Ethics Hero: Steven Koonin, Former Obama US Department of Energy Undersecretary for Science


Believe it or not, a former Obama official has authored a book, “Unsettled,” that raises many of the weaknesses, fudges and media-silenced discrepancies in the official climate change narrative. His name is Steven Koonin, and of course he is being savaged by reviewers and scientist alike. You won’t see him interviewed on CNN or on any climate change panels on the major networks. Fox News might put him on, but that will just prove that he’s one of the bad guys. That’s how it works.

Yet Koonin’s book appears to be more than reasonable.

The book is an expansion of a controversial opinion piece for the Wall Street Journal he wrote a few years ago headlined “Climate science is not settled”. I missed it, and of course the mainstream media didn’t want to talk about it. Despite what progressives, Democratic policy-makers and your Facebook friends will tell you (and what most of the public believes thanks to careful disinformation or reporting by journalists who got Cs in high school Science class, climate science is not settled. Koonin is bothered by the same feature that Ethics Alarms has commented on many times: scientists can’t accurately predict what the future climate shifts will be.

The book’s argument is in three parts:

1. Despite“the mainstream narrative among the media and policymakers”, it is hard to be sure that human influence really is the cause of observed climate changes. Contrary to what we are told every day, floods, rainfall, droughts, storms, and record high temperatures have not become more common that in various periods in the past. The climate has been warming and sea levels are rising, but what is being called unquestionable human influence may just be natural variability.

2. Climate models are still unreliable and can’t successfully predict the past, much less the future, so the predictions of doom are simply propaganda and irresponsible hysteria. Even the predictions, don’t point to imminent catastrophe, to slow change over time. Keenan believes humanity can easily adapt to that change, and continue to advance and prosper.

3. There is nothing we can do about climate change, and when you have no options, you have no problem. Bravo. This has been the position of Ethics Alarms all along, with the proviso that “something we can do” does not include world dictatorship, which is essentially what the climate change totalitarians, including advocates of “the Green New Deal” are trying to bring about.

Koonin argues, moreover, that the IPCC assessment reports and other major climate analyses are consistent with all of his three points, but that the public is being misled. For example, the report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change notes that studies show evidence for “upward, downward or no trend in the magnitude of floods,” concluded that they were unable to be sure whether, globally, river floods had become more or less likely. That’s not what we hear on NPR. Nor are storms, hurricanes, and droughts suddenly more common as a result of climate change. The IPCC’s report (see p.53 of AR5) has “low confidence” that they are happening more frequently than they were 100 years ago.

But back to #3, the only one that matters in the end, and my personal favorite: Koonin notes that if India were to increase its per capita emissions to those of Japan, “one of the lowest emitting of the developed countries”then that change alone would raise global emissions by 25%. It’s not realistic to think we can stop India from seeking the same kind of development we have enjoyed, and more development means more carbon—and India is just one of many examples. Furthermore, it is unethical to stop them from developing. More developed countries are richer, healthier, more peaceful and contribute more to the world.

Writing about “Unsettled” and critics’ furious response to it, science writer Tom Chivers observes, “They just want to dismiss the book. They attack Koonin’s credibility and credentials, his temperament. They say he was only hired by the Obama Energy Department because of his contrarian views; they call him a “climate denier”, which seems de trop since he accepts most of the central claims of the climate consensus. The response felt more like a circling of the wagons than a serious effort to counter a serious argument. After all, it is unpleasant to hear reasons why you might be wrong about something: cognitive dissonance is painful.”

In other words, they are attacking the messenger, as Koonin must have known they would; after all, he worked with true believers and progressives in the Obama Administration.

That’s what makes him an Ethics Hero.

13 thoughts on “Ethics Hero: Steven Koonin, Former Obama US Department of Energy Undersecretary for Science

  1. Eliminate the massive income /profit potential from government subsidies to advance “Green” initiatives the climate change issue will go the way of the Dodo.

  2. “Climate models are still unreliable and can’t successfully predict the past”

    The laughable inability to even be able to retrodict weather is like flunking a test for which you have the answers.

  3. Climate scientists can’t even predict the weather two weeks out with any consistent accuracy. They have been saying – since the late 1980s – that the Maldives would soon be under water due to rising sea levels. But I just checked the Maldives webcam this evening and the water is currently running up to the edge of the beach, within an inch or so of where it was forty years ago. Ocean levels have been rising at around 1mm per year, just as they were when measurements were being taken during the time of Abraham Lincoln.

    For those who believe the earth is billions of years old and hold to an evolution-based point of view, the greatest explosion of life occurred during the Cambrian era, when it was estimated that CO2 levels were in the thousands of parts per million. So I’m not really sure how current CO2 levels (400ppm) are a sign of terminal illness for the planet.

    I’ve used this illustration numerous times. Fill a large tub with 10,000 marbles – 9,997 white marbles and three blue marbles. This simulates what climate alarmists call a healthy environment – the blue marbles represent CO2 levels back in the 1930s (300ppm), during the horrors of the Dust Bowl and our greatest period of sustained heat. Then replace one white marble with one blue marble. That is now equivalent to 400 CO2 particles per million (the current CO2 level), and what climate alarmists claim will kill us.

    It certainly doesn’t sound right to me, and congrats to Steven Koonin for questioning it on paper for others to read and consider.

  4. There is nothing we can do about climate change, and when you have no options, you have no problem.

    Yes, there is.

    We could throw so much debris and smoke into the air that it would block heat-giving sunlight.

    No sunlight, no heat, no climate change.

    • When Krakatoa exploded we had ‘the year without a summer’. What if Yellowstone blows up? While climate might then be rather lower on our problem list, could we have a ‘decade without a summer?’

      I also recall reading an opinion piece when I was a young man that pollution and such was warming the earth and saving us from another ice age. Speculation about an impending Ice Age was fairly frequent back in the 70s (probably by the same sort of folks who now push global warming), but it never came to pass either.

    • Back in the ’70’s, when the liberal fad was “another Ice Age”, some idiot proposed covering Antartica with soot or lamp-black, to melt the ice and get ocean levels back up where they should be.

  5. During a brutal cold spell in early January 2018, noted Climate Scientist Al Gore, Jr. observed:

    (bolds/italics mine throughout)
    “It’s bitter cold in parts of the US, but climate scientist Dr. Michael Mann explains that’s exactly what we should expect from the climate crisis,”

    Funniest thing, the Nobel Laureate’s Oscar-winning schlockumentary slide show “An Inconvenient Truth did not warn of record cold and increasing snowfalls as a consequence of man-made global warming. And as recently as 2009, Gore was hyping the lack of snow as evidence for man-made global warming.”

    Global Warming INC Anti-Christ Marc Morano:

    ” Originally, we were told that snow would be a thing of the past, that children just wouldn’t know what snow was, then we saw record snows and blizzards – and then we were told that was caused by global warming. Now we’re being told the record cold is caused by global warming in a rather complicated scenario affecting jet streams and increasing extremes in the planet.

    ”The problem is there is no weather event that those proponents can’t blame on global warming.

    ”It’s almost as if it’s a comedy of explanations, they really just will do and say whatever they need in order to make it all fit and reassure themselves that every weather event is consistent with global warming.”

    Morano’s asked: “What if scientists have a better understanding today of climate change than they did years ago?”

    He responds: ”Then make a verifiable forecast – tell us what’s going to happen before it happens and stop this nonsense of telling us how everything that happened was either consistent with or caused by it after the fact.”

  6. How can this happen? High-End Gaming PCs Banned in Six US States after California Energy Bill Limits Sales On High Performance PCs
    “US States California, Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington have banned the sale of high-end gaming PCs under a new energy bill.”

    How is this even legal? I’m not a gamer but how can you prohibit someone from buying a high end PC like this? This is out of control Can someone explain to me how you can ban the sale of high end PCs for gaming just because they consume more power? There are other appliances that consume much more power than a PC. What’s next, no clothes dryers, no 60″ TVs, no electric ranges/ovens?

    I couldn’t believe this was true but if you google it you get several sources.

    • Alienware AURORA R12 has a 550W power supply; most electric ovens draw between 2,000 and 5,000 watts. Granted you don’t use the oven as much as the computer but still, I can’t see how you can pass a law prohibiting the purchase of a high end PC.

  7. I’m going to review a few “predictions of certain doom” from my lifetime, in no particular order.

    The predators of North America will become extinct. I recall the bald Eagle (ddt) the Polar Bear (global warming) the Grizzly Bear (too many people) and now all predator birds (wind turbines) the ferrets, and more, no doubt.

    Ozone layer hole- CFC’s are killing us

    Bees. Roundup/chemicals.

    Miami will be under water (now) -global warming

    We are killing our microbiology in the soil- chemicals

    We are poisoning our waters- pollution.

    Covid- overwhelming hospitals, mass graves expected.

    We will run out of fossil fuels.

    We won’t have enough food to feed us all by 2050 or sooner.

    Out of control population growth.

    Acid rain- air pollution.

    Now it’s not even global warming anymore, it’s the nebulous “climate change” which can never be proven or unproven so it’s not even scientific imo.

    So- forgive me if I have become a skeptic of doom and gloom forecasting of anything at all whatsoever. We have managed to fix many problems without a massive cost to everyone while we keep moving forward, imperfectly for sure, but always forward.

  8. As I have mentioned to climate-changer friends over time, planet Earth is a living, breathing entity of its own, completely aside from human beings; it has evolved over millions of years and continues to evolve, with or without human interference. Industry did not create the Ice Age, as one tiny example.

    There are small ways (big for us, small for Earth), however. The 1970s clean-up of Lake Erie is an example. Humans and industry basically killed this Great Lake, but man was able to clean it up so it has been full of fish (and swimmers) for decades. That kind of control should demand attention: breast-beating and/or trying to control Earth’s evolution is the height of hubris, and just plain silly.

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