Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The Wall Street Journal Downplays Global Warming Risks Once Again

A photograph of the front page of the edition of the Wall Street Journal reporting on Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp purchase of Dow Jones & Co.  (Credit: Mike Segar/Reuters)  Click to enlarge.
As has become the norm for media outlets owned by Rupert Murdoch, just before a half million people participated in the People’s Climate March around the world, The Wall Street Journal published an opinion piece downplaying the risks and threats posed by human-caused global warming.  The editorial was written by Steven Koonin, a respected computational physicist who claims to have engaged in “Detailed technical discussions during the past year with leading climate scientists,” but who is himself not a climate scientist.

Koonin did admit that the climate is changing and humans are largely responsible, and noted,
There is well-justified prudence in accelerating the development of low-emissions technologies and in cost-effective energy-efficiency measures.
This is a step in the right direction.  Unfortunately, Koonin’s editorial focused almost exclusively on the remaining uncertainties in climate science.  Ironically, he stated,
Any serious discussion of the changing climate must begin by acknowledging not only the scientific certainties but also the uncertainties, especially in projecting the future.
But Koonin himself got the certainties wrong.  For example, we know that humans are the main cause of the current climate change, responsible for about 100% of the global warming since 1950.  However, Koonin’s editorial claimed,
The impact today of human activity appears to be comparable to the intrinsic, natural variability of the climate system itself.
This is simply incorrect.  As climate scientist Michael Mann told Climate Science Watch in their thorough response to Koonin’s piece,
The fact is that the actual peer-reviewed scientific research shows that (a) the rate of warming over the past century is unprecedented as far back as the 20,000 years paleoclimate scientists are able to extend the record and (b) that warming can ONLY be explained by human influences.

Indeed, it is the RATE of warming that presents such risk to human civilization and our environment.
Climate scientists Michael Oppenheimer and Kevin Trenberth also took issue with Koonin’s assertion about the impact of human activity, saying,
Warming is well beyond natural climate variability and projected rates of change are potentially faster than ecosystems, farmers and societies can adapt to without major disruptions.  Many details remain to be settled, and weather and natural variability will always mask some effects, especially regionally.  But economic analysis of these risks supports substantial action beyond “no regrets” strategies.  To argue otherwise as Koonin does is to ignore decades of research results.

The Wall Street Journal Downplays Global Warming Risks Once Again

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