Temperatures spiking! Rivers flooding! Sea level rising! How true are these claims? Not so fast, argues Steven Koonin in his new book, Unsettled: What Climate Science Tells Us, What It Doesn’t, and Why It Matters. (BenBella Books, April, 2021, 320 pages)
The book presents a seemingly devastating critique of current climate science, taking to task the scientific establishment, the media, politicians, and NGOs for propagating an unbalanced, alarmist approach to climate change and global warming. (For a rebuttal of Koonin’s contrarian claims, here’s a hostile review.)
Koonin is one of America’s most distinguished scientists, a member of the National Academy of Sciences, professor at NYU, former Undersecretary for Science in the US Department of Energy under President Obama, chief scientist for renewable energy at British Petroleum, and author of the classic textbook, Computational Physics, about computer modeling of physical processes. Though he leans left politically, he strongly disagrees with the “consensus” about climate change, arguing that the science of climate change is still in flux.
“But the science is not settled. Open debate is at the heart of the scientific process; it is absurd that scientists should fear being labeled anti-science for engaging in it.”
The book critiques the broad consensus about climate science. It’s especially timely as the Biden Administration seeks a $3.5 trillion economic package, some of which is designated to address climate change. Koonin strongly disagrees with the common wisdom about climate change. As he notes at the start of the book, there’s a pervasive (false) public perception about the earth’s climate, which he describes this way:
“Humans have already broken the earth’s climate. Temperatures are rising, sea level is surging, ice is disappearing, and heat waves, storms, droughts, floods, and wildfires are an ever-worsening scourge on the world. Greenhouse gas emissions are causing all of this. And unless they’re eliminated promptly by radical changes to society and energy systems, ‘The Science’ says Earth is doomed.”
Unsettled argues this is an exaggeration. The book maintains that while the earth is warming and humans have contributed to this warming, the effects are much milder than advertised. Koonin observes that the research literature points out that “heat waves in the US are now no more common than they were in 1900, and that the warmest temperatures in the US have not risen in the past 50 years.”
If this is the case, why have we been hearing the opposite, with every day bringing “news” of climate catastrophes? He explains that the media, politicians, scientists, and NGOs have an interest in hyping the data to get public attention and cherry picking the data to support the climate orthodoxy. He’s especially critical of scientists for advocating a particular political position rather than following the facts.
In addition to providing a detailed critique of the climate science “consensus,” the book offers a fascinating and detailed technical explanation of how climate science actually works — its limits, possibilities, and what this science really tells us about the future of our planet. Whether this book will topple the applecart of consensus on climate change is an open question. Here, for example, are Scientific American‘s objections to Koonin’s case.