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Obama’s Chief Energy Scientist Becomes A Climate Truth Teller

steven koonin

Barack Obama is one of many who have declared an “epistemological crisis,” in which our society is losing its handle on something called truth.

Thus an interesting experiment will be his and other Democrats’ response to a book by Steven Koonin, who was chief scientist of the Obama Energy Department.

Mr. Koonin argues not against current climate science but that what the media and politicians and activists say about climate science has drifted so far out of touch with the actual science as to be absurdly, demonstrably false.

This is not an altogether innocent drifting, he points out in a videoconference interview from his home in Cold Spring, N.Y.

In 2019 a report by the presidents of the National Academies of Sciences claimed the “magnitude and frequency of certain extreme events are increasing.”

The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which is deemed to compile the best science, says all such claims should be treated with “low confidence.”

In 2017, the U.S. government’s Climate Science Special Report claimed that, in the lower 48 states, the “number of high-temperature records set in the past two decades far exceeds the number of low-temperature records.”

On closer inspection, that’s because there’s been no increase in the rate of new record highs since 1900, only a decline in the number of new lows. …

Mr. Koonin is a Brooklyn-born math whiz and theoretical physicist, a product of New York’s selective Stuyvesant High School.

He would teach at Caltech for nearly three decades, serving as provost in charge of setting the scientific agenda for one of the country’s premier scientific institutions. Along the way, he opened himself to the world beyond the lab.

From deeply examining the world’s energy system, he also became convinced that the real climate crisis was a crisis of political and scientific candor. He went to his boss and said, “John, the world isn’t going to be able to reduce emissions enough to make much difference.”

His thoughts seem to be governed by an all-embracing realism. Hence the book coming out next month, “Unsettled: What Climate Science Tells Us, What It Doesn’t, and Why It Matters.”

“I’ve been building models and watching others build models for 45 years,” he says. Climate models “are not to the standard you would trust your life to or even your trillions of dollars to.” Younger scientists, in particular, lose sight of the difference between reality and simulation:

For the record, Mr. Koonin agrees that the world has warmed by 1 degree Celsius since 1900 and will warm by another degree this century, placing him near the middle of the consensus.

Neither he nor most economic studies have seen anything in the offing that would justify the rapid and wholesale abandoning of fossil fuels, even if China, India, Brazil, Indonesia, and others could be dissuaded from pursuing prosperity.

The public now believes CO2 is something that can be turned up and down, but about 40% of the CO2 emitted a century ago remains in the atmosphere. Any warming it causes emerges slowly, so any benefit of reducing emissions would be small and distant.

Everything Mr. Koonin and others see in the science suggests a slow, modest effect, not a runaway warming. If they’re wrong, we don’t have the tools to apply yet anyway. Decades from now, we might have carbon capture—removing CO2 directly from the atmosphere at a manageable cost.

Even John Kerry, Joe Biden’s climate czar, recently admitted that Mr. Biden’s “net-zero” climate plan will have zero effect on the climate if developing countries don’t go along (and they have little incentive to do so).

Mr. Koonin hopes that “a graceful out for everybody” will be to see the impulse for global climate regulation “morph into much more impactful local environmental action: smog, plastic, green jobs. Forget the global aspect of this.”

Read rest at WSJ

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