Remember the Northwest Passage? The mythical short cut from Europe to Asia sought by Henry Hudson and others? The one they never found because it's iced in? Well, it's not mythical any more. A northwest passage to Japan opens up every summer now, due to global warming, I guess, and maritime shipping lines use it, saving a lot of fuel.
Most scientists think it's pretty clear that global warming is real, some don't, and one of the more prominent physicists in the second group has changed his mind and joined the first. The drama surrounding this event tells us much about the difference between Hollywood bad guys and the battles that go on in real life.
Richard Muller was a famous global warming skeptic, questioning research results announced by NOAA and NASA, and the Charles Koch Foundation gave him some money to go over the research data. Charles and David Koch aren't as well known as Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, but they, too, are among the world's richest men, oil money, mostly, and they write some of the biggest checks backing the Tea Party movement. They always figured global warming was a fraud, and it would delight them to have a guy like Muller, who does not have pinwheel eyes, prove it.
He didn't retrace every step ever made in the field, but identified two key areas where the previous research could be wrong. Global warming skeptics have long suspected that weather station data may not be as reliable as it looks. And they have also assumed that measurements taken in cities may be too hot compared to other places - it's a proven fact that places with more concrete than trees have "heat islands" where the temperature shoots far above whatever we're telling you on the air.
Muller learned two things: (1) the data he found corresponded closely with what has been reported by others, and (2) this suggests that the other researchers were unbiased. For those on the fence, the latter implied finding is important, thanks to that bozo in Britain who wrote emails that made it clear he was concerned about how the presentation of data would be received by warming skeptics. (Bad scientist! No Klein bottle!)
Here is Hawaii, where an ocean rise of a few inches would change real estate values forever, inattention to global warming seems careless to say the least, but I can see how it would look the other way if you're Charles or David Koch and an overreaction of one or two degrees could reduce your emissions-creating fortune by billions. The Tea Party hurt their stock investments way more this year than global warming, but let that pass. The point is that in the real world, the enemy is often simply another person who holds an opposite view.
We sometimes have trouble getting our minds around this concept because we keep meeting villains on television and in movies who wear black hats, talk in deeper voices made gravelly by alcohol abuse, and have a penchant for throwing their own people out of windows for failing at some assigned task. The worst boss I ever had never did that, and the Koch brothers wouldn't think of it.
In a movie, Muller would have a sneering conversation with his benefactors before he goes off to find or fabricate evil evidence, and when he came back, sniveling, to report he instead discovered that the other guys were right, one of the Koches, the one on the right, would pull a level and open the floor beneath Muller, while the other one, the one on the left, stroked his cat. In real life, Muller has proclaimed his findings, which he intends to present to a global warming conference put together by another prominent warming skeptic, Petr Chylek, who says, "Of course he'll be welcome. The purpose of our conference is to bring people with different views on climate together." And the Koch Foundation says it will be happy to fund more research.
Why does it matter to make this distinction between real life foes and the cinematic sort? Because in the movies there is no point in bothering to try to change the other guy's mind. In the real world, it's entirely worth the effort.