The public is largely unaware of the intense debates within climate science. At a recent national laboratory meeting, I observed more than 100 active government and university researchers challenge one another as they strove to separate human impacts from the climate’s natural variability. At issue were not nuances but fundamental aspects of our understanding, such as the apparent—and unexpected—slowing of global sea-level rise over the past two decades. Summaries of scientific assessments meant to inform decision makers, such as the United Nations’ Summary for Policymakers, largely fail to capture this vibrant and developing science.
Conversation with former EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy: 'The challenge I think we have is for some reason climate change has become a religion -- a politically induced religion instead of science fact that now we have to embrace and move forward on.'
Scientists Criticize 'Hottest Year on Record' Claim as Hype
“The Obama administration relentlessly politicized science and it aggressively pushed a campaign about that politicized science,” said Steven E. Koonin, who served as under secretary for science in Obama’s Department of Energy from 2009 to 2011. Koonin, a theoretical physicist at New York University who once worked for energy giant BP, also blamed a “happily complicit” media for trumpeting the now-departed Obama administration’s dubious claim.
NOAA fixed the 2016 increase at 0.04 degrees Celsius. The British Met Office reported an even lower rise, of 0.01C. Both increases are well within the margin of error for such calculations, approximately 0.1 degrees, and therefore are dismissed by many scientists as meaningless. Koonin suggested the White House and the media could consider an alternative presentation of what’s happening.
As an example, he offered a headline that read, “Global Temperatures Up 0.0X for 2016; Within Margin of Error for Last N Years.” Rather than exclaim “Sea Levels Highest on Record,” Koonin said, the press releases could encourage, and perhaps media outlets accept, one that reads, “Sea Level Rose 0.1 Inches Last Year, Consistent With Century-Long Trend.”