I have just read the book “Unsettled” by Steven Koonin a Caltech Physicist who has a long academic, industrial and political career. Of course he agrees that CO2 emissions have a warming effect, but he argues that many of the more extreme claims of climate change are unproven and potentially dangerous. The policy to reach net Zero emissions by 2050 based on renewables alone could well destroy western economies. As a result of his criticism, mainstream climate scientists have ganged up on him to call him a “denier”, especially as he once worked as Chief Scientist for BP. His main point is that the basic physics of greenhouse warming as described say in AR5 is correct, but the implication that this means we must close all fossil fuels immediately is mainly political. Furthermore he criticises those Climate scientists that push scare stories of increasing severity of Hurricanes, droughts, and accelerating sea level rise, to imply that time is short. On the contrary the data do not support such alarmist statements. Extreme weather events are not increasing in frequency and sea level has been rising for hundreds of years. Instead we probably have about 50 years to finally solve the energy/climate dichotomy. Pushing current wind and solar right now will not work, partly because we will need new nuclear. I am pretty much aligned with his thinking.
Joe Rogan has managed to achieve the impossible – an actual long distance debate between Steven Koonin and Andrew Desler. First up was Steve Koonin.
Some sound bites:
“I hate the term CO2 pollution.”
“Nobody has put together a sensible decarbonisation plan. The plans that you see are put out by a bunch of academics , but noone will implement them unless they can make money.”
“You need to change the energy system not by tooth extraction but by orthodenture !” i.e. carefully!
Decarbonisation must be done in a graceful way.
6 billion people in the third world need energy to improve their life and who are we to tell them they can’t do that. So yes maybe we can cut our carbon emissions but who are we to restrict their development?
US emissions are 16% of global emissions so reducing by global emissions by 30% will have a modest effect on climate change.
Plans are put out by a bunch of academics e.g. 2075 carbonisation. The daily weather that gets referenced to climate change drives me crazy! There is no evidence that the frequency of extreme weather is increasing. No wonder kids are getting scared all the time for the future.
Climate Models typically use 3D tube boxes 60 miles in dimension size so they can’t effectively simulate the details of weather, because the weather acts on much smaller sizes for example clouds, onshore and offshore winds etc.
That’s why climate models only give you a hazy picture of the future
We only have one chance at decarbonising the energy system We’ve got the time to get this right.
“Minimum temperatures are going up faster than maximum temperatures” I agree with this statement see Nights warm faster than Days
Joe Rogan then gave the right of reply a week later to Andrew Dessler.
Andrew Dessler does not address any of Koonin’s criticisms of climate science itself, but focuses instead on the Energy debate.
He starts up by comparing Kronin to the old Tobacco lobby, the fluorocarbon ban, etc. which is kind of silly since I am sure he agrees too that those were easily solvable problems. Andrew’s argument is that Koonin is no different to the tobacco scientists of the 1960s. The slur is implied because Kroonin was once chief scientists at BP, so somehow he is still in the pay of the oil industry.
Climate change though is fundamentally different to the tobacco or fluorocarbon debate, because there are no obvious simple alternatives to fossil fuels. The real problem with the proposed solution is that renewables are intermittent, even if prices for solar and wind power “capacity” are now competitive, because they still need an equivalent amount of dispatchable backup.
He keeps repeating the ugly slur that “Dr Koonin rejects anything which doesn’t support his client (fossil fuels) because quote “He is trying to create doubt”
During the two hour interview he doesn’t really discuss climate science at all, or address Koonin’s criticisms.
1/4 of emissions go into the biosphere and 1/4 got into the oceans (Greening and Acidifying) and 1/2 remains in the atmosphere. If there were an easy way to drag more out eg. planting forests then we would be doing it.
If you could reach $50 a ton to suck out CO2 then it would be worth it.
In Europe natural gas is very expensive. He likes geothermal because drilling has got so good thanks to fracking.
Plastic depends on oil and he agrees we need that we need them long term. Similarly oil is used to make tar for road surfaces and even wind turbine blades.
We might be able to solve the energy system but farming and agriculture will be tougher to decarbonise. Ethanol blending in petrol is really for the farmers. Fertilizers etc. Factory farming is awful.
“We really should be phasing out fossil fuels as fast as possible”
When invited at the end to have a debate with Steve Koonin, he declines because he says it is all in the peer reviewed papers. The other reason he gave was that he once had a debate with Richard Lindzen which clearly didn’t go so well. I think this may be this one (see footnote).
This is the first time I have ever heard a Jo Rogan’s podcast. I was really impressed by the way he handled things and had prepared himself by reading the book first. He has come n for a lot of stick recently but on these podcasts he came out of it really well and with open mind.
Footnote: Debate between Andrew Dessler and Richard Lindzen.