New Climate Study Finds Concerns on Earth Temperature Measurements Unfounded

Last week, the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature (BEST) project published the preliminary results of a study to assess whether models that indicate warming of the earth’s surface temperatures are accurate. This effort emerged following the East Anglia University email hacking incident of early 2010 and was aimed, in part, to explore critiques that the methodology of obtaining temperatures from around the world were overestimating global warming. The initiative was led by Richard Muller, a professor of physics at UC Berkeley, who has expressed concern over some elements of past climate science. It was funded in part by a $150,000 grant from the Charles G. Koch Foundation. Charles Koch is one of the Koch Brothers, who’ve been identified as leading funders of institutions opposed to action on climate change.

Preliminary results of the BEST study (four papers have been put out for peer-review, but they’ve also been made public) indicate that the conclusions of warming from existing models are, in effect, accurate. It is yet another independent confirmation of the scientific consensus on global warming. Muller has an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal’s European edition that’s worth reading. A key segment:

When we began our study, we felt that skeptics had raised legitimate issues, and we didn’t know what we’d find. Our results turned out to be close to those published by prior groups. We think that means that those groups had truly been very careful in their work, despite their inability to convince some skeptics of that. They managed to avoid bias in their data selection, homogenization and other corrections.

The BEST study is a pretty big deal. It was picked up by a number of leading global news outlets. You can read that coverage here:

The Economist

New York Times Dot.earth blog
The Guardian
The BBC

Global Zero Summit at Reagan Library Talks Nuclear Disarmament

The Skoll family of organizations had good representation at the Global Zero Summit last week at the Reagan Presidential Library, with Jeff Skoll participating on a panel on the costs of nuclear weapons, Skoll Global Threats Fund President Larry Brilliant and I attending, and Jenna Briand of TakePart.com, the digital division of Participant Media, also participating. The Skoll Global Threats Fund supports Global Zero in its efforts to build public and policy support for the gradual reduction – and eventual elimination – of nuclear weapons. This sounds like pie in the sky stuff, until you realize some of the biggest supporters of this goal are key players from the Cold War. George Schultz, Reagan’s Secretary of State, kicked off the conference, and James Baker, George H.W. Bush’s Secretary of State, also spoke. So did recently retired General James Cartwright, the former Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Commander of the U.S. Strategic Command. These aren’t idealistic doves. Here’s a short video with an overview of the Summit, including segments with Jeff Skoll and George Shultz:

Global Zero Summit from TakePart on Vimeo.

Here’s Larry Brilliant with his take on the nuclear issue.

The next step in the Global Zero Action Plan (pdf) is to push for multilateral negotiations on nuclear weapons reduction. The largest weapons holders – the U.S. and Russia – continue to engage on driving their numbers down, so the idea of extending the discussion to all the nuclear players isn’t as much of a stretch as it might seem. The broad range of players that participated at the Summit – including all nuclear weapons states except North Korea – certainly show broad momentum for the goal.

U.S. Still Falls Short on Preparedness for Biological Threats

The WMD Center, a Skoll Global Threats Fund grantee, published this week a report card assessing U.S. readiness to respond to a biological threat, whether accidental or intentional. This follows a broader report published in 2008 by the Congressional Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation and Terrorism called World At Risk that revealed big gaps in U.S. response capacity for a range of potential threats, including biological. Sadly, the news still isn’t good. The WMD Center report card assesses a range of capacities – detection, countermeasures, communications, and more – and finds many gaps. It also provides recommendations for how to prioritize resources to close the most important gaps. The report card has received significant media attention, including articles on CNN, the Wall Street Journal, UPI and more.

Coming on the heels of the film Contagion, co-produced by our sister entity, Participant Media, we hope the BioReponse Report card continues to drive public conversation around the risks of pandemics and biological threats and the need to think creatively on ways to counter them.