A wide range of groups contributed funding to the project, including Bill Gates and the Koch Foundation (the latter being well known for its hostility to the idea of climate change).
To quote the above article:
The study – the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature (BEST) project – was set up by a University of California astrophysicist who was concerned about the "climategate" dustup over email messages hacked from the UK's University of East Anglia (UEA) that led many observers to believe that climate data had been fudged to exaggerate global warming.The article goes on to say:
The core of UC Berkeley scientist Richard Muller's concern was not, however, that the UEA scientists were getting a raw deal; in his opinion they had brought the worldwide criticism upon themselves.
"I was deeply concerned that the group [at UEA] had concealed discordant data," Muller told BBC News. "Science is best done when the problems with the analysis are candidly shared."
The BEST team, however, had a stated goal of neither proving nor disproving global temperature increases. As expressed by project cofounder Elizabeth Muller, Richard's daughter, the goal was to conduct an analysis so data-rich and objective that it would "cool the debate over global warming by addressing many of the valid claims of the skeptics in a clear and rigorous way."In other words, this project was set up by a skeptic (in the true sense of the word) to prove or disprove whether the world has warmed. And the conclusion - the world has warmed.
The "valid claims" didn't survive.
It's worth noting that the project has not looked at the cause of that warming - whether it's anthropomorphic or not:
Muller also cautions that observers should not take the BEST results and use them to prove something that they can't. When we asked him if it were possible to extrapolate from his team's results and predict whether the temperature increase will continue, he told us: "I don't think that is possible. The key issue is what fraction of the observed change is anthropomorphic. We don't shed much light on that."The article also makes the excellent point:
The development of those models will require sober analysis of data and cooperation among scientists, technicians, and mathematicians, both from supporters and skeptics of predominantly accepted climate-change science.So, where is the value in this project if it hasn't, yet, looked at the cause of warming? The value is in the claims by some (who I wouldn't call skeptics as I don't believe that they have an open mind on the issue) that the Earth has actually cooled over the last decade. This project proves that not to be the case.
And during those discussions, The Reg humbly suggests that we keep two things in mind. One, that although "predominantly accepted" means neither true nor false, automatic contrarianism is of value only when its proponents remain open to data-fueled persuasion.
Edit 16/Feb: The BBC has an excellent article on the study.