Contributed by William Walter Kay BA JD © 2023
Although focussed on hard science, Koonin’s Unsettled broaches Sociology of Climatology in Chapter 10 (WHO BROKE “THE SCIENCE” AND WHY); commencing:
“Can it really be that a multiplicity of stakeholders in climate matters – scientists, scientific institutions, activists and NGOs, the media, politicians – are all contributing to misinformation in the service of persuasion?”
Koonin answers “yes,” suggesting the culprit is: “not some secret cabal, but rather a self-reinforcing alignment of perspectives and
interests.” He then walks us through his “multiplicity of stakeholders.”
Climate apocalypticism attracts politicians wishing to keep the public terrified and clamouring for safety.
The media disseminates climate horror because “news is a business” and “if it bleeds it leads.” As newsrooms shrink overworked journalists, sans science degrees, cannot properly research climate stories:
“…the general lack of knowledge of what the science actually says, the drama of extreme weather events and their heart-rending impact on people, and pressures within the industry all work against balanced coverage in the popular media.”
Governments, businesses and NGOs have “messages” that employees must deliver to stay employed or to attain promotions, tenure etc:
“…more than a few climate contrarians have suffered public opprobrium and diminished career prospects for publicizing data that doesn’t support the “broken climate” meme.”
NGOs like 350.org, Union of Concerned Scientist, and Natural Resources Defence Council solicit donations with scary distortions of climate science. (This is off. Climate NGOs draw funds from Big Green philanthropies, vested corporate interests, and captured government agencies. Climateworks and Energy Foundation boast annual receipts, respectively, of $425 ml and $230 ml. Neither solicit from the public.)
According to Koonin: “individuals and organizations in the scientific community are demonstrably misrepresenting the science.”
Scientific institutions: “seem more concerned with making the science fit the narrative than ensuring the narrative fits the science.”
“…institutions that prepare the official assessment reports have a communication problem, often summarizing or describing the data in ways that are actively misleading.”
Scientists hype research, fudge uncertainty, and covet publicity.
The public believes whatever science authorities say, and presumes journalists know what they’re talking about. Authorities oblige the public’s abhorrence of gray areas by keeping them wholly in the dark.
As evidenced above, Koonin references mostly generic social phenomena. Financial pressure, groupthink and hype underly all discourse, not merely climate science. Koonin doesn’t adequately distinguish climate from other overegged topics, nor explain why climate is even on the agenda. Aware of this defect, he offers glimpses into the unusual treatment given Climatology; particularly the fear-borne ignorance exhibited by scientists whenever the topic arises. Climatology generates: “an eyes-shut-fingers-in-the-ears position I’ve never heard in any other scientific discussion.” And: “otherwise rigorous and analytical scientists abandon their critical faculties when discussing climate…”
Koonin rebukes the National Academies of Science for publishing reviews of climate assessments so lacking in objectivity as to betray an intent to manipulate. A 2019 joint climate statement, freighted with misinformation, signed by each NAS academy president, bewildered Koonin:
“I’m quite sure that this personal statement of the presidents in a news release was not reviewed by the usual Academies procedures; if it had been, its deficiencies would have been corrected.”
Climatology also receives unique treatment from politicos and journos. Politicians must pitch renewable energy as the only way to solve an urgent crisis; because the Energy Transition won’t sell if framed as one option for solving some distant problem. Politicians won’t discuss climate science uncertainties, nor admit the true cost of the Energy Transition. Thus, when crafting climate messaging:
“…the science is jettisoned in favour of The Science, and “simplified” for use in the political arena, which allows the required actions to be portrayed as simple as well – just eliminate fossil fuels to save the planet.”
Alarmist media articles aren’t just the result of overloaded, undereducated journos. A legion of “Climate Reporters” zealously monger doom.
Koonin understands that the Energy Transition is the dog wagging the Climate Change tail:
“Science should not be partisan, but climate science’s intersection with energy policy all but guaranteed that it would become so.”
“…as alternative energy grows, there is financial incentive for politicians to hype climate catastrophe.”
Unsettled is a naïf’s confession. In 2004 Koonin thought Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming was a legit hypotheses sincerely held by honest scientists. Few climate contrarians, under 50, can say the same.
Koonin’s main claim is that the actual scientific literature doesn’t jibe with what alarmists call The Science. His testimony resonates because he’s a top-tier scientist who’s actually read the national and international climate assessments. The thought-fields Koonin wonders onto, however, are Climate Change Communication and Sociology of Scientific Knowledge. These too are sciences, complete with literary canons to which Unsettled’s 200+ footnotes make nary a reference.
Koonin apologises for, and defends, the science establishment. He fears a corrupted Climatology undermines public confidence in the entire scientific project. He prefers “misinformation” but describes “disinformation.” Connecting his own dots, its obvious key US government agencies, and leading US scientific institutions, are instruments of hostile forces. This, added to the Energy Transition’s hobbling of the American economy, warrants designating climate alarmism as treason. Koonin ain’t there yet.
Koonin, Stephen E. Unsettled: What Climate Science Tells Us, What it Doesn’t, And Why It Matters; BenBella Books, Dallas, TX, 2021; Chapter 10 “WHO BROKE ‘THE SCIENCE’ AND WHY” pages 185-96.
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