In 2021, the physicist and New York University professor Steven E. Koonin, who served as undersecretary for science in the Obama administration’s Energy Department, published the best-selling Unsettled: What Climate Science Tells Us, What It Doesn’t, and Why It Matters.
The book attracted extremely negative reviews filled with ad hominem attacks, such as a short statement appearing in Scientific American and signed by 12 academics that, instead of substantively rebutting Koonin’s arguments, calls him “a crank who’s only taken seriously by far-right disinformation peddlers hungry for anything they can use to score political points” and “just another denier trying to sell a book.”
We couldn’t find a single negative review of Unsettled that disputed its claims directly or even described them accurately. Many of the reviewers seem to have stopped reading after the first few pages. Others were forced to concede that many of Koonin’s facts were correct but objected that they were used in the service of challenging official dogma. True statements were downplayed as trivial or as things everyone knows, despite the extensive parts of Unsettled that document precisely the opposite: that the facts were widely denied in major media coverage and misrepresentations were cited as the basis for major policy initiatives.
In a review of Unsettled in Scientific American, Gary Yohe, an emeritus professor at Wesleyan University, gives the impression that he didn’t read past the first few pages. The book has nine chapters filled with examples of exaggerations and outright falsehoods in both scientific and popular accounts. Yohe mentions just four claims taken from the first two pages, plus one from a chapter subtitle, and manages to refute none of them.
Koonin is accused of having “cherrypicked and carelessly misrepresented many of his sources” by Bob Ward, the policy and communications director of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of Economics and Politic Sciences.
Though his refutations are weak, at least Ward does seem to have read the book. In one chapter, Koonin takes the media to task for its overheated account of the link between human CO2 emissions and hurricane frequency, such as a USA Today article headlined, “Global warming is making hurricanes stronger, study says.” That article states unequivocally that ”Human-caused global warming has strengthened the wind speeds of hurricanes, typhoons and cyclones around the globe.” Koonin points out that the study on which that article is based doesn’t make that claim with such certainty.
Koonin quotes directly from the study, but Ward accuses him of having omitted another excerpt from the same paper, which reads: “From a storyline, balance-of-evidence, or Type-II error avoidance perspective, the consistency of the trends identified here with expectations based on physical understanding and greenhouse warming simulations increases confidence that TCs have become substantially stronger, and that there is a likely human fingerprint on this increase.”
Ward must be confused about what that sentence means because it doesn’t support the USA Today article or undermine Koonin’s point. That passage is basically saying that although there’s only suggestive evidence that tropical cyclones have gotten stronger, we’re better off assuming that they are and that humans are partly responsible. Koonin likely agrees with that statement, and he’s certainly correct that it doesn’t justify unambiguous headlines like, “Global warming is making hurricanes stronger, study says.”
Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger, meet your new boss—Elizabeth Warren. We predicted that last year’s semiconductor subsidy bill would subject chip makers to political control. And what do you know? Democrats in Congress are demanding that subsidy beneficiaries be banned from buying back their stock.
The $280 billion CHIPS and Science Act included $52 billion for companies to make semiconductors domestically. Chip makers said government aid was urgently needed to prevent chip shortages and compete with China. Now there’s a glut of chips owing to declining demand, which has resulted in plunging prices and layoffs.
Unless you’re in the teachers union, there is no such thing as free government money. Subsidies invariably come with government regulation on how businesses operate. The law expressly barred chip makers from using government largesse on shareholder buybacks, which was fair.
The National Institute of Standards and Technology also says that the Commerce Department will give funding preference to companies that commit to not engage in stock buybacks. Now eight Democrats in Congress, including Sens. Warren (Mass.), Bernie Sanders (Vt.), and Tammy Baldwin (Wis.) want Commerce to do more.
In a Feb. 10 letter, they demand that Secretary Gina Raimondo ban chip makers that receive government funds from buying back stock for at least 10 years. They hoist Mr. Gelsinger on his statement in May 2021 that “we will not be anywhere near as focused on buybacks going forward as we have in the past,” which he made while lobbying Congress for subsidies.
There’s no such thing as a free financial product. If regulators limit one source of revenue, businesses will find another to cover their costs. That is one lesson from the Dodd-Frank Act, which limited debit-card fees that banks charge retailers for using their network. As a result, banks increased overdraft fees.
Dr. Scott Atlas: No Civilized Society Should Ever Use Children as Human Shields to Protect Grandma
“I’m a father. My role is to be a shield for my children. They are not to be a shield for me.”