Is there really a climate emergency?

Samantha Apanasewicz
Pop Culture Columnist

People tend to believe one, two or three of the following statements about global warming. First, they believe the planet is warming catastrophically because of certain human behaviors.

Secondly, they believe that, thanks to powerful computers, we can project what the climate will look like up to 100 years from now.

And lastly, they believe that if we eliminate just one behavior — the burning of fossil fuels — we can prevent the climate from changing for as long as we like.

According to expert Steve Koonin, the former undersecretary for science in the Obama Administration, these assumptions are either untrue or so far off the mark as to be useless.

Yes, the globe is warming. Yes, humans are exerting a warming influence upon it. But beyond this, Koonin explained that he does not think “the science” says what people think it says.

“Government reports state clearly that heat waves in the U.S. are no more common now than they were in 1900, and hurricane activity is no different than it was a century ago,” Koonin said.

In response to the melting glaciers, Koonin disclosed, “Greenland’s ice sheet isn’t shrinking any more rapidly today than it was 80 years ago.”

Why are these facts not better known? Because the U.S. gets its climate information almost exclusively from the media, and from a media perspective, fear sells.

Koonin related that these journalists rarely ever read the hard science, but that he has.

“According to the U.S. government and the UN Climate Report, things aren’t that bad, nor does the public understand the highly questionable basis of all catastrophic climate change projections: computer modeling,” said Koonin.

Koonin, who authored one of the first textbooks on computer modeling, clarified that “projecting future climate is excruciatingly difficult. Yes, there are human influences, but the climate is complex.”

While modelers base their results on physical laws and observations of the climate, there is still considerable judgement involved, Koonin said. Since different modelers will make different assumptions, this leads to varying results on the subject.

Highlighting one of main assumptions modelers must make in this situation, Koonin discussed the impact of cloud coverage.

“Natural fluctuations in the height and coverage of clouds have at least as much of an impact of the flows of sunlight and heat as do human influences,” Koonin said.

But how could we possibly know the global cloud coverage 50 years from now?

“Obviously we can’t,” Koonin said. “But to create a climate model, we have to make assumptions.”

That seems like a pretty shaky foundation on which to transform the world’s economy.

Koonin said, “In fact, creating more accurate models isn’t becoming any easier. The more we learn about the climate system, the more scientists realize how complex it is.”

But instead of acknowledging this, journalists, politicians and scientists blame every terrible storm or fire on “climate change.”

The relevant question is, however, how much worse are these current natural disasters? Plus, I’m not sure “worse” is even a scientific term.

“Getting rid of fossil fuels is not only impractical, but because 80% of the world’s energy comes from fossil fuels, it is not scientifically possible,” Koonin said.

It takes centuries for the excess carbon dioxide to vanish from the atmosphere that we emit today, the day you pick up this paper. So, any decrease in carbon emissions would only slow the increase in human influences, not prevent it, let alone reverse it.

Is there a climate emergency? I’ll let you be the judge.


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