Give Steve Koonin a Sunlight Award

In 1913, Louis Brandeis, later to be Justice Brandeis, wrote “Sunlight is said to the best of disinfectants; electric light the most efficient policeman.”  He was referring to the banking business back then but his insight offers a strong principle in support of openness and transparency.  On November 2 in the Wall Street Journal, Steve Koonin, a well respected physicist and former deputy secretary of energy. critiqued the most recent U.S. GLOBAL CHANGE RESEARCH PROGRAM CLIMATE SCIENCE SPECIAL REPORT.

His basic criticism is that the Congressionally mandated report reinforces alarmism and the narrative that human activities are mainly responsible for climate change since the mid 20th Century. The charter for the research program is to conduct a “comprehensive and integrated United States research program which will assist the Nation and the world to understand, assess, predict, and respond to human-induced and natural processes of global change.” Koonis’s opinion piece explains the failure of the just released report to do that.  It is advocacy masked as science.

The alarmist tone in the  report is not really surprising since the agencies that are involved in and managing the program have been populated by bureaucrats and scientists who operate in a structure and system created by Al Gore when he was Vice President.  During the early 2000s, the Bush Administration attempted to get control of the process but was thwarted by the bureaucracy, especially as the Administration’s priorities changed dramatically after 9-11.  Bureaucrats know that political appointees come and go every couple of years but they stay for what seems like forever.  What is especially alarming is the complicity of the National Academies of Science in endorsing it.

Yogi Berra is erroneously attributed with the observation that in theory, theory and practice are the same but in practice they are not.  The wisdom of this insight is proven by the fact that while the transparency with which the special report was prepared and reviewed should have been an incentive for those involved to honestly do their jobs, that was not the case for those who promote the climate orthodoxy.  Climate change for over two decades has been dominated by environmental zealots, GroupThink,  actions that reinforce it, and confirmation bias. Changing the current situation will not happen quickly but it needs changing for the sake of sound policy and the integrity of the scientific establishment.

Members of the Academy should demand a review of why and how its review process failed and openly admit that failure while withdrawing support for the Special Report.  Koonin has been calling for Red/Blue process for at least a year.  Although his call has gotten support from the EPA Administrator, it clearly is not one of his highest priorities.  Congress should step in and initiate an independent review of the Global Change Research Program, including a mandate for the Red/Blue Team review of the Special Report, and mandate corrective changes to enhance the integrity of the program, if it concludes that it should continue, which is not a foregone conclusion. Investing in climate science is a worthwhile activity but not the way it has been pursued since the early 1990s.

So, Steve Koonin began the application of the disinfectant and his initiative needs a great deal of support from others.  He deserves a Brandeis.