The former undersecretary of energy for science at the Obama Energy Department cast serious doubts on the accuracy of a new climate change report released on Friday.
In an op-ed featured in The Wall Street Journal, theoretical physicist Steven Koonin criticized the report from the National Climate Assessment (NCA) for reinforcing “alarm with incomplete information” by taking information out of context and in some instances completely ignoring important historical context.
Koonin, who was given the opportunity to scrutinize the report before its release, wrote that while a lot of the information in the report is accurate it is misleading in a few important places:
One notable example of alarm-raising is the description of sea-level rise, one of the greatest climate concerns. The report ominously notes that while global sea level rose an average 0.05 inch a year during most of the 20th century, it has risen at about twice that rate since 1993. But it fails to mention that the rate fluctuated by comparable amounts several times during the 20th century. The same research papers the report cites show that recent rates are statistically indistinguishable from peak rates earlier in the 20th century, when human influences on the climate were much smaller. The report thus misleads by omission.
This isn’t the only example of highlighting a recent trend but failing to place it in complete historical context. The report’s executive summary declares that U.S. heat waves have become more common since the mid-1960s, although acknowledging the 1930s Dust Bowl as the peak period for extreme heat. Yet buried deep in the report is a figure showing that heat waves are no more frequent today than in 1900. This artifice also appeared in the government’s 2014 National Climate Assessment, which emphasized a post-1980 increase in hurricane power without discussing the longer-term record. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration recently stated that it has been unable to detect any human impact on hurricanes.
Koonin stated that the level at which misrepresenting data occurred in the report violated the most basic of “scientific norms.” Koonin even called for an investigation into the report on how it was able to survive “multiple rounds of review” with so many deficiencies and misrepresentations of science.