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2021 SkS Weekly Climate Change & Global Warming News Roundup #19

Posted on 9 May 2021 by BaerbelW

Listing of articles linked to on the Skeptical Science Facebook Page during the past week: Sun, May 2, 2021 through Sat, May 8, 2021

In no particular order the following articles lead to the most interactions during the last seven days: Shifting Distribution of Land Temperature Anomalies, 1951-2020, Dare we hope? Here’s my cautious case for climate optimism, Biden's first 100 days: Where he stands on science, How sure are climate scientists? | Degrees of UncertaintyChina’s carbon pollution now surpasses all developed countries combined and The conventional wisdom on how to talk about climate change? It’s wrong.

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Comments 1 to 17:

  1. Would be good to get a book review of the recent Koonin book, Unsettled.

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  2. Tenth item from the top: "Dissecting ‘Unsettled,’ a Skeptical Physicist’s Book About Climate Science"

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  3. I have not read Koonin's book,. but I am aware of some that have. Seems to be the same old misinformation he usually peddles.

    A recent post over at And Then There's Physics talks about it briefly with links to previous criticisms of his work.

    A couple of posts from an Arctic perspective:

    ...and general background on Steve Koonin

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  4. Bob @3 - Thanks for mentioning the work of my Arctic alter ego.

    dmyerson @1 - I have a copy of the Kindle version of Dr. Koonin's new book. Here's a brief extract from my initial review at Great White Con:

    I was compelled to acquire my own review copy, and have just purchased the electronic version. I eagerly searched the virtual weighty tome for the term “Arctic sea ice”, and you may well be wondering what I discovered?

    Nothing. Nada. Zilch. ничего такого. Nic.

    What more would you like to know?

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  5. I read somewhere that Steve Koonin is worried that renewable energy will be allegedly too expensive and will hurt poor people. I wonder if this is why hes a luke warmer. There appears to be a small but genuine group of left / liberal leaning people like that. If so, he should check the numbers. Solar and wind power have plumetted in cost in the last 20 years, and are are now very cost effective (Lazard energy analysis).

    He did work at British Petroleum about 20 years ago (according to his wikipedia entry) , and this was developing renewables. He may have lost track on the more recent trends in renewables. Of course he might have other motives for his luke warmerism. The motives of these people intrigue me. I get a bit obsessive about it.

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  6. nigelj @5,

    If you believe Koonin, in his recent NY Post OP he tells us he was fully-signed-up to the science of AGW until he took part in the 2014 APS Climate Change Review Workshop which he chaired. The APS found nothing in this workshop to change its stance on AGW which pitted the science against the grand theorising of John-boy Christy, Judy Curry & Dicky Lindzen, a falsely-balanced debate that had been exposed as nonsense for decades. So why Koonin was so strongly convinced by the denialist arguments, indeed his role in setting up the event (he has been advocatng the use of such a process ever since), does need more explanation from Koonin, explanation which is simply absent.

    His work with BP back in the 2000s involved biofuels which do present a problem with high land-use but it would be a fool who took a decade to spot that truth and, then without pause jump to the view expressed in his Sept 2014 OP. While the usual take-away from this Sept 2014 OP is his denial of the science, it is actually a call to resolve the divide (the unresolvable divide) between AGW "belief" and AGW "hoax", to resolve through re-directing scientific effort, as this resolution "should be among the top priorities for climate research." But I neither see any emphasis being made by Koonin in 2014 that the cure (a zero carbon economy) would be a worse outcome that AGW. Nor do I see any emphasis by Koonin in 2021 any message calling to re-direct the scientific effort. The only sign of his continued holding of this view is his involvement in the RedTeam/BlueTeam initiatives, not the most scientific methods of tackling science.

    A year later as the Paris climate talks draw near, Koonin is advocating AGW adaptation because mitigation cannot be achieved in time, a new slant on things again.

    Now his 2021 OP (and presumaby his grand book) he brands talk of a climate emergency and the policies to address it as being fallacy, basing this on some very silly denialist nonsense.

    So Koonin presents a wibbly-wobbly argument against AGW science. And if anybody sees in this reason not to brand Koonin a nought but a vaccuous blowhard, I'd be interested to hear that reason.

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  7. Al @6,

    They don't brand Dr. Koonin "a nought but a vacuous blowhard", and it sounds as if they weren't sent a copy of his book for reveiw. However based on a review of the book in the Wall Street Journal the science content has been assessed as "very low" by Climate Feedback:

    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. As explained below by Twila Moon, from the National Snow and Ice Data Center, the Greenland ice sheet lost more mass during the 2003-2010 time period than during the entire time period from 1900 to 2003. Furthermore, this melting has generated a measurable sea level rise over the last 20 years.

    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. As pointed out by Zeke Hausfather, Director of Climate and Energy at The Breakthrough Institute, sea levels are rising faster now than at any point since records began in the early 1900s

    etc. etc.

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  8. MA Rodger @6

    "So Koonin presents a wibbly-wobbly argument against AGW science." 

    He sure does.

    "And if anybody sees in this reason not to brand Koonin a nought but a vaccuous blowhard, I'd be interested to hear that reason."

    And he sure comes across like a vacuous blowhard. He is getting on a bit in age which might have something to do with it. What also troubles me is the way he is content to quote examples of how the weather is not changing, eg frequency of droughts and tornadoes but is happy to leave out evidence of where it is changing eg frequency and intensity of heatwaves and heavy rainfall events. In other words very selective, done like this for whatever purpose.

    His climate views also seem to have been quite changeable, for whatever reason

    Anyway I was googling about him briefly,  trying to track down his political and world views, but nothing came to light, in fact a curious lack of a single thing, but I did find the quote about poor people in this article here.

    “For me,” Koonin concludes, “the many certain downsides of mitigation outweigh the uncertain benefits: the world’s poor need growing amounts of reliable and affordable energy, and widespread renewables or fission are currently too expensive, unreliable, or both.”

    More from that article. He might also fancy himself as a great contrarian truth seeker:

    "Earlier in Koonin’s career, in 1989, that inclination led him to prominence, as one of a group of scientists who successfully debunked the claims of a University of Utah team who reported that they had discovered “cold fusion”—a breakthrough that, had it proved real, would have transformed energy production. "

    And he comes out with the standard republican party climate views:

    "While at BP Koonin, as he does today, advocated research into approaches typically favored by oil companies and Republicans opposed to fundamental change in energy supply. They include carbon capture and storage, advanced nuclear energy, and biofuels and geoengineering ideas, like seeding the atmosphere with aerosol particles to increase Earth’s reflectivity."

    Although elsewhere he is supportive of solar power. His positions on mitigation thus also seem a bit changeable. 

    Yet he says he doesn't support Donald Trump. So who knows what drives the man. I think my original contention is still possible, but his real motivation and political beliefs and personal world view remain pretty much unknown. What is certain is that his scepticism on the climate issue is misleading, out of date,  and has been firmly debunked.

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  9. Nigel @8,

    Whilst Steve's apparently undimmed "scepticism" may well have been firmly debunked in the past it seems that the task needs to be undertaken yet again.

    The latest episode in the Wall Street Journal's "Unsettled Science" propaganda campaign includes a video interview with Prof. Koonin that includes references to those well known climate scientists Al Gore and Joe Biden, as well as the cover of his new book in the background:

    So there you have it. Al Gore is a mere straw man, easily knocked down with a cherry pick without even bothering to mention any of the underlying science.

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  10. Nigel :-  Koonin's attitude to mainstream climate science is not a new development.   If you go back 7 years and read the transcript of his verbal contribution to the 2014 American Physical Society climate statement review, you will find he took a rather aggressive/persistent attack on the mainstream position.   Clearly it was not a skeptical, but a prejudiced attitude he took with his carping.

    Nigel, I am sourly amused by the repeated crocodile tears of denialists claiming that we (the West) should first supply coal-fired generators to bring electricity to the suffering poor of Africa.  Thus raising their economic well-being . . . and only after that has been accomplished, would we be justified in pursuing our own renewable energy goals.

    The poor of this world have have been suffering for many decades, with precious little help from the denialists.  When even a 10% diversion of our global armaments expenditure could have made a colossal difference in helping the poor.  But this hasn't been done ~ nor even suggested by the same denialists.  Apparently we must not consider donating solar panels to African villagers for charging their (increasingly widespread & useful) cellphones etcetera ~ but we must first go to donating centralized coal-fired generation of electricity.

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  11. Eclectic @10

    "I am sourly amused by the repeated crocodile tears of denialists claiming that we (the West) should first supply coal-fired generators to bring electricity to the suffering poor of Africa..."

    Me too. Very sourly amused. Funny how these  conservative leaning fossil fuel loving  denialists suddeny find all this sympathy for poor people when its usually so absent. The more usual rehetoric is "pull yourselves up by your own bootstraps".

    That said, there is a group of liberal leaning denialists and luke warmers that appear driven by genuine sympathy for poor people and worry that they will be hurt by climate mitigation. For example while Mike Moore accepts AGW, he is opposed to renewables because he (falsely) believes they are a capitalist scam to enrich the corporate sector. He produced an anti renewables movie, but I can't remember the name. And Bjorn Lomberg is a lukewarmer who appears driven by genuine concern for poor people. This may be at least part of he source of his luke warmerism. He doesn't appear to have business or libertarian  motives or links to the fossil fuel industry. Of course none of this justifies his luke warmer position.

    The question is which group does Koonin fall into. We will probbaly never know. He seems to avoid discussions about his world view

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  12. Eclectic @10 - "[Koonin] took a rather aggressive/persistent attack on the mainstream position."

    Allegedly that has now changed. I'm endeavouring to point this out to the thick skulled denizens at Judith Curry's blog, but they seem incapable of taking this message on board:

    It seems that I need to repeat myself very slowly.

    1) On page 21 (of the Kindle edition) of Prof. Koonin’s magnum opus it states:

    "Along with its comprehensive AR series of assessments, the IPCC also publishes more focused special reports, such as those on Extreme Events, the Ocean and Cyrosphere (sic), or Climate Change and Land."

    followed on page 22 by:

    "The assessment reports literally define The Science for non-experts. Given the intensive authoring and review processes, any reader would naturally expect that their assessments and summaries of the research literature are complete, objective, and transparent—the “gold standard.” In my experience, the reports largely do meet that expectation, and so much of the detail in the first part of this book, the science story, is drawn from them."

    The final clause should of course read:

    Much of the detail in the first part of this book, the science story, is cherry picked from them."

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  13. Jim Hunt @12  :-

    Well congratulations and bravo, Jim, for your multiple comments in the Judith Curry blog (Post titled:  Climate book shelf , on 10 May 2021).

    Your droll ironies were entertaining/enjoyable.  Such as: "It seems safe to assume that Dr. Koonin has heard of NASA ... [which is mentioned] once in the body of the book."

    Meanwhile the "opposition" [the usual suspects] were parading themselves in typical form.  Such as Turbulent Eddie's face-palming fatuosity about arctic maxima/minima.  Others were in good form too ~ one stating the certainty of massive cooling due in the coming century or two.  While another stated that the present arctic warming was, yes, caused by humans . . . but even in the absence of humans, the same amount of warming would have occurred in a few decades' time anyway!   Others were deeply into "cycles" explaining all climate variation . . . yet they never seem to understand that there must be an underlying physical cause of every variation (cyclic or otherwise).

    In some ways, Curry's blog "ClimateEtc"  is more fun than the proverbial barrel of monkeys.   But it is partly rescued by sane contributions from JH, Willard, and the very deft Joshua, plus some (erratic) others.

    Curry herself (and likewise Koonin, who uses a partly similar style) is like a magician making a stage presentation.  Rhetorical vagueness and obfuscation, like smoke and mirrors.  All designed to keep the audience's attention away from the physical realities.

    Yet overall so far, the deniosphere's response to the Koonin book is somewhat more muted than I expected.

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  14. Jim Hunt . . . an addendum :-

    I got a smile, from someone saying you were "a denier of consensus".


    In another direction, there was also a neat comment by Joshua :-

    "the basic science implies danger (within a range of uncertainty)"

    ~ and I shall try to remember that quote.  Very neat.

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  15. Jim Hunt @12,

    I think you missed a trick in your interchange with Judy @ClimateEtc on the subject of Koonin & Arctic Sea Ice. Judy chips in "If you think that the consensus is that this decline is 100% caused by AGW, then you disagree with the IPCC SROCC report (which estimates ~50%). Very weak base for criticizing Koonin."

    But come on,  Judy is just flying arround on Occam's broom.

    So I think the reply should be "Judy, have you read IPCC SROCC and the references it bases that "est ~50%" on?  I ask because if you had, I think you would be less quick with your "very weak base" comment."

    IPCC SROCC says "Approximately half of the observed Arctic summer sea ice loss is driven by increased concentrations of atmospheric greenhouse gases, with the remainder attributed to internal climate variability (Kay et al., 2011; Notz and Marotzke, 2012) (medium confidence).  ...   A lack of complete process understanding limits a more definitive differentiation between anthropogenic versus internal drivers of summer Arctic sea ice loss (Serreze et al., 2016; Ding et al., 2017; Meehl et al., 2018)."

    So at first cut, the ~50% value appears to be based on some rather old references. Of these references, Kay et al (2011) which provides a 40%-50% value says "The conclusions we draw are only as reliable as the underlying climate model processes," which isn't the sort of finding you would lay great store by. Their conclusion is "Thus, consistent with early studies, this [study] should be seen as another reminder of the need to account for internal variability in the assessment of recent sea ice loss and the fidelity of global climate model simulations."  It is thus not a reliable quantification of the contribution of internal variability.

    And Notz and Marotzke (2012) basically says that internal variability is not the cause of the post-1979 trend in SIE decline. "1. Internal variability as estimated from pre-satellite observations cannot explain the recent retreat of Arctic sea ice. 2. The observational record shows no signs of self-acceleration and hence no signs of a possible ‘tipping’. 3. The satellite record is well described by a linear trend onto which internal variability is superimposed. The magnitude of this superimposed internal variability is very similar to that of the pre-satellite record. 4. The most likely explanation for the linear trend during the satellite era from 1979 onwards is the almost linear increase in CO2 concentration during that period."

    Of the later references, Serreze et al (2015) says nothing on the subject,
    Ding et al (2017) is saying the internal variability is being driven by sea ice loss in a two-way street [so this is AGW creating internal variability] and comes up wiht a 30%-50% value, while Meehl et al (2018) suggest the extra oomph in Arctic SIE decline 2000 is due to forced tropical SST.

    So I see nowhere any reason to dismiss half the 1079-2020 SIE loss as being due to one of Judy's wobbly trends.

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  16. Eclectic @13 - Thanks for your kind words

    Al @15 - Might I humbly suggest that in future you refrain from posting live links to the dark side from SkS? IMHO links to an archive like the one below are infinitely preferable for a variety of reasons:

    Thanks for your suggestions, which may well come in handy in due course. For the present I am still trying to persuade Judy et al. to take on board my prime proposition. See for example:

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  17. Hopefully the guys'n'gals here at SkS will find this as amusing as my Arctic alter ego did?

    Tucker Carlson interviewed Steve Koonin for Fox News. Fox displayed lots of stock footage of melting sea ice in the background. Needless to say neither Tucker nor Steve broached the subject of the 800 pound canary in the Arctic coal mine.

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