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Scientist who served in Obama admin pushes back against prevailing climate change narrative

"Most of the disconnect comes from the long game of telephone that starts with the research literature and runs through the assessment reports to the summaries of the assessment reports and on to the media coverage," Koonin wrote.

Updated: April 25, 2021 - 6:10pm

Dr. Steven E. Koonin, who served as undersecretary for science in the Department of Energy during part of the Obama administration, is pushing back against the widespread alarmist narrative about climate change.

"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,'" Koonin wrote in an opinion piece published by the New York Post, which the outlet noted was an adapted excerpt from Koonin's forthcoming book titled "Unsettled: What Climate Science Tells Us, What it Doesn't, and Why It Matters."

"For example, both research literature and government reports state 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," he wrote.

Koonin noted that Greenland's ice sheet is not decreasing any faster now than it was eight decades ago.

He said that most individuals receive information that has already passed through several layers of filtering.

"Most of the disconnect comes from the long game of telephone that starts with the research literature and runs through the assessment reports to the summaries of the assessment reports and on to the media coverage. There are abundant opportunities to get things wrong — both accidentally and on purpose — as the information goes through filter after filter to be packaged for various audiences," Koonin wrote. He said that "most people don't get the whole story."

Koonin noted that in 2013 he "was asked by the American Physical Society to lead an update of its public statement on climate. As part of that effort, in January 2014 I convened a workshop with a specific objective: to 'stress test' the state of climate science," he explained. "I came away from the APS workshop not only surprised, but shaken by the realization that climate science was far less mature than I had supposed."

He said that he learned that: "Humans exert a growing, but physically small, warming influence on the climate. The results from many different climate models disagree with, or even contradict, each other and many kinds of observations. In short, the science is insufficient to make useful predictions about how the climate will change over the coming decades, much less what effect our actions will have on it."

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