Former Obama Energy Department Official Talks Common Sense on Climate Change
Posted by Steve Markowitz on September 23, 2014
Dr. Steven E. Koonin was undersecretary for science in the Department of Energy during Obama’s first term. His credentials include a PhD in physics and provost at Caltech. As chief scientist for BP his work focused on renewable and low-carbon energy sources. With such credentials one might expect Dr. Koonin to be a global warming zealot. Instead, he offers clear-thinking and open-mindedness, as indicated in his op-ed posted in the Wall Street Journal titled Climate Science Is Not Settled.
In the op-ed, Koonin uses the scientific method and logic to offer an open and unbiased discussion on climate change and the role that man-made carbon dioxide plays in its trajectory. His statements include:
- “The idea that ‘Climate science is settled’ runs through today’s popular and policy discussions. Unfortunately, that claim is misguided. …. it also has inhibited the scientific and policy discussions that we need to have about our climate future.”
- “The crucial scientific question for policy isn’t whether the climate is changing. That is a settled matter: The climate has always changed and always will. ….. Nor is the crucial question whether humans are influencing the climate. That is no hoax: There is little doubt in the scientific community that continually growing amounts of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, due largely to carbon-dioxide emissions from the conventional use of fossil fuels, are influencing the climate. There is also little doubt that the carbon dioxide will persist in the atmosphere for several centuries. ….. Rather, the crucial, unsettled scientific question for policy is, ‘How will the climate change over the next century under both natural and human influences?’ Answers to that question at the global and regional levels, as well as to equally complex questions of how ecosystems and human activities will be affected, should inform our choices about energy and infrastructure.”
- “Even though human influences could have serious consequences for the climate, they are physically small in relation to the climate system as a whole.”
- “We often hear that there is a ‘scientific consensus’ about climate change. But as far as the computer models go, there isn’t a useful consensus at the level of detail relevant to assessing human influences.”
- “For the latest IPCC report (September 2013), its Working Group I, which focuses on physical science, uses an ensemble of some 55 different models. Although most of these models are tuned to reproduce the gross features of the Earth’s climate, the marked differences in their details and projections reflect all of the limitations that I have described.”
- “Although the Earth’s average surface temperature rose sharply by 0.9 degree Fahrenheit during the last quarter of the 20th century, it has increased much more slowly for the past 16 years, even as the human contribution to atmospheric carbon dioxide has risen by some 25%. This surprising fact demonstrates directly that natural influences and variability are powerful enough to counteract the present warming influence exerted by human activity.” … “The models roughly describe the shrinking extent of Arctic sea ice observed over the past two decades, but they fail to describe the comparable growth of Antarctic sea ice, which is now at a record high.” … “Even though the human influence on climate was much smaller in the past, the models do not account for the fact that the rate of global sea-level rise 70 years ago was as large as what we observe today—about one foot per century.” …. This led Koonin to conclude: “These and many other open questions are in fact described in the IPCC research reports, although a detailed and knowledgeable reading is sometimes required to discern them. They are not “minor” issues to be “cleaned up” by further research. Rather, they are deficiencies that erode confidence in the computer projections.”
Dr. Koonin offers two key conclusions. First, calling the science “settled” chills unrestricted scientific discussion. In addition, while proponents of the man-made global warming theory are willing to discuss scientific “certainties”, they ignore the uncertainties, a disservice to climate science.
Dr. Koonin should be acclaimed for a willingness to bring back the discussion and study of global warming to the scientific method. Unfortunately, this subject has been so politicized by the Left to promote an agenda of wealth redistribution; it would not be surprising to see Koonin attacked by Progressives who fear a real scientific discussion on this important subject. After all, Koonin is a heretic when it comes to the new religion of global warming.