Climate Science Not Settled, Says Former Obama Undersecretary for Science

Published September 29, 2014

Climate Change Weekly #140

Physicist Steven Koonin says climate science is far from settled and we are a long way from having good enough knowledge to make wise climate policy.

That view is not news to climate skeptics, but it may seem surprising coming from Koonin, who was undersecretary for science in the Obama administration’s Energy Department in the president’s first term.

Koonin says the crucial question isn’t whether climate is changing, which is a settled matter: It is changing and always will change. The crucial question – how will climate change over the next century as a result of both human and natural influences – is more complex and unsettled.

Although human activities could have a powerful effect on climate, they are and will be small in relation to the climate as a whole, Koonin argues. For instance, he notes human additions to atmospheric carbon dioxide will enhance the natural greenhouse effect by just 1 to 2 percent by the middle of this century.

In addition, he writes, ocean cycles and feedbacks can dramatically amplify or mute the climate’s response to human and natural influences, and we neither understand nor can model either of these factors well enough to trust our knowledge when forming public policy.

Concerning climate models, Koonin notes the IPCC uses 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. For example:

The models differ in their descriptions of the past century’s global average surface temperature by more than three times the entire warming recorded during that time. Such mismatches are also present in many other basic climate factors, including rainfall, which is fundamental to the atmosphere’s energy balance.

Whereas human CO2 emissions have risen 25 percent over the past 16 years, temperature has remained largely flat, a result none of the models predicts, Koonin notes. In addition, average sea level rise hasn’t changed from the level experienced more than 70 years ago, contra the models’ estimates.

Koonin says it will take decades before sufficient, accurate data are available to accurately assess human effects on climate and any dangers they might pose. Accordingly, society must make choices based on uncertain knowledge of future climate, meaning policy actions should be prudent, not radical. Modest, “no regrets” policies are reasonable, he argues. Large-scale, economy-changing policies could be more harmful to people than the climate changes they are meant to prevent, he notes.

“Our tolerance for risk and the priorities that we assign to economic development, poverty reduction, environmental quality, and intergenerational and geographical equity” must have greater influence on our policies than model-based climate prognostications, he argues.

Only by recognizing, rather than ignoring or trying to deny, the limits of our knowledge can society make productive decisions with regard to climate policy, Koonin concludes.

SOURCE: Wall Street Journal


Protect the poor – from climate policies … Homeland Security Dept. to focus on climate change … Climate change not causing unnatural extinction rate … New climate science society formed … Naomi Klein admits climate change is about changing society … New study: Climate sensitivity uncertain, likely modest


A new study by climate scientist David Legates and economist Cornelius van Kooten for the Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation contends the climate change policies of Western governments are immoral. In a world where 2.8 billion people still use wood, charcoal, coal, and dung in open fires to heat their homes and cook their food and at least 1.2 billion people do not have access to electricity, the greatest threat to alleviating poverty worldwide is the campaign by Western governments to limit fossil fuel use in an effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the authors write.

SOURCE: Watts Up With That


The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has a new target: responding to climate change. Despite rising threats from terrorists around the globe and an increased commitment of U.S. forces and resources actively engaging terrorists, at the three-day “Rising Seas Summit” held in New York last week, the DHS said it is moving from a security focus to a resiliency focus. Evidently, preventing terrorists’ bombs and beheadings does not give DHS enough to do, so it is shifting focus to responding to possible sea level rise along America’s coasts 100 years from now.


Chip Bok


Contradicting alarmists’ claims, a paper by Tim Ball, Ph.D. shows there is no evidence global warming is causing an unnatural increase in the number of species extinctions. To posit human activities are causing an unnaturally high extinction rate, one must first have a good estimate for the number of species in existence and a good understanding of the natural extinction rate, but environmentalists have neither, Ball notes. We don’t have any idea how many species exist, and one of the most commonly used models for estimating the number and rate of extinctions is based on false assumptions and simplistic mathematics. The model hasn’t proved correct when tested against actual, measured extinctions.

SOURCE: Watts Up With That


Climate scientists and meteorologists unhappy with the climate activist bent of traditional professional climate science societies have formed a new professional organization: The Open Atmospheric Society. With an international membership and a guiding motto “verum in luce” meaning “truth in the light,” the society will study, discuss, and publish about topics in atmospheric-related earth sciences, including meteorology, hydrology, oceanography, and climatology. They will publish the first cloud-based, fully transparently peer-reviewed online journal, providing an outlet for scientists who have been underrepresented or shut out of other professional journals due to the push for climate alarmism orthodoxy in those forums.

SOURCE: The Open Atmospheric Society


In a telling interview in The Atlantic, Naomi Klein, long a patron of progressive causes, admits those who reject the global warming orthodoxy are correct about some implications of the climate alarm movement: Fighting global warming requires a wholesale remaking of society, a huge expansion of the state, and a massive redistribution of wealth both within and among nations. Klein complains her liberal allies don’t understand half-measures such as emission caps and cap-and-trade programs will not prevent dangerous warming. Instead, the climate crisis should be viewed as an opportunity to transform society fundamentally and bring about a humane economy.

SOURCE: The Atlantic


A new paper by Nicholas Lewis and Judith Curry shows the likely range of future temperature rise is much lower than has been estimated, with the upper temperature significantly less than projected by the IPCC. The paper was published in Climate Dynamics. The findings are important because the sensitivity of Earth’s atmosphere to increased carbon dioxide is at the heart of both the scientific and economic climate change debates. The greater the sensitivity, the more likely significant CO2 increases will cause harmful warming, justifying significant, near-term actions to decrease CO2 emissions. Less sensitivity means little warming and less justification for economy-disrupting government actions.

SOURCE: Nicholas Lewis – Climate Science

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