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A critical review of Steven Koonin’s ‘Unsettled’

Posted on 1 June 2021 by Guest Author

This is a re-post from Yale Climate Connections by Mark Boslough

I would normally ignore a book by a non-climate scientist promising “the truth about climate science that you aren’t getting elsewhere.” Such language is a red flag. But I’ve known the author of “Unsettled” since I took his quantum mechanics course as a Ph.D. student at Caltech in the 1970s. He’s smart and I like him, so I’m inclined to give his book a chance.

But smart scientists aren’t always right, and nice guys are still prone to biases – especially if they listen to the wrong people. In an apparent quest for fairness when he led a committee of the American Physical Society (one of my professional organizations) to assess its statement on climate change, he recruited three scientists to represent the 97% consensus, and three contrarians, presumably to speak for the other 3%. The lack of proportionate representation amplified the contrary opinions that he heard, and only in one direction. He completely ignored another, equally unfounded, contrary view. The position sometimes referred to as “doomism” (the belief that the worst-case is inevitable and it is too late to prevent it) was not represented.

The three contrarians had a long and well-documented history of engaging in ad hominem attacks on mainstream climate scientists and misrepresenting their work. Most of the technical mistakes and misrepresentations in “Unsettled” may simply be attributable to Koonin’s trust of those advisors and lack of rigorous independent verification.

Some books CAN be told by their cover. This is one of them.

Unfortunately, “Unsettled” is a book you can accurately judge by its cover. Koonin’s title hints at a logical fallacy called the “strawman” argument. The blurb on the flap confirms this with its opening sentence: “When it comes to climate change, the media, politicians, and other prominent voices have declared that ‘the science is settled.’”

A bit of fact checking by the author or publisher would have shown that this claim is not true.  In fact, Koonin makes use of an old strawman concocted by opponents of climate science in the 1990s to create an illusion of arrogant scientists, biased media, and lying politicians – making them easier to attack.

The phrase “science is settled” is repeated as Koonin’s target throughout the book, even though it has never been in common use by climate scientists and their supporters. If it were, then Google and LexisNexis searches would surely turn up instances, but the opposite is true. All the examples I found were from critics claiming that advocates of the consensus had said it.

Bogus ‘science is settled‘ rhetoric dating back 25 years

The earliest published use I found was a July 11, 1996, letter to the Wall Street Journal from prominent denier Fred Singer, falsely claiming that the IPCC report had been inappropriately tampered with for political purposes and that “politicians and activists” were “anxious to stipulate that the science is settled.

Singer’s strawman gained traction a year later when William O’Keefe, the chairman of Global Climate Coalition (a lobbying organization opposed to climate action) claimed in a statement to Congress that “the [Clinton] Administration repeatedly quotes that [IPCC] sentiment out of context in its statements that the ‘science is settled.’”  It stands to reason that repeated use of the phrase “science is settled” would be found in searches if true.

Searches do, however, turn up (in the White House archive) what Clinton actually said only two weeks before Singer’s letter. “The science is clear and compelling: We humans are changing the global climate.” Nobody could argue with that at the time, nor can they now.

There are many examples of physical problems that are difficult to model, have large uncertainties and unpredictable outcomes, put people at risk, and require policy decisions and international treaties. My primary field of planetary defense is one. It’s a clear and compelling fact that the Earth will be hit by another asteroid. We just don’t know where, when, or how bad it will be.

The recent re-entry of an errant Chinese upper stage provides a more concrete analogy. The fact that its orbit would decay and it was going to come down was not in question, and could rightly be called “a settled fact.” Various models had huge uncertainties, disagreed with one another, and could not predict the reentry location. But those inadequacies cannot be used as evidence for any absurd claim that it was going to stay in orbit. Anyone taking that position would be guilty of the same logical fallacy (called “impossible expectations”) that Koonin directs toward climate science.

Unpacking the ‘strawman’ argument

Another example of a strawman argument in “Unsettled” is the claim that the term “climate change denial” is intended to invoke Holocaust denial, an assertion that triggers strong emotions. Koonin says, “I find it particularly abhorrent to have a call for open scientific discussion equated with Holocaust denial, especially since the Nazis killed more than two hundred of my relatives in Eastern Europe.” I do not doubt the sincerity of his anger, but it is misdirected.

First, it’s aimed at a strawman. Climate change deniers are (by definition) not asking for open scientific discussion. The term “denier” is reserved for those who simply deny.

Second, there is no evidence that the term “climate change denial” is intended to invoke Holocaust denial. Ironically, this connection was first made by the late Hollywood screenwriter Michael Crichton, speaking at a 2003 lecture at Caltech, where Koonin was provost. The word “denier” literally means “one that denies” and the term has been used this way since the 1400s. The term Holocaust denier didn’t come into widespread use until the 1980s. By the early 1990s “denier” was independently being used to describe those who deny the science of climate change.

Third, it is climate scientists, not deniers, who have been compared to Nazis and perpetrators of genocide. In fact it was Crichton himself, in the appendix to his 2004 book “State of Fear,” who directly equated climate scientists to eugenicists who had a role in “killing of ten million undesirables.” Crichton also explicitly compared climate scientists to Trofim Lysenko, whose work he described as resulting in “famines that killed millions and purges that sent hundreds of dissenting Soviet scientists to the gulags or the firing squads.” Nevertheless, Koonin praises Crichton and cites “State of Fear” as evidence that he was an “outspoken advocate for scientific integrity” who “looked askance at the public presentation of climate science.”

Whether one thinks it is more abhorrent to be described by the same word as those who deny other things, including the Holocaust, or to be explicitly equated to those who carried out the Holocaust is a matter of personal opinion but may indicate unconscious bias.

More uncertainty amounts to more risk

Koonin’s bias became evident in the introduction by his use of biased language. Climate scientists “adjust model results to obfuscate shortcomings.” “Climate alarmism has come to dominate US politics.” By speaking openly about uncertainty, he had “inadvertently broken some code of silence, like the Mafia’s omerta.”

Koonin implies throughout the book that climate scientists have conspired to downplay uncertainty and exaggerate the risk, apparently unaware of the fact that increased uncertainty means increased risks. Nowhere does he mention that climate sensitivity is described in the scientific literature by a probability density function that is highly skewed, with a long high-sensitivity tail that we cannot discount with certainty. Risk is the integrated product of probability and consequences. It’s hard to argue that the consequences of climate change don’t get worse with sensitivity.

If a pilot isn’t sure about having enough fuel to get you to your destination, if an astronomer isn’t sure that an incoming asteroid will miss the Earth, if your doctor isn’t sure if you have a terminal disease, if you’re not sure you turned the stove off: In each of these cases, the uncertainty is unsettling. Why does Koonin think that unsettled questions in climate science are any kind of comfort when the consequences of doing nothing can be catastrophic? “Unsettled” should leave serious scientists feeling unsettled.

Readers would do well to see for information about logical fallacies used by climate change deniers.

Mark Boslough is a Fellow of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry. He has served on the Executive Committee of the American Physical Society Topical Group on the Physics of Climate and created, convened, and for several years chaired American Geophysical Union sessions on “Uncertainty Quantification and its Application to Climate Change.”

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Comments 1 to 26:

  1. Part of own (extremely!) critical review of Professor Koonin's recent magnum opus also includes an extract from Mark's article:

    And a "cranky uncle" cartoon!

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  2. And a very recent article (dated 1st June) in ScientificAmerican by Oreskes et al, gives a fairly damning description of the context of Koonin's "magnum opus".

    Among other things, the article claims that, in the Obama Administration, Koonin was chosen to join the team because Koonin was seen as a contrarian i.e. because they wished to avoid the danger of Groupthink.

    So it is disingenuous for Koonin to present himself to the (bookbuying) public as an Obama-approved "leftie" who has now Seen The Light and is now ruthlessly exposing The Truth  about the climate exaggeration/ hoax/ propaganda/ conspiracy/ etc.

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  3. I suspect that the article that Eclectic is referring to would be this one:

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  4. I'm sure that's the case Bob! Here's an advertisement for the most recent episode in my ongoing unsettling review of "Unsettled":

    Note that in other news Ken Caldeira is running a poll on Twitter:

    Is it OK to use the tactics of those undermining trust in climate science (ad hominem attack, saying money is the motivation, accusation of lying) to undermine those underminers, or should we hold ourselves to higher standards?

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  5. I subscribe to a blog called Canadians for Affordable Energy out of curiosity as to what they are saying, but sometimes it's so bad I wish I didn't - case in point the following under the head line "IPCC Experts Say Doing Nothing Would Be Less Harmful"

    Dear John,

    The Net Zero by 2050 agenda is being forced upon Canadians. As I wrote to you in Part 3 of my Net Zero series, no one even knows how much Net Zero by 2050 is going to cost.

    The one thing we know for sure is that Canadians will be the ones footing the bill.

    But let me share with you what former U.S. President Barack Obama’s senior Department of Energy official Stephen Koonin said about pursuing Net Zero.

    Koonin looked at data from the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), and revealed that doing nothing to address climate change would not result in the economic devastation the alarmists say it would.

    According to Koonin and the IPCC, there is no emerging “climate crisis.” And any change to climate that might occur will not bring economic devastation: it will result in a very modest reduction in what will still be extraordinary economic growth.

    So from extraordinary economic growth to slightly less extraordinary economic growth.

    We, on the other hand, are pursuing Net Zero by 2050 with a whole bunch of policies that will kill economic growth.

    How is this rational?

    Read my latest blog post to find out more.


    Dan McTeague, P.C.

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  6. John S @5 ,

    yes, that's a marvellous letter . . . and so utterly brazen.

    For me, it's difficult to decide whether the author is a wingnut zealot, or merely a cynical paid propagandist.  Or a mixture of both.

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  7. According to Koonin and the IPCC, there is no emerging “climate crisis.” And any change to climate that might occur will not bring economic devastation: it will result in a very modest reduction in what will still be extraordinary economic growth.

    It's all fine and good rolling our eyes at the stupidity.  But, you know: Why should they change what they're doing, if what they're doing, continues working like a charm?

    People are terrified of our global/local Environmental Problem because they can't let go of their faith in a job that pays better and endless growth, so we can have more stuff (So we continue dancing to the contrarian script.


    Think about Koonin's book and the idiotic articles, spreading like wildfire on the internet, that are being spoon fed to their constituents.  

    It's the same talking points, like a decades old broken loop.  Bluster, misdirection, cynicism, backed by a self-certainty that only the thoughtless are capable of. - Still, somehow the other side* of honest, rational, pragmatic thinking (SkS and such), keep getting drown out and lost in the dust.  

    {*That is scientific constructive debates - where truthfully representing your opponent position and all around fidelity to the facts and honest are demanded, because learning as the goal. 

    As opposed to lawyerly political debate, where winning is all that matters and honesty is treated with contempt.}


    Instead, it's the same old story, same old mind-boggling misdirections, knock people off their balance and always drawing the discussion away from the issues at hand.  

    Derailing every serious attempt at dialogue is their only goal. 

    I'm astounded at how well it works, and how the liberal science loving crowd still don't seem to be capable of bringing these discussions back on point.

    Every idiot climate science contrarian claim, has the seeds of a wonderful story that can expose the lie being purpetrated, while helping explain this, or that, aspect of our Global Heat and Moisturer Distribution Engine, {which is our climate, atmosphere, ocean, land and crysophere in a dance of cascading consequences).


    But most the time no one takes the time to make the effort to help explain simple science to willfully ignorate people.  They tell me its a waste of time and effort.  But, I keep wondering, if not for our 'opponents,' what about the folks on our own side.  We could benefit from a better understanding of smarter arguments ourselves?

    {Check out SkS Arguments section. Good basics, the facts.

    Unless we are changing minds, we are losing.  People who care, need to figure out how to make those facts come alive, in a way that helps people, not only understand our complex global weather systems, but to inspire them, this Earth is worth being in love with - Why not argue for trying to nurture, rather than consume and discard.



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  8.  I know there's lots of wonderful stuff going on.  But it seldom seems to trickle down to the grassroots where it's needed.

    I've long dreamt of something like volunteer YouTube Fact Check squad - YouTube has become huge contributor to misinformation.  More than any few could do anything about.  But why not a loosely organized young smart students, who already spend a lot of time on YouTube and other social media.

    I mean look at the passion and rage in the eyes of the right wing thinking people who have been getting a steady dose of unopposed lies for decades - pretending that ain't so is self-destructive.

    If we aren't changing minds we are losing.


    Not trying to be a bummer, but I've been a long time spectator and it is what it is.  Unless there's some serious stepping up by lots regular citizens, we are in trouble.  

    You know democracy demands and informed and engage electorate.



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  9. Citizenschallenge @7 / @8 ,

    Pardon my poorly-pertinent reply, for I am presently somewhat at leisure to doodle and tap on my keyboard.

    IMO most people are busy getting on with their immediate problems, and are giving scant attention to this early stage of the climate train-wreck.  The passenger carriages are swaying and bumping a bit more than usual, it's true . . . but we've had various rough patches in the past, haven't we?  And most  of the wheels haven't come off (yet).

    Despite the decades of well-executed denialist propaganda, there is now more talk by the Press & politicians about the need to take action on climate.  The talk has increased . . . the action, not so much.  But at least the ship has left the quayside, and is picking up speed (though only reaching 3 knots so far).

    I am a regular reader of the extremists' blog WattsUpWithThat.   Entertaining if you have a strong stomach, and it's (just) occasionally informative.  The articles tend towards the Sour Grapes attitude, and the comment section is a marvellous menagerie of wingnuts and weally vewy cwoss Elmer Fudd [what an apt surname!] characters, overlapping with flat-earther "no-such-thing-as-GreenHouse-Effect" crazies.

    WUWT  is only the tip of the iceberg - and I am very uncertain about the size of the underlying berg.  But I have noticed - increasingly over recent years, and especially since mid-November 2020 - that the denizens of WUWT  are showing a slightly-desperate belligerence, and they sense that the infidel hordes have encircled the citadel of True Science (inhabited by the denizens).   And that the infidel/liberal-Press army is battering at the gates.

    The denizens feel (almost) confident the siege will soon be broken by the arrival of colossal electricity prices and the arrival of the oft-foretold onset of Giant Global Cooling.   But it seems the denizens can't entirely shake off a nagging feeling of dread.

    Let's hope the WUWT  denizens will be justified in their worries.  And let's hope that Koonin achieves little more than preaching to the choir.  Likewise with the multi-year crapola on the extremist fringe of YouTube.  I suspect that the majority of non-partisan voters pay little attention to both the good and the bad on YouTube.

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  10. Good morning Eclectic and CC,

    Time is of the essence here in the once United Kingdom, so I will be brief.

    Since you mention "Koonin" and "WUWT" in the same paragraph, please keep an eye on this developing story:

    Eclectic - Since you seem to be a fellow occasional visitor to the dark side, perhaps you wouldn't mind keeping half an eye out just in case my pertinent comment at WUWT ever emerges into the cold light of day? Needless to say it has not done so as yet:

    If you are not already persona non grata over there perhaps you might like to become so by asking Anthony where's he hiding it?! 

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  11. Jim Hunt ~ sorry but at WUWT , my status is persona non existens , for I have never bothered to register and join the bunfight.

    When I read the comments columns at WUWT , I do occasionally pause to read some of the more-intelligent denizens [e.g. Willis and Rud] in order to marvel at their Cirque Soleil  gyrations & contortions of motivated reasonings & cognitive dissonances.  But mostly I skim through to find genuine logical scientific comment by recognized names such as Nick Stokes plus a band of other pseudonymous commenters of proven rationality.  They are a small band !   It's always amusing to see how many petulant "down-votes" which Nick & crew will garner from the peanut gallery.

    There are several deep-dyed denialists who do sometimes contribute some informative points.  These folks are sometimes well-informed . . . but despite their intelligence, they seem incapable of synthesizing a logical overview of the climate situation.   The other denialist commenters are mostly Dreck.   ( I would never ever use another D-word such as Deplorable.)

    Jim, in my usual decrepit mental state, I could rarely tell you what I had for lunch yesterday.  Yes, I have recently seen your comments pop up at Curry's ClimateEtc  and elsewhere, but I generally disremember which forums I have seen [you] on.

    Presently: on WUWT , the good Mr Watts is fizzing hot bubbles from under his collar, and has on 3rd June presented a post "Koonin responds to Sci Am" . . . but I don't see any substantive points raised therein ~ and I am not surprised  that Sci Am  has (so far) declined to give Koonin the oxygen.

    To me, it is not immediately clear which parts of the post are written by Koonin and which by Watts.  Sort of interleaved, perhaps.  Though some phrasings - such as "Oreskes and her gang of slimers", and perhaps "SciAm years ago ... turned into a socialist cesspool of opinion, with science as an afterthought" - might be thought more likely to come from the mild-mannered Mr Watts, than come from a respected left-leaning climate scientist from the Obama era.

    Jim, with a very large coffee in hand, I will look through the 120+ comments under Koonin.  But I probably won't soon re-surface from the Dark Abyss.

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  12. Eclectic @11, I've only read the WUWT website a few times but I still notice a strong pattern. About half of the denialist comments I read sound like the writer's had science degrees, and were quite correct sounding until you get towards the end of their posting, then some jaw droppingly stupid denialist comment or theory comes out that is obviously plain wrong, and a school student would probably see it. This is a characteristic of scientific cranks. I wonder if the website is a sort of 'magnet' for lonely all purpose scientific cranks, as well as the usual subjects (fossil fuel people, libertarians etc).

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  13. Nigel @12 - All that being the case you may well be interested in taking a good long look at my new WUWT/Koonin Venn diagram?

    The greatest danger posed by Steve and Tony isn’t their ideas, it’s the attempt to silence all dissent.

    That and their corruption of science.

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  14. Jim Hunt @13 and prior :-

    your guerrilla tactics to get your comments onto WUWT  blogsite must provide you with some entertainment, despite your low success rate.  However, the WUWT  Moderators - and the Chief Grouch - enjoy the strategic advantage of the veto . . . and they use it very often (and not just on you).

    Few of us are entirely free of all hypocrisy : and WUWT  is outstandingly possessed of a large share of that vice.   While continually decrying the "Cancel Culture" wielded so unfairly by The Woke Left & socialists/communists & Hollywood & the ubiquitous Democrat-leaning media & so forth . . . nevertheless the WUWT  hierarchy are quick to cancel nearly everyone that they themselves disapprove of.  [So far, the many comments by the excellent scientist Nick Stokes are an exception ~ I suspect that's because he is "kept on" as a token sign of WUWT's tolerance.]

    But it's all an uphill battle for the WUWT  tribe.   Why, why, why oh why won't those venal corrupt leftie scientists come and front up and debate with us real scientists here at WUWT ?

    Well, we here at WUWT  are consoled by the Shades of Galileo & Feynman.  We alone hold high the flickering Torch of True Science & Western Civilization.   Barbarians like Jim Hunt are not welcome.

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  15. Nigelj @12 , please excuse my lengthy reply.

    ( I have been pondering your analysis of the denialati at WUWT blogsite.)

    As you have seen, I enjoy bagging WUWT  ~ and I have been over-indulging a bit, lately  ~ but perhaps justifiably, in view of WUWT's  "facilitation" of Dr Koonin's half-truths & propaganda.   The editors  and chorus at WUWT  have given Koonin plenty of headlines plus glowing review of his new book plus praise for his contrarian attitude plus scathing denigration of his critics/opponents.

    Nigel, I don't advise you to spend much time on WUWT.   I myself do spend time "there" because (A) I am entertained & intrigued by the range of psychopathologies to be found in the comments columns, and (B) it allows me to construct & internally rehearse counter-arguments to the rubbish currently fashionable in the deniosphere, and (C) there are some - not many - points of information to be picked up (mostly in the OP's).  And I will grant that WUWT  has value in its (frequent!!) enumeration of the difficulties we are & will be  experiencing in attempting rapid transfer away from fossil fuels.  We definitely should not be viewing these difficulties through rose-tinted glasses.

    You are right, as to the types of denialists to be found at WUWT.   About half of them are pretty hopeless intellectually ~ they come to vent their anger into a receptive echochamber.  They are angry - in a wingnut extremist way - "libertarian" anger about Big Government and any taxes [except for military expenditure].   Anger about their money being siphoned off to go to the poor (especially to poor foreigners).   Anger about their [USA] nation being degraded and taken over by The Left and by The Woke and by the socialists / communists / Warmunists / Chinese / communists / socialists / socialists (have I mentioned "socialists" enough?)   I suspect there's a lot of wh-supremacism in there too  ~ but the "race" word is taboo in the comments columns there.  

    Very little of this has to do with climate science, but WUWT  is certainly a magnet for it all.  Basically they are an angry crowd, with little or no charity or compassion for other human beings.

    The other half of them are educated and moderately intelligent ~ some, very intelligent.  But their emotional baggage causes them to view the scientific world through a powerfully-distorting prism.   Cognitive dissonance & motivated reasoning are rampant, and debilitating.

    As you say, Nigel, they can start off looking fair . . . until their scaly netherparts hove into view.   Sad.

    Constituents : mostly American (plus expatriate Americans) and a modicum of Brits, and a surprisingly large component of Aussies.  Kiwis rare.

    As to loneliness ~ well, they get a sort of community at WUWT.   From time to time, you will hear a confession that "all of my family disagree with me : they are dupes of the leftist media propaganda, and I can't budge them."   [ A pleasant sign to you and me, eh, Nigel.]

    Saddest and loneliest are the handful of complete climate science crackpots.   Week after week, they keep publicizing their screed of crackpottedness.  Sometimes ridiculed, but mostly ignored by the other denialists (some of whom are GHE deniers also!).   Some - but not all - also fit in the political extremist basket.

    Overall, Nigel, the WUWT  is a magnet for quite a range of dysfunctional characters.   I am uncertain whether the WUWT  blogsite is a bad thing (in echochambering and reinforcing their nonsense) . . . or whether it is a good thing, in keeping the denizens occupied among themselves, with less time to get up to other mischief.

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  16. Eclectic @15

    "I myself do spend time "there" because (A) I am entertained & intrigued by the range of psychopathologies to be found in the comments columns, and (B) it allows me to construct & internally rehearse counter-arguments to the rubbish currently fashionable ....etc..."

    I totally understand. Nothing wrong with that. To be clear I'm equally intrigued by such psychopathologies and their seemingly endless varieties , having done a couple of psychology papers at Univerity many moons ago, but I get enough of them popping up here and over at and in our local media.

    Talking about the denialists hypocrsisy that JH mentions. Another feature of scientific cranks in their shameless hypocrisy. They seem completely unable to see it in themselves. I see some hypocrisy in myself sometimes, painful though it is to admit.

    Is WUWT a good or bad thing? They cook up all this nonsense and feed off and strengthen each other, and you can bet they spread it elsewhere as well. Hard to see it as a good thing.

    Of course I  would be worried if there was no climate scepticism, but when the scepticim descends into cherrypicking and stubborness its no longer scepticism. As we both know.

    The thing is we have free societies with freedom of speech thankfully (with a few justified commonsense restrictions) so you will get crazy comments and websites like WUWT. Theres probably no alternative but to rebut them while trying hard not to give these guys too much oxygen. The climate science community appears to have generally taken the view better to ignore the denialist crazies (with the exception of a few websites like this and people like MM) and that may have been a mistake in my view. I know facts wont convince the angry politically motivated hard core of denialists, but there are a lot of other people in this world watching.

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  17. Nigel @16 - I am also intrigued by what you refer to as "psychopathologies".

    You may be interested in this video I recorded at a "Pint of Political Neuroscience" presentation I attended, fortunately with my surfcam in my backpack, at an Exeter, UK public house?

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  18. Nigelj, if you can spare the time to be amused ~ there is a real bunfight going on at WUWT.   Date 6th June , thread title: A WUWT "Comment Rebuke" .

    Thread 12 hours old, right now, and over 200 comments.  Between those who believe in some sort of GreenHouse Effect . . . and those who maintain that the GHE is zero or negligible.   And one or two other similar threads there, recently, with hundreds upon hundreds of comments.  Marvellous stuff !

    In a sense, these people are the children of Koonin.

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  19. Eclectic @18, I read some of the WUWT Comment Rebuke, starting with something about convection and working down to socialist conspiracies to control the sheep. Strangely entertaining and very crazy.  

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  20. Nigel/Eclectic,

    As part of my Arctic alter ego's current project I have recently been archiving several WUWT articles. Rather than sending traffiic to the Dark Side perhaps you would prefer to view this archive, which may well be updated as time passes:

    In similar vein please also see:

    "#Unsettled #CommentsOff Please share!"

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  21. I've read Koonin's book, as well as every online critique I could find... but I haven't been able to discover a response to what I think are Koonin's strongest points - by which IMO he decisively defeated Dressler in their recent Soho debate (of August, 2022). The first is that, according to the IPCC's own forecasts, the economic impacts of climate change will be minimal to the end of this century. The second is that use of fossil fuels is the only real means by which developing countries can achieve parity with developed countries over the coming century. If anyone can respond to these two big points I would great appreciate it!

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  22. Dvaytw @21 :  my 2 cents on that August 2022 debate :-

    Two questions.

    A/   What is "minimal" impact?   To use those cliches Global North and Global South . . . the North has considerable fat on its waistline.  For instance, in the USA the wealth of the socioeconomic top 1% is approx 40 trillion USD  ~ so the nation could comfortably manage to deal with a plus/minus 10% economic impact over the course of the next eighty-ish years.

       # But for the South, things like the [presentday] disastrous Pakistan flooding/  other droughts floods heatwaves and increasing sea-level rise (over the coming 100 years & beyond) . . . are heading in the direction of cumulating catastrophe, which will fall most heavily on the South.   Quite possibly the total global GNP's will continue to increase [to the applause of economists] ~ but that would provide little comfort against a vast scale of human misery.   So shame on Koonin, if that is his line of "economic impact" argument.

    B/   What do the people of the so-called developing countries actually need over the next 100 years?   First answer is : food/ shelter/ education/ freedom from oppression, and so on.   Parity, in the sense of a widescreen television etcetera would be nice, but it is a long way down the immediate wish list, I'm sure.   Neither the food nor the TV will be produced by a large ramping-up of fossil fuel usage.   Much reform (and careful international aid) is needed  ~ but Koonin is absurd if he opines that Nigeria will necessarily benefit from more oil production or Congo Republic benefit from more cobalt production.

    If Koonin thinks that more fossil fuel usage will not cause an overall digging-deeper of the present "hole" for global conditions, then he is being disingenuous (for the sake of quickie debate points).

       #  Third question . . . is the Koonin/Dessler debate worth viewing?   Dvaytw, if the two points you mention are the best/strongest that Koonin can do, then their debate sure ain't worth viewing.

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  23. Dvaytw, as a small matter of interest, I checked on Youtube (where the Dessler/Koonin debate is made public).

    The earlier video release was 9 days ago, and shows currently as 12,069 views.  Another release was 3 days ago, and managed 163 views so far.  That's a bit discouraging.  Maybe next time the producers of the debate can substitute with actors such as George Clooney & Brad Pitt.   But I suspect even using photogenic speakers is not going to set a-flame the world's attention.   Sad reflection on human nature, eh.

    (Are there other video releases you can point me to?)

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  24. dvaytw:

    You list two items where you think Koonan was correct and climate scientists are incorrect:

    1) "The economic impacts of climate change will be minimal to the end of this century".  Tell that to Pakistan which has suffered $30 billion of damage from the worst flooding recorded.  Record flooding is occuring around the world.  There are billions of dollars damage in the USA alone from forrest fires, and those fires are happening around the entire globe.  The damage suffered yearly now are severe, we don't need to wait untill the end of the centuary.

    2) "Use of fossil fuels is the only real means by which developing countries can achieve parity".  Perhaps you have not noticed but a shortage of fossil fuels are currenly causing economic pain across the world.  Countries that have invested in renewable energy are doing great!  Renewable energy is the cheapest energy all around the world now and is cheaper every year.  Meanwhile fossil fuels get more expensive every year since all the cheap fossil fuel was mined years ago.  Do you want to condem developing nations to expensive, polluting energy that they will have to replace as soon as it is built with cheaper renewable energy?  I note that in developed countries little new fossil fuel generators are being built, virtually all new installations for new energy are renewable.  In addition, distributed solar can be installed immediately virtually everywhere while central fossil generation requires expensive transmission systems that do not exist in developing countries. 

    Your arguments were false ten years ago and are absurd now.  Read more and get up to date.

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  25. dvaytw:

    I dont' know what IPCC report Koonin is reading, but when I read the "Headline Statements" for AR6 Working Group II, I don't see the rosy picture that Koonin does.

    Selectively quoting from a few of their headlines (bolding mine):

    B1. Human-induced climate change, including more frequent and intense extreme events, has caused widespread adverse impacts and related losses and damages to nature and people, beyond natural climate variability.

    B2. Approximately 3.3 to 3.6 billion people live in contexts that are highly vulnerable to climate change (high confidence).

    B4 Beyond 2040 and depending on the level of global warming, climate change will lead to numerous risks to natural and human systems (high confidence). For 127 identified key risks, assessed mid- and long- term impacts are up to multiple times higher than currently observed (high confidence).

    These do not seem to fit the normal definition of "minimal".

    Perhaps he is still using something he prepared in the 1990s, when "the end of this century" was the year 2000?

    As usual, consulting Skeptical Science's Most Used Climate Myths,

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  26. dvaytw @21,
    This interchange has all gone a bit quiet. I've been reluctant to pitch in as I hold Koonin in very low regard given he has shown himself time and again to be a simple nepotistic nonsense-monger. But I did have a watch (not very attentively) of his 17 minute 'case against' in the video you mention and I don't see him presenting any worthy argument. It's all very 'chatty man' rather than well-founded analysis. It is but yet-more Koonin nonsense. (Note that Dessler & Koonin have recently debated before.)

    Specifically on your first "strongest point", that is the 'chatty-man' GDP argument, do ignore the IPCC aspect of it which is solely based on cherrypicking some wording from WG2's SPM that can easily be set out to sound logical but which is actually allowing any global disaster you wish to be ajudged as okay.

    Even less narrowly, the use of global GDP projections will always provide a simple way of burying mountains of bad stuff. You can thus point out that global GDP has risen at 3% annually for decades and even if you accept the most worrying projections of the costs of ignoring AGW (and all these projections are all very poorly defined), it is too easy to say global GDP will be 10x bigger by 2100 so we can cope with losing a few percentage points of that. Even the worst projections I've read that talk of 50% loss of GDP would see us 5x better off.
    Hurrah!! AGW solved!!!
    However, it is just as easy to point to the ongoing increase in FF use wich is still tracking the old doom-laden RCP8.5 scenario and that is certainly nowhere humanity wants to find itself.
    Note that both these uses of projections out to 2100 are overly simplistic and thus both verging on being utterly nonsensical if taken at face value.

    There are two serious criticisms of Koonin's chatty-man GDP argument.
    Firstly, the argument is being made that it will all be fine-&-dandy because, given past decades, we can project these massive increases in the size of the economy. So, in the extreme, even if the damage and adaptation costs tot up to a hit equal to half the economy, we would still be far wealthier, 5x wealthier, and so have no reason for complaint. But that argument is mad, with its head too quickly stuck up the model and ignoring the outcomes in the real world in such circumstances. Koonin needs to make plain what climate he is advocating as an acceptable outcome before he starts sticking his head into his simplistic models to demonstrate the effects of such a future climate.
    Secondly, and this has been touched on up-thread, the chatty-man GDP argument uses global averages which always allow unacceptably bad stuff to be buried.
    Just for a kick-off, imagine say Madagascar with a GDP of $14billion or 0.014% of global GDP. If that entire nation simply melted and disappeared beneath the waves making 28 million souls homeless, it wouldn't even register as a blip on Koonin's global averages. And if such destruction isn't so bad, if one or two hapless countries have to take a hit to keep the world economy in Koonin's happy-place, how about the entire continent of Africa. Hey, it's only 3% of the world economy. I'm sure Africa's 1.3 billion inhabitants will understand the situation when Koonin explains it to them. Perhaps we should give them his address so they can go round and get it all properly explained to them. Mind, it's not all a bed of roses for Koonin because he wants so much to sell them billions of tons of expensive fossil fuels which can't happen if their economies disintegrate under future western-world-created AGW.

    Koonin is a lunatic. His 17 minutes could be disassembled and the nonsense it comprises exposed. But why bother? Koonin is a lunatic!!

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