Sunday, July 25, 2021

Steven Koonin, liar for hire. A bibliographic collection - Student Resource

Let’s start with a couple short informed observations of why Steven Koonin’s “Unsettled: What Climate Science Tells Us, What It Doesn’t, and Why It Matters”, is nonsensical claptrap.

There is no development of the arguments, no counter-points, no constructive back and forth, just the same arguments that they appear to have thought up once and never examined.

Personally, I like taking on smart criticisms. They help hone the science, clarify the arguments and point to areas of needed research. But there isn’t a single thing here worth taking on.

Dr. Gavin Schmidt, PhD

Director of GISS 

Climate scientist Ben Santer, (with appropriate links added by myself):

“It is simply untrue that Prof. Koonin is confronting climate scientists with unpleasant facts they ignored or failed to understand.” 

Dr. Ben Santer wrote in his resignation letter to Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory: “The climate science community treats uncertainties in an open and transparent way. It has done so for decades. 

At LLNL, we routinely consider whether uncertainties in models, observations, and natural climatic variability call into question findings of a large human influence on global climate. They do not.”

 My question: Why has Koonin rejected honesty, learning and self-skepticism, which are the foundations of serious science?


Time to finally get “Steven Koonin’s liar for hire, a bibliographic collection” posted and behind me.  I need to complete this, rather than simply blowing it off, because I’m driven by my utter incomprehension at the success of Koonin’s 2021 stale rerun of the same one dimensional anti-science rhetorical campaign strategy pioneered by the Father of Science By Slander, Fred Seitz back in the tobacco war days.

“Steven Koonin’s Liar for Hire, a Bibliographic Collection”

A Student Resource

©2021 citizenschallenge


Steve Koonin Coasts On ‘09-’11 Obama Gig, Pens 'Unsettled,' a Pre-Re-Debunked Climate Denial Book

ClimateDenierRoundup for Climate Hawks and Kos, 2021,05,06

Five statements author Steven Koonin makes that do not comport with the evidence.   

Marianne Lavelle, May 4, 2021,

Koonin’s case for yet another review of climate science

Gavin Schmidt @ 15 June 2019,

EPA - Here's the Obama energy guy that Pruitt might hire

Robin Bravender, E&E News reporter, August 7, 2017,

Climate Science Is Settled Enough - The Wall Street Journal’s fresh face of climate inaction.

Raymond T. Pierrehumbert,

A New Book Feeds Climate Doubters, but Scientists Say the Conclusions are Misleading and Out of Date

Marianne Lavelle, May 4, 2021,

Steven Koonin to Step Down as DOE Science Honcho

Adrian ChoNov. 9, 2011,

Ben Santer: Climate Denialism has no place at Lawrence Livermore Nat'l Lab

Ben Santer, May 25, 2021, and Union of Concerned Scientists

A critical review of Steven Koonin’s ‘Unsettled’

Mark Boslough, June 1, 2021, and Yale Climate Connections


But first a bit of background.  Why does Koonin’s fraud saturated dog and pony show continue to get so much attention?

The level of self-delusion is amazing, yet at the same time, I think of all the things I need to compartmentalize and turn away from, in order to continue living a somewhat balanced positive day to day in my own life.  I’m sure that’s part of the general public’s refusal to really look at the problems we have been creating for ourselves.

Still, I mean, it’s one thing to be aware, compartmentalize and not obsess on what’s out of our reach anyway - and quite another to delude oneself into believing that nothing is wrong, and nothing is changing, or that there’s nothing to learn or do.  That seems to me a denial of life, being human and surviving.  

We need to remain engaged, struggling if we must, no matter what’s happening to our outside reality.  After all, in the end, we are all stuck with me, myself and I, and this one life is all we have.  You are an element in Earth's Evolution.  So live the experience come what may.  Doing the best you can with what you have.  Tomorrow will come soon enough so why not focus on trying to get today right.


This is dedicated to students and enthusiasts of science who care, who want to do something, who are looking for more information and who welcome good resources.

Society should be trying to discuss physical reality, not some dog chasing tail philosophical muddle.  Talk is cheap, science is a challenge that requires curiosity, intellectual honesty, personal integrity, and doing some homework!

Take over the narrative!  Create an original intelligent constructive climate science dialogue focused on recognizing our home planet Earth as the amazing ‘mother’ she is.  Evolution created our biosphere and the global heat and moisture distribution engine that regulates life on Earth.  Think about it, this Earth created you!  Yet way too few seem aware of that magnificent story and how it directly relates to our world and to our own bodies and minds.  If you are among the select, share the story.

Enunciate the ignorable, but unavoidable, physical basics of our planet.  It’s not about absolute accuracy!!!   It’s about understanding the components and dynamics and trends within our life sustaining biosphere.  It’s also about conveying the message that less is more.  Stop letting the paid liar’s such as Koonin, Steele, Cohen and their legions continue getting away with their destructive delusional nonsense?

Behold: Our Global Heat and Moisture Distribution Engine.

NOVA takes data from earth-observing satellites and transforms it into dazzling visual sequences, each one exposing the intricate and surprising web of forces that sustains life on earth.

For starters nothing in climate science can make sense until you’ve taken the time to learn about the single most fundamental reality: 

First base: is understanding our atmosphere; its composition; the fact of it being an insulating barrier between us and frigid space.  Understanding the fact that greenhouse gases are basically insulation.  

They make Earth hold in heat (by slowing its escape) 24/7/365.  This insulation is regulated by the concentrations of these GHGs, with CO2 dominating.  Contrarians will argue H2O, but fail to mention that water is removed from the skies very rapidly.  CO2 clearly dominates.  

Scientists understand how much heat is being sequestered within Earth’s climate system because it’s straightforward physics and we have developed incredible observational instruments for detecting and measuring it.  

Richard Alley - 4.6 Billion Years of Earth’s Climate History: The Role of CO2

National Academy of Sciences

NAS member Richard Alley presents on 4.6 Billion Years of Earth’s Climate History: The Role of CO2, during the Symposium—Earths, Moons, Mars & Stars at the National Academy of Sciences 152nd Annual Meeting.

Second base: How the heat that our atmosphere retains is conveyed around our global heat and moisture distribution engine, which includes sky, oceans, land, cryosphere. 

This starts with understanding the jet stream and how that drives weather patterns around the globe and how all that interacts with the global ocean's surface and underwater circulation patterns that swirl across our planet.

Third base: Learning about the interaction of ocean and cryosphere and mountains and how all that conspires to influence weather patterns.  From there how those weather patterns impact the landmasses of our continents and mountains and land and rivers.

Home plate:  Only then will we have the background to intelligently understand climate science history and climate models evolution.  Only then can current trends make sense.

Of course, another requirement is an appreciation that climatologist’s conclusions are data driven, doing the best with what they have.  Until more data comes along bringing yet more details into focus.  

We should make people aware that climate scientists are a global community of competitive skeptical experts looking over each others shoulders.  Humanity has yet to do any better than that. 

“Steven Koonin’s Liar for Hire, a Bibliographic Collection”

A Student Resource


A New Book Manages to Get Climate Science Badly Wrong

In Unsettled, Steven Koonin deploys that highly misleading label to falsely suggest that we don’t understand the risks well enough to take action

By Gary Yohe on May 13, 2021,

Steven Koonin, a former undersecretary for science of the Department of Energy in the Obama administration, but more recently considered for an advisory post to Scott Pruitt when he was administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, has published a new book. Released on May 4 and entitled Unsettled: What Climate Science Tells Us, What It Doesn’t, and Why It Matters. 

Its major theme is that the science about the Earth’s climate is anything but settled. 

He argues that pundits and politicians and most of the population who feel otherwise are victims of what he has publicly called “consensus science.”

Koonin is wrong on both counts. …

The science is stronger than ever around findings that speak to the likelihood and consequences of climate impacts, and has been growing stronger for decades.

… not to say that uncertainty is being eliminated, but decision makers …

Koonin’s intervention into the debate about what to do about climate risks seems to be designed to subvert this progress in all respects by making distracting, irrelevant, misguided, misleading and unqualified statements about supposed uncertainties that he thinks scientists have buried under the rug. …

His teaser for Chapter 7 is an equally troubling misdirection. He promises to highlight “some points likely to surprise anyone who follows the news—for instance, …

So, what is the takeaway message? Regardless of what Koonin has written in his new book, the science is clear, and the consensus is incredibly wide. Scientists are generating and reporting data with more and more specificity about climate impacts and surrounding uncertainties all the time. …


Koonin is playing the contrarian game of misdirection and it seems folks still haven’t figured out how to drag those deliberate, if contrived, diversions back on track, to the actual point at hand.

Rather than playing along with Koonin’s irrelevant Trivial Pursuits, why not make his need to misdirect and lie the central issue?  

Yes, why not be a little harsh, have your ducks in a row, and be ready to read off the bullet point list of misrepresentations that demonstrate Koonin is a disingenuous charlatan? Why not?    

Isn't it about time we put the deceivers and their dependence on fraud and lies on trial?


A government insider exposes the industry playbook for undermining evidence-based policy

By Sheril Kirshenbaum - February 10, 2020,

… At the dawn of a new decade and in a pivotal election year, we face unprecedented challenges that threaten the environment, public health, and security. Meanwhile, dark money is being funneled through powerful lobbyists, plaguing the process of enacting informed, evidence-based policies. 

David Michaels’s new book, The Triumph of Doubt, is a tour de force that examines how frequently, and easily, science has been manipulated to discredit expertise and accountability on issues ranging from obesity and concussions to opioids and climate change.

Michaels … epidemiologist and professor of environmental and occupational health at George Washington University, he spent 7 years leading the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) under President Obama and previously served as President Clinton’s assistant secretary of energy for environment, safety, and health.

His book offers account after account of unethical bad actors working against the public good on issues ranging from asbestos to climate change. 

Powerful firms and individuals seeking personal gain repeat the tactics of a well-worn playbook of denial and misdirection proven effective by Big Tobacco more than 50 years ago. Michaels pulls no punches, naming the corporations and people responsible for fraud, deception, and even what he terms “climate terrorism.” 

He reveals the dirty ways that industries have succeeded at shaping their own narratives regarding safety and health by producing articles and diversions designed to deny and distort science while confusing the public. … 


The Triumph of Doubt:

Dark Money and the Science of Deception

Oxford University Press, USA, 9780190922665, 344pp, Feb. 2020.

David Michaels’ Triumph of Doubt traces the ascendance of science-for-hire in American life and government, from its origins in the tobacco industry in the 1950s to its current manifestations across government, public policy, and even professional sports. Well-heeled American corporations have long had a financial stake in undermining scientific consensus and manufacturing uncertainty; in The Triumph of Doubt, former Obama and Clinton official David Michaels details how bad science becomes public policy -- and where it's happening today.

Amid fraught conversations of "alternative facts" and "truth decay," The Triumph of Doubt wields its unprecedented access to shine a light on the machinations and scope of manipulated science in American society. It is an urgent, revelatory work, one that promises to reorient conversations around science and the public good for the foreseeable future. …


Dirty Front Groups Endanger Planet's Present and Future Health

June 22, 2019 - By FRANK CARINI - ecoRI News staff

Breaking corporate links to fossil-fuel money key to addressing climate change. Local efforts underway to expose the flow of denial money.

… Milloy, a member of President Trump’s EPA transition team, said the rule to end “secret science” by “taxpayer-funded university researchers” is “one of my proudest achievements.”

In an interview with The New Yorker, Milloy defended his achievement by saying, “I do have a bias. I’m all for the coal industry, the fossil-fuel industry. Wealth is what makes people happy, not pristine air, which you’ll never get.”  …

A dark place

Six years ago, Drexel University environmental sociologist Robert Brulle, now a visiting professor of environment and society at Brown University, published an analysis that found conservative foundations, such as the Howard Charitable Foundation, the John William Pope Foundation, the Sarah Scaife Foundation, and Searle Freedom Trust, provided the largest and most-consistent money stream to the denial movement. Much of that secret funding is now commonly referred to as “dark money.” …

SourceWatch outlines the Center for Freedom and Prosperity’s strong ties to Koch-funded organizations such as the State Policy Network — a group that touts the free market as the panacea to all ills and rails against government regulation — and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a corporate bill mill. … (continue)


"Dark Money" Funds Climate Change Denial Effort

A Drexel University study finds that a large slice of donations to organizations that deny global warming are funneled through third-party pass-through organizations that conceal the original funder


A critical review of Steven Koonin’s ‘Unsettled’

by MARK BOSLOUGH - MAY 25, 2021,

‘Tilting at strawmen.’ Or ‘red flag.’ There are no finer shorthand descriptions of a controversial new book on climate science.  …

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. 

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  …

Another example of a strawman argument in “Unsettled” is the claim that the term “climate change denial” .  … Koonin says, “I find it particularly abhorrent …” …

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.  …

… The word “denier” literally means “one that denies” and the term has been used this way since the 1400s. …

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.”  …

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. …

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.”    (source)


Steve Koonin’s Unsettled History of US Temperature

By Jim Hunt,

May 20, 2021  Temperature, AR5, CSSR, Heat waves, IPCC, LSAT, Steve Koonin, Temperature, WRIT

…Great White Con is publishing a series of reviews of Steven E. Koonin‘s new book “Unsettled”? Today we move on to the topic of Land-Surface Air Temperature (LSAT for short). Here is an extract from the very first page of the book:

Yes, it’s true that the globe is warming, and that humans are exerting a warming influence upon it. But beyond that—to paraphrase the classic movie The Princess Bride: “I do not think ‘The Science’ says what you think it says.”

For example, both the research literature and government reports that summarize and assess the state of climate science say clearly 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 fifty years. When I tell people this, most are incredulous. Some gasp. And some get downright hostile.


First of all let me remind Steve that the United States does not constitute the entirety of our planet. In particular the Arctic is warming a lot faster than mid latitudes in general and the US in particular. Using WRIT once again to produce our own time series, we can compare and contrast longer term temperature records between the Continental United States and the Arctic (including both land and ocean above the Arctic circle): …

Also note that for some reason Steve makes no mention of US “coolest temperatures” and/or “cold waves” since 1900. …

Then there is a long discussion about what Steve apparently perceives to be shortcomings in the “The US government’s most recent assessment report, the 2017 Climate Science Special Report (CSSR)”. Steve is apparently well qualified in physics, so presumably he is able to comprehend these equations?

  • US ≠ Global
  • CSSR ≠ AR5


Other relevant articles:

May 26, 2021

May 20, 2021

May 13, 2021

May 10, 2021

May 7, 2021

May 5, 2021

April 21, 2021


War on Science: Climate “debater” Steve Koonin has a new book full of old arguments

By Climate Denier Roundup,  May 7th, 2021 -

A staple of communications, persuasion and propaganda is that the messenger matters. Since audiences are more sympathetic to people they perceive as similar to themselves …

As consummate students of propaganda, climate deniers are keenly aware of this dynamic, particularly the mainstream media’s gullible history with it, and use it repeatedly to great effect to get attention. 

But they don’t seem to actually succeed in getting anyone who genuinely cares about climate to change their mind, …


That’s because changing minds is not Koonin’s intention.  

All they are interested in is confusing the issue.  Their tool is feeding emotions, misdirection and demonizing opponents, obscuring core issues and challenges and stalling, endlessly stalling.  They are tragically effective at it.  I believe that’s because the audience is complicit, they don’t want to know.

The challenge for rational constructive people is to learn how to cut through your contrarian’s distraction/misdirection, with words that bring the discussion back to the main issue.  Learning about our global heat and moisture distribution engine in order to understand what is happening to us.

Your contrarian will focus on a sliver of truth, then distort and mislead.

The challenge for you is to use that sliver of information to enthusiastically, perhaps even enthrallingly fill in the missing pieces.  While conveying an understanding of how our magnificence Earth and her global heat and moisture distribution engine operates, and how we depend Earth's climate regime remaining within a narrow temperature range.  

Beginning with the upper atmosphere where our global warming actually happens, then on to the circulation patterns of that trapped heat within Earth’s atmosphere, and so on.


Steve Koonin Coasts On ‘09-’11 Obama Gig, Pens 'Unsettled,' a Pre-Re-Debunked Climate Denial Book

ClimateDenierRoundup for Climate Hawks and Kos, 2021,05,06

Steve Koonin is just the latest to inflate his modest liberal credentials, a two-year stint in the Obama administration, to sell the rankest of rightwing climate denial propaganda retreads in a new book…

… as Marianne Lavelle explains at Inside Climate News (A New Book Feeds Climate Doubters, but Scientists Say the Conclusions are Misleading and Out of Date, Koonin’s history makes it obvious that his call for debate is as shallow as his grasp on the science.

What could possibly explain this apparent amnesia?

In 2013, he led an effort to review the American Physical Society’s position on climate change.

He tapped the best and brightest minds to represent the skeptic side, like:

Following a debate between the deniers and the consensus scientists, the physicists thoroughly rejected Koonin’s proposed changes to the science society’s statements, making it clear that the “skeptics” had not presented any compelling evidence that the consensus science was in any way in doubt.

Instead of graciously accepting the outcome of the debate and being satisfied that the science had its day in court, so to speak, Koonin resigned. 


This is one of the hallmarks of the disingenuous contrarian, a refusal to absorb new information, instead repeating the same dogmatic claims with sealed minds driven with a religious fervor.


…  Read Lavelle’s accompanying dissection of just how misleading and out of date five of Koonin’s main arguments are.

Five statements author Steven Koonin makes that do not comport with the evidence.   

By Marianne Lavelle, May 4, 2021,

1 Koonin says:  The warmest temperatures in the US have not risen in the past fifty years.”  

False -  It’s risen 1.2 to 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit.

2  Koonin says:  “Most types of extreme weather events don’t show any significant change—and some such events have actually become less common or severe—even as human influences on the climate grow.”   

False -  There’s been a significant rise in extreme infrastructure destroying weather events.

3 Koonin says:  “Humans have had no detectable impact on hurricanes over the past century.”  

False - Both Atlantic Ocean Hurricanes and Pacific Ocean Typoons are increasing as oceans warm and a warmer atmosphere holds more moisture.

4 Koonin says:  “Greenland’s ice sheet isn’t shrinking any more rapidly today than it was eighty years ago.”

False - The cumulative ice loss from Greenland from 1992 to 2017 was 3,900 billion tonnes, =~11 mm of SLR.

5 Koonin says:  “The net economic impact of human-induced climate change will be minimal through at least the end of this century. 

False - Is this Koonin insane, or just sociopathic?  Consider what’s happening this summer, we knew it was coming!  It’s destruction that’s going to slam our economy, and it’s only going to get worse.  Pretending away reality isn’t helping.

Our physical infrastructure was not made for extreme heat and extreme weather!  Our continued willful ignorance can only guarantee worst outcomes.   

Across the globe, extreme weather is becoming the new normal.

  • Destructive wildfires
  • Deadly heatwaves and drought
  • Record hurricanes
  • Torrential rains and flooding
  • Intense winter storms
  • Loss of Cryosphere

From season to season and year to year, weather events that were once rare occurrences are now increasingly commonplace.  (Source)

The important thing is that Steve Koonin doesn’t actually want a debate, he’s after confusion and willful ignorance.


Fundamentally, there are two forms of debate:

The rationalist, constructive debate: 

Honesty is demanded, because the goal of the debate is a better all around understanding!

The price of admission is an occasional bruised ego, because valid substantive evidence dictates, and it hurts to be human and wrong.  Still, the true student knows that though mistakes and failure hurt, so what, that’s where we do our real learning.

History is peppered with the most naive uninformed of young person, learning how to pay attention and remember, willing to take their lickings and learn from them, inevitably to evolve and blossom into the most informed, insightful of individuals.

Then, there is the Lawyerly Political Debate: 

Winning is all that matters.  

Honesty and examining all the facts is treated with derision.  

Arguments are focused on manipulating the emotions -  feeding the wishful thinking of under-informed, and too often uncritical audience.  Whatever it takes to win the applause.


Koonin’s case for yet another review of climate science

In the seemingly endless deliberations on whether there should be a ‘red team’ exercise to review various climate science reports, Scott Waldman reported last week that the original architect of the idea, Steve Koonin, had given a talk on touching on the topic at Purdue University in Indiana last month. Since the talk is online, I thought it might be worth a viewing.

[Spoiler alert. It wasn’t].

The red team issue came up a few times. Notably Koonin says at one point in the Q and A:

The reports are right. But obviously I would not be pushing a red team exercise unless I thought there were misleading crucial aspects of the reports.


But in over an hour of talking, he doesn’t ever really say what they are. Instead, there are more than a few fallacious arguments, some outright errors, some secondhand misdirection, a scattering of dubious assumptions and a couple of very odd contradictions. I cannot find a single instance of Koonin disagreeing with an actual statement in the reports.

First, the fallacies

Three examples:

Contradiction Central

There are two glaring sets of contradictions in the talk, 

first, involving attribution of past change and 

secondly, his stance on normative judgements in discussing science. 

Starting around 7:29 he discusses attribution of recent trends and states: …

…  But this is illustrated with the most useless kind of pop attribution. He makes a blanket statement that any changes prior to 1950 must be purely ‘natural’ without any analysis at all (a stance completely at odds with the literature, for instance, Hegerl et al., 2018), and supports it with an uncredited graph from, of all people, Bob Tisdale, a frequent blogger at WUWT,..

His second contradiction concerns his statements about normative values. He, of course, claims to make no normative statements, while implying others (unnamed) are perverting their science to do so. And yet, not only is his talk filled with his opinions, he has a remarkably different approach to the climate science results than to the results from economic modeling. For the former, he is hyper-critical (mostly without any valid cited reasons), while for the latter he appears naively credulous. This, at best, is incoherent, since the economic projections are rife with embedded normative values.

For instance, …

… This is not a conclusion that “just comes from the numbers”. He clearly has a normative preference for adaptation (seemingly oblivious to the point that it is very hard and very costly to adapt to a continuously changing, and even accelerating situation). Whether or not mitigation will be too hard, it is undoubtedly a normative decision to give up trying.

Errors galore

Some of these are trivial, some are more consequential, but all are illustrative of someone who is not well-versed in the topic.

At 14:40, he claims that climate models take time steps of 6 hours. It would be a little hard to resolve the diurnal cycle with that. The correct value is more like 15 to 30 min for the column physics, and more like 2 or 3 minutes for the advection routines. Curiously, even the slide he is talking to says this.

18:45. he says that Figure 9.8 in IPCC AR4 (2013) was ‘misleading’ because it showed anomaly temperatures alongside the range of absolute mean global values. This is odd. If the sensitivity of the model is not dependent on the base state, this is a good result.

20:34. he claims that the CMIP5 models were tuned to 20th Century trends, which is why without anthropogenic forcings they show no trend. This makes no sense at all. First, it is just untrue that all the models were tuned on the trends. And second, if there is no big trend in the natural forcings, you just aren’t going to get a big long term trend in the response. Nothing to do with tuning.

21:06 Another graphic borrowed from Bob Tisdale. This one makes the classic error of confusing the forced trend (as estimated from the mean of model ensemble) with the actual trend (which includes the actual forced trend and internal variability). For someone who claims to be interested in how internal variability is represented in models, that’s an odd lacuna.

26:00. His slide 25 is just BS from start to finish. Note there are no actual quotes from any specific case – everything is a strawman argument.

28:05. He quotes me! This is not an actual error, but I find it funny that my views on how the media treats extremes (at least in 2013) are worthy of inclusion, but not, say, my views on climate modeling or attribution (you know, my job).

31:00. Satellite records of sea level rise (since 1992) “are commensurate” with the tide gauge estimates (roughly 2mm/yr). Sure, but Koonin mysteriously neglects to mention they are 50% higher than the long term trend from those gauges. Also missing from his commentary on longer term records is that even the modern tide gauge-derived rate is more than twice the Holocene trends since 6000 BP (see for instance, Ashe et al., 2018).

34:10 “If you get all your climate information from watching CNN or reading the New York Times or Washington Post [the data on hurricanes] is a surprising statement”. Apparently, these outlets report on hurricane trends so frequently and so erroneously that no reference to them actually doing so is needed. Ok then.

50:02. “I would do more when the signal has come out of the noise, which it has not yet”. This is complete rubbish. The signals of temperature change, sea level, sea ice loss, intense precipitation, heat waves, phenology, permafrost loss, Greenland melt, ocean heat content etc. have all clearly ‘come out of the noise’. What is he really waiting for?

Is there anything new here?

This is what I don’t really understand: There is absolutely nothing new here. Every argument, point, and even some graphics, are old, stale, and previously debunked. 

These points could have been made (and undoubtedly were) in official reviews of assessment reports going back years. The people making these points have undoubtedly been told this and shown responses.

In Koonin’s case, I know this for a fact (for instance). And yet, they persist. 

There is no development of the arguments, no counter-points, no constructive back and forth, just the same arguments that they appear to have thought up once and never examined.

Personally, I like taking on smart criticisms. They help hone the science, clarify the arguments and point to areas of needed research. But there isn’t a single thing here worth taking on.

Two thumbs down.


  1. G.C. Hegerl, S. Brönnimann, A. Schurer, and T. Cowan, "The early 20th century warming: Anomalies, causes, and consequences", WIREs Climate Change, vol. 9, 2018.
  2. "Redirecting"



Here's the Obama energy guy that Pruitt might hire

Robin Bravender, E&E News reporter, August 7, 2017,

In the fall of 2014, Steven Koonin was finishing up an op-ed for The Wall Street Journal. The theme was a contentious one, especially for a former Obama administration energy official: How certain is climate science? …

Now, Koonin is again in the middle of a controversy.

He advocated for a "red team" approach to climate science in another Wall Street Journal op-ed in April. The exercise would allow critics to test the "consensus" around climate science. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt has publicly expressed interest in the idea, and he's rumored to be considering hiring Koonin to lead the process.

Koonin has met with Pruitt and other Trump administration officials to discuss the idea of a "red team," he told E&E News on Friday. He declined to comment on whether he's in talks about running such an operation, but he said he'd consider it if certain conditions were met.

He's also interested in geoengineering, the idea that humans can intervene in the environment in order to counter global warming.

In 2009, he co-authored a paper assessing the feasibility of pumping aerosol particles into the atmosphere to induce global cooling. The concept of geoengineering remains highly controversial, due in large part to concerns about unintended side effects.


Koonin said it's important to know what's feasible in terms of responding to climate change. Mitigation "is not going to be enough to do what most people think needs to be done," he told E&E News. He said he thinks adaptation will be "the dominant response," and it's valuable to have other options "in our back pocket."

As for geoengineering, he said, "You want to know whether that's an option or not."

Pruitt's 'straw man'?


With such a two dimensional understanding of our complex biosphere, it’s easy to be glib about the temperatures and cascading consequence heading at us.  The only real climate “debate” that remains is: exactly how fast are we going, too fast: or insanely too fast.


Koonin's previous work for a Democratic administration makes him an attractive pick for some of those who support a "red team" approach to climate science.

… Some of Koonin's former colleagues say he's being used to advance Trump's agenda.

"This is a brilliant man who is politically inept," said a former DOE official who worked with Koonin.

"I think Pruitt is using this as a straw man," that person said. "I hope Koonin doesn't take it."

Another former Obama administration colleague said of Koonin, "I think there's a general sense that he's being exploited by the current administration. ... I think political acumen has always been Steve's Achilles' heel.”  …


Climate Science Is Settled Enough

The Wall Street Journal’s fresh face of climate inaction.


When the Wall Street Journal publishes yet another argument for doing nothing about global warming, it’s just a dog-bites-man story. … It was to be expected that the Journal would try to take some pre-emptive action on the eve of the opening of the United Nations Climate Summit in New York and the world’s largest climate-action rally. What makes Koonin’s piece noteworthy more than anything else is the messenger.

Steve Koonin is the answer to a troublesome question facing the Journal’s opinion page editors: What you do if you want to continue obstructing progress on global warming pollution, but your usual stable of tame skeptics is starting to die off (Fred Seitz), retire from active research (Dick Lindzen), or discredit itself through serial scientific errors (John Christy) or by taking fanatical and manifestly untenable positions (Heartland Institute)? That puts the editors in quite a pickle. The Wall Street Journal evidently has high hopes for promoting Koonin as a prominent new voice for inaction, having lavished on him 2,000 words and front-page Saturday exposure outside the Journal’s paywall.

Who is Steve Koonin and why should we care?

… Being a smart physicist can just give you more elaborate ways to delude yourself and others, along with the arrogance to think you can do so without taking the time to really understand the subject you are discussing. Freeman Dyson is a famous example. 

Koonin’s role in the Department of Energy was marginal and largely powerless, leading ultimately to his resignation. BP’s “beyond petroleum” vision evidently includes tar sands (both extraction and refining) and petcoke (arguably the worst fossil fuel of all). And anyway, how green can you be if you’re the company that gave us the Deepwater Horizon disaster?

A litany of discredited arguments.

…  the nuggets of truth in Koonin’s essay are buried beneath a rubble of false or misleading claims from the standard climate skeptics’ canon. To pick a few examples:

  • He claims that the rate of sea level rise now is no greater than it was early in the 20th century, but this is a conclusion one could draw only through the most shameless cherry-picking. In reality, according to the data, the sea level trend was .8 millimeters of rise per year from 1870 to 1924, 1.9 millimeters per year from 1925 to 1992, and 3.2 millimeters per year from 1993 to 2014—i.e., the rate has actually quadrupled since preindustrial times.
  • He claims that the human imprint on climate is only “comparable” to natural variability, whereas multiple lines of research confirm that the climate signature of human-caused greenhouse gas increases has already risen well above the background noise level. Koonin’s claim also obscures the fact that human-induced greenhouse gas increases are the only influences that have been found to provide a significant drive for warming. The most prominent natural influences, such as volcanic eruptions and heat uptake by the ocean, only serve to offset some of the warming caused by human influences.
  • He states that human additions to the greenhouse effect will shift the natural greenhouse effect by only 1 percent to 2 percent by the middle of the century. This is another variant of the standard skeptics’ arguments that attempt to make the human influence seem small, but, like all such arguments, requires a lot of creative accounting. In reality, a large part of the natural greenhouse effect is due to substances (mainly water vapor, and consequent cloudiness) that are in the atmosphere only because carbon dioxide keeps the Earth warm enough to prevent them from condensing out. Carbon dioxide is the main control knob for Earth’s climate, and if one looks at the effect of doubling carbon dioxide relative to the baseline carbon dioxide greenhouse effect, that amounts to a change of over 10 percent—and at the rate our fossil fuel burning is increasing, we could go well beyond doubling. Further, if one looks at fossil fuel burning in terms of the magnitude of our disruption of the natural carbon cycle, industrial civilization looks like a force of much more than geological proportions. Fossil fuel burning is adding carbon to the Earth system at a rate that is more than 100 times greater than the volcanic sources that drive the Earth’s natural long-term carbon cycle.
  • He states that the effects of carbon dioxide will last “several centuries,” whereas “several millennia” would be closer to the truth. The carbon dioxide we emit while dithering about what to do will cause essentially irreversible changes to our climate.
  • He does a lot of hand-wringing about the uncertainties in ocean behavior, but doesn’t seem to appreciate that oceans cannot be a cause of long-term warming because almost all of the mass of the oceans is colder than the lower atmosphere. Oceans can delay warming by taking up heat (indeed they are, as ocean observations confirm), but the warming will be made up with a vengeance once the oceans stop taking up heat, as they eventually must.

One could go on for a long time dissecting the flaws and misleading spin in Koonin’s arguments. Most of the old chestnuts are there, including the dismissive statement that “climate has always changed and always will”  …

Climate science is not settled, but it’s settled enough.

Koonin’s most seriously misleading claims concern uncertainty. There are two parts to his attack: first, that climate scientists systematically suppress discussion of uncertainty, especially when communicating with policymakers; and second, that climate science is too uncertain to provide a basis for policy decisions. …

To anybody with even a cursory familiarity with the climate science literature, the claim that it is impermissible to discuss uncertainties is laughable.  …

Science is never settled, but it can be settled enough. Newtonian mechanics was not settled science—it was overturned by both relativity and quantum mechanics. Nonetheless, it was, and continues to be, settled enough to build bridges and design airplanes. It is in this spirit that the word settled is used sometimes in connection with climate science, and not in the cartoonish sense that Koonin fabricates in his straw-man argument. 

It is always easy to find gaps—even very significant gaps—in the understanding of a system as complex as the climate, but the issue on the table isn’t whether our understanding is complete, but whether it is complete enough to justify the need for serious controls on carbon dioxide emissions.  …

… What (Koonin) fails to note is that this uncertainty provides an argument for more rather than less action on emissions control, since it means that no scientifically credible argument advanced in the past several decades has been able to rule out the risk that climate sensitivity is at the high end of the range. In the face of that, the only way to avert the risk is to simply not emit so much carbon dioxide. And the millennial duration of the warming induced by carbon dioxide means that we don’t have the luxury of waiting a few more decades before taking action, in the hopes that 30 more years of research will finally accomplish what the past 30 failed to do. As the Swedish cookbook pioneer Kajsa Warg is reputed to have said, “You cook with what you have.”


A New Book Feeds Climate Doubters, but Scientists Say the Conclusions are Misleading and Out of Date

By Marianne Lavelle, May 4, 2021,

Steven Koonin, who during Trump’s presidency proposed having a “red team, blue team” climate debate, argues that climate action’s “certain downsides” outweigh the “uncertain” benefits.


Steven Koonin to Step Down as DOE Science Honcho

By Adrian ChoNov. 9, 2011,

Steven Koonin is leaving his job as undersecretary for science in the Department of Energy (DOE) after an unhappy stint in a poorly defined position.

Koonin's departure, announced in an 8 November memo from Secretary of Energy Steven Chu, busts up something of a scientific dream team within the upper echelons of DOE. Its other members are Chu,a Nobel Prize-winning physicist, and William Brinkman, the director of DOE's Office of Science, who was executive director of physics research at the storied Bell Labs. However, observers say they're not surprised to see Koonin go, as his position gave him little power.

"Steve's been looking around for awhile—it hasn't been a secret," says Michael Lubell, a lobbyist with the American Physical Society (APS) in Washington, D.C. "He has not been terribly happy at DOE for some time.”

The roots of Koonin's unhappiness may lie in the odd nature of his post. Until 5 years ago DOE had two undersecretaries: one responsible for the National Nuclear Security Administration, which maintains the United States arsenal of nuclear weapons and currently has a budget of $10.5 billion, and another responsible for everything else in DOE, including its Office of Science, environmental management program, and energy programs such as fossil energy and nuclear energy. In 2001, APS spearheaded a drive to create a third undersecretary who would oversee the Office of Science and the energy programs, leaving environmental management by itself. That would have effectively split DOE's budget, currently $27 billion, in thirds, and placed programs with a strong science component under one undersecretary, Lubell says.

Things worked out somewhat differently, however. Under the Energy Policy Act of 2005, Congress established the undersecretary for science position, which nominally has responsibility for all science in the non-weapons programs in DOE, but controls the budget only of the Office of Science, currently $4.8 billion. The first undersecretary for science, Raymond Orbach, who served from May 2006 to January 2009, held both that title and the directorship of the Office of Science. But 1 month after Koonin came aboard in May 2009, Brinkman was confirmed as director of the Office of Science, effectively taking away from Koonin the purse strings to that program. "Here was a guy who had no budget authority, and that's a tough position," Lubell says.

Over the past 2.5 years, Koonin helped draft DOE's strategic plan and led its first Quadrennial Technology Review. A champion of research that addresses the world's energy problems, Koonin also took a keen interest in efforts to achieve a self-sustaining fusion reaction with the gigantic National Ignition Facility at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California, say Raymond Fonck, a fusion physicist at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. "He seemed to have a passion to make the department work and to see that the energy policy of the country has some coherence," Fonck says.

Koonin, a theoretical physicist by training and former chief scientist at British Petroleum, is leaving next week for the Institute for Defense Analyses' Science and Technology Policy Institute in Washington, D.C. As for the problematic post of undersecretary for science, Fonck hopes it can be made more effective.

"Given the amount of physical science research [in DOE's various programs], having somebody sit above all that and try to fit the pieces together seems to make sense," says Fonck, who served as the Office of Science's associate director for fusion energy science under Orbach. But given Koonin's experience, Lubell says, it may be hard to find somebody willing to take the less-than-powerful position.


Collection of links that I used in my introduction and text:

“Unsettled: What Climate Science Tells Us, What It Doesn’t, and Why It Matters”

Koonin’s case for yet another review of climate science


"Dr. Gavin Schmidt, PhD"

Director of GISS and Principal Investigator for the GISS ModelE Earth System Model


"Ben Santer"

First Person: Ben Santer, by Robert Frederick


"Prof. Koonin"

Steve Koonin, Credentials,Background


"confronting climate scientists with unpleasant facts"

Wall Street Journal article repeats multiple incorrect and misleading claims made in Steven Koonin’s new book ’Unsettled’

Analysis of "‘Unsettled’ Review: The ‘Consensus’ On Climate"

Published in The Wall Street Journal, by Mark P. Mills on 25 April 2021

Twelve scientists analyzed the article and estimate its overall scientific credibility to be very low.


"Dr. Ben Santer"

Climate Communication Staff


Ben Santer's "resignation letter" 

Climate Denialism Has No Place at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory


"Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory"

Program for Climate Model Diagnosis and Intercomparison


"treats uncertainties in an open"

The Certainty of Uncertainty


"transparent way"

Can We Trust Climate Models? Increasingly, the Answer is ‘Yes’


 "uncertainties in models"

Can we trust climate models?



Global Climate Change - Vital Signs of the Planet


"natural climatic variability"

Sixth Assessment Report


"findings of a large human influence"

What Are Climate Models and How Accurate Are They?


"They do not"

Climate Myths sorted by taxonomy


"utter incomprehension"

Cc’s Hall of Shame


"anti-science rhetorical campaign"

Fred Seitz, the $45 million man


"(Seitz) Father of Science By Slander"

From tobacco to climate change, ‘merchants of doubt’ undermined the science


"Fred Seitz" 

The Relentless Attack on Climate Scientist Ben Santer


"fraud saturated dog and pony show"

How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming



Climate Myths Sorted by Taxonomy


"physical reality"



"dog chasing tail philosophical muddle"

A look at Skeptic Arguments


"ignorable, but unavoidable"

Andrew Dessler: "The Alternate Reality of Climate Skepticism"


"Koonin, Steele, Cohen and their legions"

Cc's Hall of Shame



The Atmosphere: Earth's Security Blanket


"insulating barrier"

How Does the Greenhouse Effect Work?


"make Earth hold in heat"

New Studies Increase Confidence in NASA's Measure of Earth's Temperature



Heat Transfer in the Atmosphere



Explained: Greenhouse gases


"CO2 dominating"

Missions That Observe CO2



Climate Change Connections - What About Water Vapour?


"water is removed"

ACS Climate Science Toolkit - It’s Water Vapor, Not the CO2


"CO2 clearly dominates"

Why Does CO2 get Most of the Attention When There are so Many Other Heat-Trapping Gases?


"Scientists understand"

It’s A Match: Satellite and Ground Measurements Agree on Warming


"is being sequestered"

SkepticalScience - Our climate is absorbing a lot of heat.


"straightforward physics"

CO2 Science - Pruitt, proof is in the pudding! Impossible Modern Marvels


"we have"

Which measurement is more accurate: taking Earth’s surface temperature from the ground or from space?


"detecting and measuring it"

Interactive: How satellites are used to monitor climate change


"global oceans"

Ocean Heat Content


MAY 26, 2021

Steven Koonin lecturing climate scientists: Delusional Thinking 101 at Lawrence Livermore Nat'l Lab. Seriously? Why?

JUNE 5, 2021

Koonin's "Unsettled"? Ill-advised, or liar for hire? (reviewing Boslough's review)

JULY 24, 2021

Steven Koonin, liar for hire. A bibliographic collection - Student Resource

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