and abusing c. 70 billion tonnes per year and with c. 85 millions of population growth per year, and those expecting rising standards of living and higher rates of all consumption areas, we are facing DOOM, destruction, decline, filth, global decline in warming, atmospheric deterioration of weather and desertification. If this is so, and we face trying to handle up to 150 billions of resources uses, abuses, turnover, pollution and emissions by the end of the century, we seem to be stuffed, ruined, pervert politician polaxed, Morrisoned, Trumped, Borised, done.

  5. Ken Fabian

    I remain unimpressed that Richard Muller so readily believed that mainstream climate science was wrong in the first place – and still likes to blame Environmentalists highlighting the potential worse case outcomes for the existence of climate science denial, ie that greenies going on about it were and are the root cause of denial rather than conservatives coming up with denial all by themselves.

    Real scientific sceptics say “I don’t know”, but Muller was quite willing to claim mainstream science was wrong despite the logical inconsistency of that; if he didn’t know then how could he know they were wrong? That is typical of faux sceptics who declare anything they do not, cannot or choose not to understand is wrong. That he went on to try and prove everyone else was wrong and proved he himself was wrong instead may be better than nothing but it is not indicative of an open mind; had he not been encouraged, because of his known opinions and scientific credentials to prove climate scientists were charlatans he would probably still be claiming climate scientists are charlatans. Now he accepts that climate change is real – but not necessarily that it is all that serious.

    Muller still appears to share many of the logically inconsistent views of conservative opponents of climate action even now – especially that Renewable Energy is crap, that nuclear is the essential magic bullet that can fix it all and that it is Environmentalists opposing nuclear that prevents conservatives from committing to a transition to low emissions – and not the more logical conclusion that refusal to accept climate science is why conservatives do not have real climate policies or real commitment to using nuclear as climate solution.

  6. Perkin Wartneck

    Man-induced climate change cannot be doubted, but it’s not the only influence. We can affect the impactt we have on the climate, but we cannot affect the major influences. If James Lovelock’s Gaia theory is correct – and why not? – and the earth itself is ‘god’, then it will rid itself of us in good time. And if the Earth God is as vicious, vindictive and spiteful as the God of the Book, then it will unleash Yellowstone National Park’s grumbling power and we will all be well and truly rooted.
    Krakatoa affected the Northern hemispheres climate for years in the late19th century, and Krak was a tiddler compared with what Old Yeller will do!

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