- “The warmest temperatures in the U.S. have not risen in the past fifty years,” Koonin writes, according to the U.S. government’s Climate Science Special Report.
- “Humans have had no detectable impact on hurricanes over the past century,” according to the 2014 National Climate Assessment.
- “Since the middle of the twentieth century, the number of significant tornadoes hasn’t changed much at all, but the strongest storms have become less frequent,” according to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration data (NOAA).
- “The rate of global sea-level rise 70 years ago was as large as what we observe today,” according to the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
- Instead of droughts, “the past fifty years have been slightly wetter than average” in the United States, according to NOAA figures.
- Rather than famine, “in the fifty years from 1961 to 2011, global yields of wheat, rice, and maize … each more than doubled,” according to the IPCC.
- “The net economic impact of human-induced climate change will be minimal through at least the end of this century.”
These facts come from Koonin and his new book, “Unsettled: What Climate Science Tells Us, What It Doesn’t, and Why It Matters.” When he shares such information, he writes, “most are incredulous. Some gasp. And some get downright hostile.” Koonin — a physicist who worked on alternative energy for BP and as undersecretary for science in Obama Energy Department — has dug through those U.N. and U.S. government reports to bring us some inconvenient truths. And he says the facts do not support the “doom mongering” of climate alarmists.
The globe is warming, he tells me in an interview, partly due to natural phenomena and partly due to growing human influences. (Scientists can’t untangle the two, he writes, due to “the deficiencies of climate data.”) But, Koonin argues, the terrifying predictions of increasingly violent weather and coastal cites drowned beneath rising seas are overblown.
So are the predictions of climate-induced economic devastation. Koonin explains that, if the U.S. economy grows at a 2 percent average annual rate, then absent any climate impact gross domestic product will rise from about $20 trillion today to about $80 trillion in 2090. If temperatures rise by 5 degrees Celsius over that same period, Koonin notes that, according to the 2018 National Climate Assessment, our growth would be 4 percent less 70 years from now. That means GDP would grow to about $77 trillion instead of $80 trillion. “We would be delayed in our growth by a couple of years,” he says.
The idea that we can stop climate change, Koonin argues, is delusional. “If we stop emitting CO2 today, it would still be there in the atmosphere for hundreds of years” he tells me. “If we manage to reduce emissions a little bit, it’ll just accumulate at a slower rate but it’ll still go up.” Even that is hard to do at an acceptable economic cost. During last year’s pandemic lockdowns, when much of the economy ground to a halt, our carbon emissions fell to about 21 percent below 2005 levels — which was less than halfway to the Biden’s administration’s 10-year goal.
In fact, adaptation is the only choice we have, Koonin says. Climate change “will be gradual, and human ingenuity will certainly get us through this, if not allow us to prosper.” Indeed, Koonin notes there are advantages to a changing climate, such as the greening of the planet through increased vegetation, which he believes will dramatically increase the food supply for the world’s population. “So, this is not at all an unmitigated disaster as people would have you believe,” he says. “We’ll learn to take advantage of whatever changes happen rather than simply tolerate them. That’s what humans do, and we’re pretty good at it.”
Mankind has adapted to climate change before, and we’ll do it again — the doomsaying of the climate alarmists notwithstanding.