Blatant attack on climate change detractor Steven Kunin

In 2021, physicist and New York University professor Steven E. Kunin, who served as undersecretary of science in the Obama administration’s Department of Energy, published the best-selling Restless: What Climate Science Tells Us, What It Doesn’t, and Why It Matters.

The book attracted overwhelmingly negative reviews people attack, such as a Brief statement is displayed Scientific American and signed by 12 academics who, instead of substantively refuting Kunin’s arguments, called him “a crank who is only taken seriously by right-wing delusional merchants hungry for something they can use to score political points” and “trying to sell a book For one simply negates another negator.

We couldn’t find a negative review of it unsteady that directly disputed or even accurately described his claims Many reviewers seem to stop reading after the first few pages. Others were forced to admit that many of Kunin’s facts were correct but objected that they were being used in the service of challenging official doctrine. Despite its wide range, true statements were reduced to trivial or common knowledge unsteady That document is just the opposite: facts that were widely denied in major media coverage and misrepresentations were cited as the basis for major policy initiatives.

When dissenting scientists are implicitly compared to Holocaust deniers, or their ideas are deemed too dangerous to be carefully considered, this undermines public respect for the field and can lead to catastrophic policy mistakes. It is human nature to be biased by evidence that confirms our biases and leads to easy conclusions. But for science to progress, it is essential that moral certainty does not override objective discussion and that personal attacks do not replace rational consideration of empirical evidence.

A re-evaluation of unsteady inside Scientific American, Gary Yohe, a professor emeritus at Wesleyan University, suggested he hadn’t read the first few pages. The book consists of nine chapters filled with examples of exaggerations and outright lies in both scientific and popular accounts. Yohe cites only four claims taken from the first two pages, and one taken from a chapter subtitle, and fails to refute any of them.

He makes the claim, appearing on page 2, that “the warmest temperatures in the United States have not increased in the past fifty years.”

“By what measure?” asked Yohe. “Highest annual global average? Absolutely not.” Had he continued reading, Yohe would have found a detailed explanation of what measurements Kunin was using and evidence that record-high temperatures in the US are no more common than they were in the 1970s.

Yohe attacked Kunin’s claim that “heat waves are no more common in the United States now than they were in 1900,” claiming that “it’s a questionable statement that depends on the definition of ‘heat wave’ and is therefore really uninformative. Heat waves are poor indicators of heat stress.” .”

If Yohe had read the book carefully, he would have used the official heat wave index and why it matters. He provides no evidence that “heat stress”—something less well defined and, therefore, less informative than “heat wave”—is greater now than it was in 1900.

Yohe also focuses on the first word of the book’s title, unsteady. He claims that “Kunin deploys that very misleading label to falsely suggest that we don’t understand the risks well enough to take action.” In fact, Kunin argues that claims of damage from human climate impacts have been exaggerated and misrepresented in the press, and that we should adopt more sensible and long-term policies than those currently advocated by many activists and politicians.

inside Another article Published on the website of the Union of Concerned Scientists, Yohe wrote that although Kunin is a “very accomplished and respected physicist”, he should follow the methods of “those at the forefront” who “know what they are doing. [because they]… Been doing this for 15 years.”

Kunin has been attacked by others for not being a climate scientist by trade. In most orthodox religions, only the anointed are given the power to speak. But science is supposed to be a discipline open to anyone who can interpret the relevant material.

“‘restless’ It’s a book you can judge right by its cover.” wrote Mark Boslow, a fellow at the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, in Yale Climate Review Connections, and it seems as if he could barely read more. He denied that anyone in the media, politics, or other prominent people claimed that climate science was settled. He ignored the core of the book because the cover was the only part worth reading.

Kunin is accused “cherrypicking and carelessly misrepresenting many of his sources” by Bob Ward, director of policy and communications at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of Economics and Political Sciences.

Although his rebuttal is weak, at least Ward seems to have read the book. In one chapter, Kunin blames the media for overheated accounts of the link between human CO2 Emissions and hurricane frequency, such as a USA Today The article is titled, “Global warming is making hurricanes stronger, study says.” That article states unequivocally that “human-caused global warming has strengthened the wind speeds of hurricanes, typhoons and cyclones around the world.” Kunin notes that the study on which that article is based does not make such claims with certainty.

Kunin quotes directly from the study, but Ward accuses him of omitting another quote from the same paper, which reads: “From a storyline, balance-evidence, or Type-II error avoidance perspective, the trends identified here are consistent with physical understanding and TCs have grown considerably stronger than expected based on greenhouse warming simulations, and this increase likely has a human fingerprint.”

Ward must be confused about what that sentence means because it doesn’t support it USA Today Articles or underestimation of Kunin’s points. This paragraph basically says that although there is only suggestive evidence that tropical cyclones have strengthened, we are better off assuming that they and humans are partly to blame. Kunin probably agrees with that statement, and he’s certainly right that it doesn’t support unequivocal headlines like, “Global Warming Is Making Hurricanes Stronger, Study Says.”

After Kunin wrote A The Wall Street Journal A February 2022 publication titled “Greenland’s Melting Ice Is Not a Cause for Climate-Change Panic” Climate responsewhich bills itself as “a global network of scientists sorting fact from fiction in climate change media coverage”. a response. It labels Kunin’s article: “cherry-picking, flawed argument, lack of context, misleading.”

The point of Kunin’s op-ed was straightforward and illustrated by this graph.

A graph showing the estimated amount of ice loss from Greenland from 1900 to 2020.

When Greenland is losing ice, the main driver cannot be anthropogenic climate change because there is no corresponding increase in human CO2 Emissions or Atmospheric Concentrations of CO2. Carbon dioxide emissions and warming may be important, but other factors were clearly more important in the past.

Kunin also acknowledged that “the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change projects that for the likely course of greenhouse-gas emissions in the 21st century, the average annual ice loss will be somewhat larger than the peak values ​​shown in the graph.”

How is it “cherry-picking” to show all the data? Marco Tedesco of Columbia University claims that “the article only selects the last 10 years, excluding the rest of the time series for context.” And yet, the graph published in the op-ed clearly shows the data since 1900 and addresses it all.

Ironically, the Climate response re-evaluation is Guilty of cherry-picking. It cites an article in 2015 that Kunin claims to refute the nature “Finds that ice loss between 2003 and 2010 not only more than doubled compared to the 1983-2003 period, but also compared to the rate of net mass loss throughout the 20th century”.

In other words, Climate response The 121-year span shown in the chart selects the eight fastest growing years and compares it to the lowest 21 years. That is the definition of cherry-picking. It is also irrelevant to the climate change debate because both periods occurred during periods of rapid global warming, typically beginning in the 1970s or earlier.

Eric Rignot of the University of California, Irvine, who contributed Climate responseKoonin attempted to rebut, dismissing the op-ed as rehashing “the old argument that the 1930s were warmer than the present. [which] False,” when in fact, that is not the argument and has nothing to do with Kunin’s point.

other Climate response ArticleThis is a review video As Kunin writes in the summary of his book—Justin Schoof of Southern Illinois University disputes Kunin’s claim that U.S. heat waves are no more common today than they were in 1900. “The 2018 US National Climate Assessment shows that the length of heat wave seasons in the United States has increased since 1960, he writes. This is doubly irrelevant because it refers to a different metric and a different time period than Kunin refers to. To make matters worse, Schuff explains Kunin in his book. Did correctly cite facts that are misleading.

Why does it matter that Kunin’s critics don’t bother to respond to his arguments? How science progresses is the main debate. If climate science is just an echo chamber, we can create distorted short-term overreactions to that data that have large costs and perhaps even negative environmental impacts. Many historical policy disasters have led people to claim that they need not engage with informed critics.

unsteady It’s more than just climate policy—it seeks to free science from the shackles of organized dogma, the sole domain of anointed elites who feel justified in calling their critics “cranks,” “deniers” and “peddlers of confusion.” Why associate with a heathen when he can be banished from the church altogether?

Edited by John Osterhoud; Camera by Luis Gutierrez; Art by Nathalie Walker; Additional editing by Daniel Thompson.

Photo: Brett Raney