Steven Koonin on Climate Science

But he didn’t. Why?

The Captain


Probably just being nice.



Because there are very few certainties in life. There are just probabilities that certain events will happen. We make decisions based on those probabilities.

If you are suggesting that we should only take precautionary measures about global warming when we are certain of catastrophe, then I think you are foolish. That is because I have yet to hear a compelling, or frankly even rational, argument for not being concerned about the tons of greenhouse gases we are putting into the atmosphere. Not one. That indicates to me that global warming has a high probability of something we should be doing something about.

The probability of a catastrophic event impacting the world due to global warming is similar to the probability of a catastrophic health event occurring to an individual due to obesity. There is no certainty it will happen, but the rational choice is to act now to reduce that probability.

Anything else is IMO, stupid.


You just ruined what is probably a reasonable argument which I will purposefully not read.

The Captain

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Your choice but I am not apologetic.

I just don’t see how self-destructive behavior can be seen as anything other than stupid. Here is another example. One of the largest studies of its kind found strong evidence that certain contact sports like football causes brain damage even at high school ages. Not definitive but suggestive enough that I think any parent who allows their kid to play organized tackle football is acting stupidly. The same goes for ignoring the warning signs of global warming.

But that’s just my opinion. You can call that opinion stupid if you want. I won’t pout.


I agree fully with btresist, and then feel compelled to ask whether you value the future of humanity and your own progeny over your own personal comfort and pleasures? That, to me, is a fundamental question of morality, perhaps the foundation of all morality, and the common binding force of real communities that underlie civilization.

I know my ancestors back all the way to the American Revolution dreamed upon and fought for me and my sibs and cousins. They wrote about it, and their words and dreams and desires were passed down (written on pages of a family Bible and the endpages of our treasured copy of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s collected sermons), and I have aspired to “please them” by honoring their gifts and passing them on.

There was nothing the least bit unusual about that when I was growing up, but I find myself amazed that the sentiment seems to be fading and discounted. My Dad argued that modernity when he was young basically meant an increase in security and wealth, but that in the 60’s into the 70’s modernity came more to mean a discarding of the past, a heedlessness about the future, and an obsession with a shallow hedonistic now.

My parents were adamant, waaay back in the 1950’s, that I and my sibs NEVER play full on American Football. even though my paternal granddad played Center for the Golden Bears in their first seasons and the game is in our blood. They both had had football athelete friends when they attended university back in the late 30’s into the 40’s, and they did not want my sibs and I risking any such thing as they had seen.

david fb


The problem with the above sentence is the word “we”. Who, exactly, are “we”?

A few numbers…
Below are the CO2 emissions from burning fossil fuels for each year listed, and the percent change between those years. Units are in millions of metric tonnes.

Year       US      China    India   Total World
2013     5246.6    9214.1   1892.6   32,676.8
2022     4825.8  10,550.2   2595.8   34,374.1   
         - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -   
Change    -8%      +14.5%   +37.2%    +5.2%

There are scientists in China and India who know about greenhouse gases. However, the leaders of those countries, and the leaders of many other countries, think it is more important to develop their economies, than to reduce CO2 emissions at this time. Therefore, world coal consumption is on the rise, as well as petroleum and natural gas. Consumption of those three main fossil fuels are at, or near, all-time highs. From a previous thread here, it looks like coal consumption in China and India are still increasing this year. Fueling their growing economies is an important national priority.

So, if “we” refers to citizens of the United States, from the numbers above, we have made some small gains in the areas where it is easy to make gains. Coal-fired power plants are being replaced with natural gas plants. Its low-hanging fruit, but gas is still a fossil fuel. If “we” refers to Europeans, then Europe has probably done a little better than the US. But, if “we” refers to the whole world, then we haven’t even stopped the yearly increases in fossil fuel consumption, as we certainly aren’t slowing the Keeling curve.

  • Pete

Did he write a book? Take a fellowship? Travel giving speeches? Appear on TV? Is his bread being buttered by talking nonsense?

Why does he matter?

The heart of this we need economically a deflationary energy policy. We need to allow if not help mother nature to reduce over time the CO2 in the atmosphere. When raising money for anything we sound the alarm. Dismiss it or whatever.

The money is going to be raised in taxes. The money is going to be spent. Crying about it is crazy. This is not a deserted island. This is a global economy that has better things to do.

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And in last week’s news…

But after regional power crunches in 2022, China started a domestic spree of approving new projects and restarting suspended ones. In 2022 the government approved a record-breaking 106 gigawatts (GW) of new coal-fired power capacity. One gigawatt is the equivalent of a large coal power plant.

This run of approvals is continuing, potentially on track to break last year’s record, according to analysis by the Global Energy Monitor (GEM) and the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air, published on Tuesday.



Curiously, his quote is the very last line in his post. I suspect you have already gathered his argument.

Do you read posts from the bottom up?


The actions of China needs to be considered under a broader context. Yes, China is building a lot of coal plants (of the most advanced and efficient variety), but they are also accelerating nuclear power and renewable energy investments as well. It looks like China’s goal is to improve energy security by creating a redundant energy supply system. The hope is that coal will play primarily a support role for renewable energy.

This is likely to be the case since China coal plant utilization is declining even as coal capacity is increasing. Average coal plant utilization rate is in the low 50% range and declining. This suggests China is not building the new plants out of need.

Would also note that China announced peak coal would occur in 2025, not 2023. They are not as yet off schedule.

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I suspect China’s energy use will decrease pretty suddenly over the next few years. Economic depression does that.

As for the above-mentioned human population bomb, we know how to reduce population growth. Educate and empower women and the number of children born goes down. It’s not rocket science.


YES!! But that is hard to do in some societies, especially paternalistic religious societies.