In our recent article about the forthcoming G7 Summit in Cornwall we suggested that:
Climate change is top of the G7 agenda along with Covid-19, and you can rest assured that vested interests will not miss any opportunity to promote those interests over the next two months and beyond.
That has indeed proved to be the case! Let us count the ways.
Steven Koonin’s new book “Unsettled: What Climate Science Tells Us, What It Doesn’t, and Why It Matters” is being promoted (left?), right and centre by a veritable cornucopia of the usual suspects. In an endeavour to explain (to the mythical (wo)man in the street?) the ways in which “A lie will fly around the whole world while the truth is getting its boots on” I’ve performed a Google search for the phrase “climate science has drifted so far out of touch with the actual science as to be absurdly demonstrably false” by way of a demonstration:
65 “demonstrably false” clones of the WSJ article, and counting……
This morning’s update on my “demonstration” Google search.
There are now 241 “demonstrably false” Kooninism clones, and counting……
In yet more “Shock News!!!” The Australian, one of the usual suspects, has recently joined the fray, and is currently #1 in the rankings.
By way of contrast, a search based on the title and author of Mr. Koonin’s forthcoming book reveals our G7 Summit article on page 6. Hopefully we can move up to page 1 over the coming days and weeks?!
This search also revealed that yet another “usual suspect”, The Times of London, is also waxing lyrical about “Unsettled, etc.”. In an article entitled “Britain needs to go green but not at any price” Iain Martin suggests that:
As we race to set expensive carbon targets a distinguished physicist points out that climate science is far from settled.
In 2014, the distinguished scientist Steven Koonin assembled 11 of his colleagues. This group of experts wanted to stress-test the science that was being used to make big claims by governments and the UN about warming of the Earth and the need for radical action.
Where was the data poor, they asked, or the assumptions weakly supported? How reliable were the models likely to be in describing the past and in making projections about the future? They concluded that the deficiencies in climate data made it difficult to untangle human influences and poorly understood natural changes. The science, they concluded, was often insufficient to make useful projections.
The computer models on climate change conflict with each other, a messy reality that is perhaps too nuanced for widespread public consumption when leaders want a simple message to sell. Governments and the UN regularly produce press releases that do not accurately reflect the reports, Koonin says. On this basis, potentially questionable policy is made. This is the starting point for Koonin’s essential new book, Unsettled: What Climate Science Tells Us, What it Doesn’t and Why it Matters, out next month.
Koonin is not a denialist. He worked in the US energy department for the Obama administration and before that was employed at BP in renewable energy when the oil behemoth was in its “Beyond Petroleum” phase. Attached to the California Institute of Technology for three decades, he served for a time as its provost.
This is a physicist and a pragmatist who says: “The globe is warming and humans are exerting a warming influence upon it.” But as he explains, climate science is relatively new, highly complex and deeply contested.
It sounds very much as though “Planet Earth is warming, but the science is not settled” is going to be an oft repeated “skeptical” theme in the lead up to the G7 Summit and then the COP26 UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties in Glasgow.
Yet another one of the “usual suspects”, Anthony Watts, has posted a glowing review of the new book by Dr. Koonin, as one of Tony’s denizens insists he should be titled. Here’s an extract from the introduction:
Professor Koonin sent me a near final draft to read and comment on in November and I nitpicked it a bit, but the draft was in good shape even then. It is better now. I received a signed early copy a couple of weeks ago…
This is an important book, not only because Koonin is a brilliant and famous physicist, but also because of the content. It is a good overview of the science, but also important philosophically.
Here too is a quote from the book itself:
It’s easy to be seduced by the notion that we can just feed the present state of the atmosphere and oceans into a computer, make some assumptions about future human and natural influences, and so accurately predict the climate decades into the future. Unfortunately, that’s just a fantasy, as you might infer from weather forecasts, which can be accurate out to two weeks or so.
Hopefully you get the idea by now? I cannot help but wonder when (if?) my recent comment on Andy May’s article will see the light of day over at WUWT?
N.B. I am delighted to discover that my comment “Awaiting for approval” earlier today has now somehow slipped past Anthony’s eagle eyed mods and emerged into the cold light of day at WUWT!
Sadly, however, two other comments of mine remain firmly fixed to the Watts Up With That cutting room floor:
Who’d’ve thunk it? In the latest “Shock News!!” from the Twitterverse Judith Curry is promoting a New York Post article about Steve Koonin’s “Unsettled science” book:
Judith Curry still hasn’t responded to the Arctic gauntlet I threw in her direction a couple of days ago. It seems that in her professional opinion the alleged “brief hiatus” in global surface temperatures continues ad infinitum. Apart from a bit of a blip!
Still no reply from Judith Curry, although a variety of her “denizens” have pitched in. Meanwhile here’s the latest update on my Google search for references to a phrase from Holman Jenkins’ Wall Street Journal review of “Unsettled…”
As you can see yet another one of the usual suspects, Forbes magazine, has jumped on the Koonin bandwagon. They even had the nerve to entitle Tilak Joshi’s article “Let’s Work For Science With Integrity“!
The Height of Hubris
One of the key contributions of Koonin’s book is its detailed account of how the climate change message gets distorted as it goes through successive filters as the research literature gets converted to assessment reports and report summaries which are then subject to alarmist and apocalyptic media coverage and politicians’ soundbites. It is up to scientists to put forward facts without an agenda or a pre-existing narrative, but it is not easy. Koonin says, “I should know, that used to be my job”.
He finds it the height of hubris when scientists believe that they should exaggerate or even lie for a higher cause and there could be no higher cause than “saving the planet”. For a scientist with integrity, there is no dilemma between being effective and being honest.
Scroll up and/or see the comments below for plenty of evidence for Kooninistic “apocalyptic media coverage and politicians’ soundbites”.
I tried a somewhat more generalised Google search for Steve Koonin’s “Unsettled Science” book this morning (UTC). Below all the advertisements for the book, we’re now up to page 5!
What is more Google’s ranking engine even puts us ahead of Skeptical Science!
Estimate its overall scientific credibility to be very low.
Scientists who reviewed the article found that it builds on a collection of misleading and false claims. For instance, Koonin states that “Greenland’s ice sheet isn’t shrinking any more rapidly today than it was eighty years ago”. Contrary to the claim, scientific studies using airborne and satellite altimetry observations show considerable thinning has occurred along the margin of the Greenland ice sheet since 2003…
Koonin also claims that “the rate of sea-level rise has not accelerated”. Contrary to the claim, scientific studies show that rates of global sea level rise have changed over time and accelerated, notably since the 1990s, primarily due to glacial ice melting and the expansion of seawater as it warms…
Moreover, the WSJ article repeats a series of misrepresentations about the expected consequences of climate change using a technique known as a straw man argument. For instance, when stating that “tornado frequency and severity are not trending up”, the author of the article presents an assumption that climate change was expected to increase the frequency and severity of tornadoes and then refutes it, however climate science did not forecast that tornadoes should have increased already as a result of climate change…
Meanwhile these lies are flying around the world in by now familiar fashion:
The small silver lining in the mass of dark clouds is that Google currently have the Climate Feedback article in first place in their rankings for this particular phrase.
Trying the “generalised search” referred to above again today from here in the UK reveals that this article has now risen to page 2 of the Google results, just behind some more famous names:[Edit – May 16th]
Somewhat belatedly the Washington Post has published an “Opinion” piece entitled “An Obama scientist debunks the climate doom-mongers” by Marc A. Thiessen, in which he reviews Steve Koonin’s new book. Allegedly Mr. Thiessen is a “columnist focusing on foreign and domestic policy, and the former chief speechwriter for President George W. Bush. He is a Fox News contributor”.
Perhaps the fact that Marc is evidently not a scientist explains why he apparently fails to comprehend the scientific shortcomings of “Unsettled”? He asserts:
[John] Kerry is right about one thing: He is not a scientist. So here are a few climate facts that Kerry failed to mention in his testimony, marshaled by one of the Obama administration’s top scientists, Steven E. Koonin. All are based on official assessments published by the U.S. government or United Nations:
- “The rate of global sea-level rise 70 years ago was as large as what we observe today,” according to the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
Perhaps Marc would like to show me where in his cited reference that phrase can be found. Failing that perhaps he’d prefer to show me where it says words to that effect. Failing that perhaps Steve Koonin himself could rise to the challenge?
Or perhaps not? I cannot help but wonder if Marc and Steve have previously seen this graph?
Watch this space!