The Washington Post does a lot of great reporting on climate change, and its opinion page is often home to strong pro-climate arguments, like this one from Tuesday about how with the new IPCC report findings, “climate doubters lose one of their last remaining arguments.”
A day later, though, the same opinion page published a piece by their conservative columnist and long time “climate doubter” George Will that nevertheless presented readers with the sort of climate disinformation we’re more used to seeing from the Wall Street Journal.
In fact, Will’s Post column was basically indistinguishable from the content on the opinion page over at the Journal, in that it outsourced its thinking to Steven Koonin. A bunch of WSJ opinion pieces have invoked or been penned by the disgraced and debunked ‘Obama scientist’, and apparently the Washington Post wants to be more like Murdoch’s Journal so that’s what Will did, too.
But Koonin is obviously no match, scientifically, for the IPCC. The IPCC reports are assembled by literally hundreds of climate scientists, and based on thousands of peer-reviewed studies. Koonin is an out-of-date physicist with zero climate science publications in the peer-reviewed literature. IPCC report authors are highly credible. Koonin is… not.
In fact, Koonin’s blunders and debunkings are so plentiful, we could do a whole IPCC-style literature review of them!
For example, the WGI, physical-science equivalent would be the fact checks on Koonin’s scientific misstatements. Dana Nuccitelli wrote a 14-tweet thread addressing some of the false claims and red herrings in George Will’s Washington Post column. In response to Koonin’s last media moment earlier this year, Climate Feedback tapped twelve climate scientists to review an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal based on his book, “Unsettled”, and found a variety of misleading and incorrect claims, for example about Greenland’s ice melt or wildfires in the US, both of which are increasing.
Mark Boslough, one-time physics student of Koonin, reviewed his book for Yale Climate Connections, and was unimpressed, concluding by advising readers “to see crankyuncle.com for information about logical fallacies used by climate change deniers.”
On the social science side, economist Gary Yohe examined passages from Koonin’s book, consulted with climate scientists, and wrote a detailed debunking for Scientific American showing how Koonin misrepresents the science on climate change impacts. For example, Koonin claims sea level rise isn’t a big problem because water levels have “been rising over the past many millenia.” But, Yohe points out, “while seas have risen eight to nine inches since 1880, more than 30 percent of that increase has occurred during the last two decades.” (And not only is sea level rise going to flood coastal cities in the future, it’s already started happening.)
On the political science aspect, there’s former science advisor to President Obama John Holdren, who wrote a rebuttal to Koonin’s book by way of explaining the basics of science, uncertainty and policymaking.
And then there are the debunkings of the various opinion page pieces promoting Koonin’s work, all similar to George Will’s latest in the Post. Most damningly, perhaps, is a piece from a dozen climate scientists and disinformation experts in Scientific American making it clear that not only are Koonin’s scientific claims misleading, but his claim to fame as an ‘Obama scientist’ is little more than a marketing gimmick. And even then it’s hardly effective, as it’s mostly only working for far-right, disinformation-peddling pundits, and the outlets they inhabit.
Mark Kaufman at Mashable used a past Washington Post column by Marc Theissen promoting Koonin’s book as the basis for a piece headlined “3 signs the climate op-ed you’re reading is full of it.” The “TL;DR? Beware poorly reported and dubiously sourced opinions, masquerading as respectable science coverage.”
Like everyone else these days, the Washington Post’s opinion editors know that climate doubters have lost. So why are they pushing climate disinformation on their readers?