Volcanoes are erupting in The Philippines, but on-fire Australia received some welcome rain. The Iran war cries have been called off and The Donald’s military powers are about to be hamstrung by the Senate. Meanwhile, his impeachment trial is starting, and we’re all on Twitter for a front-row seat.
Calling Steven Koonin's new book on climate change "pitch-perfect," TPN Member Diane Francis explains why the physicist's book isn't alarmist enough to get much play in the media.
This is the May 20 edition of TPN Member Diane Francis’ newsletter. Read other installments and subscribe here.
In the beginning, there was “Silent Spring” about pesticide pollution in 1962, then, in the 1970s, the discovery of the toxic Love Canal alerted the public to waterway degradation. By 1975, the term Global Warming was popularized, but this was replaced by Climate Change and finally hyped by Al Gore’s “Inconvenient Truth” into a Planetary Climate Emergency.
The semantic evolution from pollution to Armageddon-is-around-the-corner has spawned a global industry with enormous influence that spoonfeeds information to an often uninformed media to alarm and help raise donations. These organizations also shame and punish outliers in the media, politics, or science who do not ascribe to their messaging. And those who diverge this climate cabal take their careers and reputations into their own hands.
One such public “lynching” of an esteemed scientist is newly observable following the publication of his provocative new book that questions all the propaganda, and methodology, surrounding climate science. Don’t expect him to make the network morning show rounds anytime soon because of his heretical views—even though he was the former Chief Scientist in the Obama Energy Department. The book Unsettled: What Climate Science Tells Us, What It Doesn’t, and Why It Matters is written by physicist and climate expert Steven Koonin and is a must-read because it takes on the alarmist, and inaccurate, taglines that have been transmitted to the public for years by the media, the climate scientist establishment, the United Nations, and politicians.
Right out of the gate, Koonin has been pilloried, or ignored, by the usual suspects, but to me, his politically incorrect message is pitch-perfect. He doesn’t dispute the basic science but takes on hyperbole and propaganda and also explains how imprecise forecasting is. He suggests that the science suggests a “slow, modest effect, not a runaway warming” and that these facts, not exaggerated ones, are important for voters and leaders to base decisions on.
In an interview with Wall Street Journal’s science writer, Holman Jenkins, he explains his thesis that the science about our planet’s climate is anything but “settled.” “Koonin takes issue with the fact that what the media, politicians, and activists say about climate science “has drifted so far out of touch with the actual science as to be absurdly, demonstrably false,” writes The Journal’s Jenkins.
Koonin’s book addresses politically-driven climate alarmism head-on with data and charts. He says that heatwaves in the U.S. are not more common than they were in 1900 and the warmest temperatures in the U.S. have not risen in 50 years; that humans have no impact on hurricanes; that Greenland’s ice sheet isn’t shrinking more rapidly than it did 80 years ago; that tornados and droughts are not increasing; that fires are trending significantly downward; that the sea-level has not risen; and that global crop yields are not falling but rising. “The net economic impact of human-induced climate change will be minimal through at least the end of this century,” writes Koonin.
“The 2020 Democratic presidential primary saw each candidate trying to outdo the other with over-the-top statements about ‘climate emergency’ and ‘climate crisis’ increasingly divorced from the science,” writes the Obama appointee.
Koonin suggests that the science suggests a “slow, modest effect, not a runaway warming” and these facts, not exaggerated ones, are important for voters and leaders to base decisions on. “The earth has warmed during the past century, partly because of natural phenomena and partly in response to growing human influences,” he writes. “These human influences (most importantly the accumulation of CO2 from burning fossil fuels) exert a physically small effect on the complex climate system. However, even as human influences have increased fivefold since 1950 and the globe has warmed modestly, most severe weather remains within the past variability. Projections of future climate and weather rely on models demonstrably unfit for the purpose.”
Koonin explains how imprecise forecasting is and why. For instance, this year the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, deemed to compile the best science, is going to estimate how much the weather may change if emissions raise the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere from 0.028% in the 19th century to 0.056% by 2100. That seems a precise enough assignment, but Koonin explains that the Panel relies on more than 40 computer simulations which are already wildly divergent because there is no consensus, among scientists, as to the current global average surface temperature. This is just one of many baseline assumptions that are not agreed upon by climate scientists.
“There are situations where models do a wonderful job,” he said in the interview. “Nuclear weapons…airplanes. But these are much more controlled, engineered situations,” he adds, “whereas the climate is a natural phenomenon. It’s going to do whatever it’s going to do. And it’s hard to observe. You need long, precise observations to understand its natural variability and how it responds to external influences.”
Obviously, if ballpark estimates don’t cut it when building weapons or airplanes, then they certainly shouldn’t cut it when it comes to life-or-death decisions or when it comes to imposing government policies that cost an economy trillions. And yet that’s what has been happening as headlines and coverage raises alarms as though these matters are settled by the science. They are “unsettled”, he writes.
Koonin agrees that the world has warmed by 1 degree Celsius since 1900 and will warm by another degree this century, which lands him roughly the middle of the scientific consensus. Even so, a recent report garnered huge headlines and television attention which claimed temperatures could rise by 8 percent this century, and collapse the world economy. The report was not evaluated by journalists with scientific backgrounds, but by television producers and headline writers, then immediately spun, politicized, and twinned with the usual file photos of fires, floods, polar bears, smokestacks, and photoshopped pictures of New York City underwater.
Koonin believes that the media is to blame, in large measure, as I do. Few media outlets have the budget to employ seasoned scientific experts to evaluate and report on the flood of press releases and analyses issues by publicity-hungry NGOs, academics, think tanks, or individuals. The result is that weather events, usually on a slow news day, are routinely elevated and linked to the global “emergency” without balance, much less a shred of corroborative evidence from bona fide scientists.
One of the favorite fundraising techniques is to trot out the old chestnut that the polar bears are being driven into extinction by global warming—a singularly inaccurate representation of the species situation nowadays. Contrary to environmental campaigns over the years about polar ice disappearing and the polar bear habitat and food supply along with it, the bear population has been increasing in North America where they are audited and stabilizing in Europe, according to official estimates. Russia doesn’t count their bears so that’s an unknown. But the reason for their viability? Government bans on hunting them down as trophies.
Koonin agrees that human existence and fossil fuels and plastics are partially responsible for incremental temperature increases, but he believes, as do others, that natural factors are more to blame. For instance, the existence of millions of volcanoes, mostly beneath the oceans, that regurgitates staggering amounts of heat and material from the Earth’s core constantly affects temperature. And yet, tectonic and volcanic activity beneath the ocean is not monitored or seriously studied. This type of major underwater activity was likely the cause of last year’s runaway forest fires in Australia, according to volcanist and physicist Peter Langdon Ward. He, like Koonin, has also waged a lonely battle against a climate science community that is uniquely close-minded.
Peter Langdon Ward also says the ozone layer has a major influence on temperatures. In 1987, a global agreement called the Montreal Protocol was reached to protect this diminishing layer by phasing out production and consumption of ozone-depleting substances. This worked initially, but cheating by China (now supposedly ended), caused the hole to increase and was the cause of most of the uptick in temperatures until recently, he said. The Chinese allegedly stopped the production of these substances five years ago. Like Koonin’s book, Ward’s data-based website “Why Climate Changes” is also worth a read.
Clearly, the United Nations has been heavily involved in forecasting, disseminating, and promoting climate science hazards. The worst example of its self-promotion was a recent climate survey conducted by its Development Program called “The Peoples’ Climate Vote.” Published results were that 64 percent of a million respondents from 50 countries agreed that “climate change was an emergency.” This was an embarrassing example of self-serving headline reach.
Both Koonin and Ward and other scientific outliers have been shouted down by the climate cabal but are, fortunately, unbowed. The history of science is full of examples of those with new insights being pilloried or punished or even burned at the stake. If these brave scientific pioneers hadn’t resisted superstitious religions and the flat-earthers, the world would have remained in the Dark Ages. Novelist Michael Crichton, a scientist himself, summarized the need for science to remain open-minded and flexible and fluid in a famous 2003 lecture at Caltech: “If it’s consensus, it isn’t science. If it’s science, it isn’t consensus. Period.”