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.