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Can government policy ‘fix’ weather extremes?

Getty/iStockphoto Wheat grass growing through cracks in the ground
Leading scientist says drought, high temperatures not caused by climate change.

Climate change is a popular topic, but it is by no means a settled matter. That is why two weeks ago I recommended a book entitled “Unsettled” by Dr. Steven Koonin. The author is a professor of physics and was Science Advisor to the Department of Energy during the Obama administration.

Drought is impacting segments of the United States, particularly the West. Calif. Gov. Gavin Newsom blames climate change for wildfires and drought. The current Administration will ask farmers and ranchers and taxpayers to spend millions to try to reverse climate change and stop the increasing drought. But is that possible?

Dr. Koonin says, “The bottom line is that science says that most extreme weather events such as drought show no long-term trends that can be attributed to human influences on the climate.” 

Who is to blame

Dr. Koonin rips TV weathermen and women who morph climate and weather together. In fact, he believes these TV presenters are part of the problem. He believes, according to his book, that science tells a different story about drought.

There is a public perception that temperature has increased and caused more droughts. Is that true? The U.S. government’s report in 2017 examined record high temperatures in its Climate Science Special Report. Dr. Koonin says the report “…is not just misleading on this point – it’s wrong.”

On page 102 of his book “Unsettled,” he claims “…while the average warmest temperature has hardly changed over the last sixty years and is about the same today as it was in 1900.”

Dr. Koonin points out that inconsistencies in science are “…red meat to a scientist.” By reviewing the records Dr. Koonin shows there were record highs in the 1930s, when the nation suffered through the Dust Bowl. Dr. Koonin says “…there is no significant trend over the 120 years of observation, or even since 1980, when human influences on the climate grew strongly.”

In fact, the book demonstrates that from 1895 temperature extremes in the U.S. have become “less common.” On the issue of temperature and drought, Dr. Koonin believes the CSSR is “shockingly misleading”. (This is a U.S. government publication!)  Dr. Koonin even found out that the U,S.government’s CSSR was criticized by the National Academy of Science, Engineering and Medicine. In fact, he quotes the National Academy’s review as follows: “Further, it is difficult to understand how a statement that includes increases in extreme warmth can be associated with a high confidence or extremely likely statement, given that most of the graphics in this chapter show a decrease in extreme warmth in the historical record.” Dr. Koonin, in his book, believes there have been changes in temperature extremes in the United States in the last few years. But he states, “The annual number of high temperature records set shows no significant trend over the past century nor over the past forty years, but the annual number of record cold nights has declined since 1895, somewhat more rapidly in the past thirty years.”

In essence Dr. Koonin believes we do have a “warming globe” not a “roasting” one. Therefore, Dr. Koonin’s book believes droughts are merely transitory and not indicative of climate change. In fact, even a Harvard professor has said that “The science of climate is neither settled nor sufficient to dictate policy.”  If people believe in climate change, they should follow the science that is in UNSETTLED.

The opinions of the author are not necessarily those of Farm Futures or Farm Progress. 

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