Climate book shelf

Reposted from Dr. Judith Curry’s Climate Etc.

Posted on May 10, 2021 by curryja |

by Judith Curry

Reviews of new books by Steve Koonin, Matthew Kahn and Marc Morano.

A year ago, we discussed [link]:

• False Alarm, by Bjorn Lomborg

• Apocalypse Never, by Michael Schellberger

Earlier this year, two notable climate books were published [reviews]:

• How to avoid a climate disaster, by Bill Gates

• The new climate war: the fight to take back our planet, by Michael Mann

The Mann and Gates books both assume climate disaster. Apart from this assumption, Bill Gate’s book is rather interesting and describes technological solutions. Mann’s new book is mostly indistinguishable from his earlier books, distinguished mainly by adding to his ‘enemies’ list (including Bill Gates).

The three books that are the focus of this post provide different perspectives on climate change:

• Unsettled: What climate science tells us, what it doesn’t and why it matters by Steve Koonin

• Adapting to climate change: Markets and management of an uncertain future, by Matthew Kahn

• Green fraud: Why the Green New Deal is worse than you think, by Marc Morano

Unsettled: What climate science science tells us, what it doesn’t and why it matters

Steve Koonin has has had a unique personal trajectory through the climate/energy space over the past 15 years. I entered into this trajectory [link] in 2014 in context of the American Physical Society Workshop (which Koonin chaired). In this book, Koonin comes across as very honest and trustworthy, and genuinely concerned about the integrity of climate science and the research process. A welcome contrast to the way Michael Mann comes across.

review by Forbes provides a good summary of Koonin’s book, excerpts:

“Mr. Koonin argues not against current climate science but that what the media and politicians and activists say about climate science has drifted so far out of touch with the actual science as to be absurdly, demonstrably false”.

One of the key contributions of Koonin’s book is its detailed account of how the climate change message gets distorted as it goes through successive filters as the research literature gets converted to assessment reports and report summaries which are then subject to alarmist and apocalyptic media coverage and politicians’ soundbites. 

In examining “who broke the science and why”, Koonin argues that misinformation in the service of persuasion is not at the behest of “some secret cabal but rather a self-reinforcing alignment of perspectives and interests”. Of the media, Koonin observes that if reporters don’t have a narrative of gloom, they won’t have a story that makes it into the papers since “if it bleeds, it leads”. Scientific institutions seem “overwilling to persuade rather than inform”, and the entire raison d’etre of environmental NGOs is to keep alive the “climate crisis”.

The reviewers on Amazon are genuinely appreciative of Koonin’s book. However, the book has received several adverse reviews:

InsideClimateNews and ClimateFeedback attempt to knock back Koonin’s statements and interpretations about historical climate change. They don’t directly critique Koonin’s statements, but make alternative statements (e.g. with a cherry picked date) that they claim refutes Koonin’s statements. In any event, all of Koonin’s statements are consistent with the likely/very likely range from the IPCC for low/med confidence. Although I do agree that given this book is titled Unsettled and is about uncertainty, some of Koonin’s scientific assertions are not accompanied by the appropriate documentation or a sense of the uncertainty and scope for disagreement.

The reviews mainly address Part I of Koonin’s book (the science). Part II is our response. Koonin divides our response into 3 chapters. The first is “what we won’t do”: rapid CO2 mitigation. IMO this is the best chapter of the book, where Koonin lays out the impediments to global (or even US) carbon neutrality on the timescales of decades. “What we might do” is geoengineering; “what we will do” is adaptation. And the final chapter lays out what Koonin thinks we should do (after keeping the earlier part of the book free from his own evaluation of ‘should’): better observations of the climate system, improve understanding of what climate models can tell us, sloooow energy transition, adaptation, and geoengineering if needed.

When someone asks me for a good primer on climate science and the associated debate, I have been recommending What We Know About Climate Change by Kerry Emanuel and Lukewarming by Pat Michaels. Both of these books are easy to understand, and the combination spans the range of credible perspectives. I can comfortably add Koonin’s book to this list; his selection of science topics are good ones, and the book is very well written with clear explanations, interesting anecdotes and useful analogies. The book serves a useful educational function.

Considering how Koonin’s book might influence policy or change the way we think about climate science or our response to climate change, I would say not much. Other important issues that Kooning raises such as politicization of the science, climate communications, and our policy responses are based on personal experiences and reflections, with little evidence of having explored the broad literature on these topics. Koonin reiterates his push for a climate ‘red team’; personally I think that the climate science enterprise is too broken for this to be useful in context of a government led or sanctioned effort.

Adapting to climate change: Markets and management of an uncertain future

Matthew Kahn is a distinguished environmental economist, who I have come to know via twitter and some email exchanges. Much of his work relates to adaptation. His perspective is summarized in a 2016 essay Climatopolis Revisited:

Many environmentalists view people as passive victims in the face of climate change, but I reject this view. Forward-looking, risk-averse economic actors have strong incentives to take protective actions to reduce their losses in the face of climate shocks. The only decision makers who will not take protective actions against changing circumstances are those who “do not know that they do not know.” But when it comes to “known unknowns,” as Donald Rumsfeld famously described them, economic actors who know that they do not know what climate change will do to assets such as coastal real estate have strong incentives to take defensive actions. In this age of smartphones and easy access to information, who can claim that they are ignorant of emerging climatic risks? If such “climate skeptics” truly do reject the stream of news, then a new market for trusted information providers will emerge.

The blurb for his new book states:

It is all but certain that the next century will be hotter than any we’ve experienced before. Even if we get serious about fighting climate change, it’s clear that we will need to adapt to the changes already underway in our environment. This book considers how individual economic choices in response to climate change will transform the larger economy. Using the tools of microeconomics, Matthew E. Kahn explores how decisions about where we live, how our food is grown, and where new business ventures choose to locate are affected by climate change. Kahn suggests new ways that big data can be deployed to ease energy or water shortages to aid agricultural operations and proposes informed policy changes related to public infrastructure, disaster relief, and real estate to nudge land use, transportation options, and business development in the right direction.

From a brief review in Foreign Affairs:

Kahn reviews findings on how climate change and extreme weather events affect key sectors of the economy. Although he does not dismiss the need to curb rising temperatures, he suggests that American society is getting better at adapting to climate change. Weather shocks provide incentives for businesses to develop new products, such as resilient building materials and in-home battery backup systems. Big data allows utility providers to adjust electricity and water prices in response to weather events, encouraging consumers to modify their usage in environmentally friendly ways. To be sure, it’s not just up to markets to respond to climate change. Kahn highlights the need for investments in public infrastructure to help with climate change adaptation and for reforms of urban planning rules and flood insurance laws. Still, his book shows that one need not be a climate change skeptic to be a climate change optimist.

Here is the table of contents for the book:

Introduction: Why Adaptation? 

  1. A Microeconomics Perspective on Climate Science Prediction 
  2. Daily Quality of Life 
  3. Protecting the Poor 
  4. Upgrading Public Infrastructure 
  1. Will Climate Change Threaten Economic Productivity? 
  2. Protecting Urban Real Estate 
  3. The Market for Big Data Facilitates Adaptation 
  4. Reimagining the Real Estate Sector 
  5. Reimagining Laws and Regulations to Facilitate Adaptation 
  6. Innovation in Agricultural Production 
  7. Globalization and International Trade to Facilitate Adaptation

Human Capital Fuels Adaptation

Nearly everyone at least mentions adaptation as a climate solution (including Koonin), but without any concrete suggestions or insights as to why/how this can be approached. There aren’t alot of books on climate adaptation; much of this is new material for me. While reading Kahn’s book, I was struck with new insights on almost each page. This is a book that I know I will frequently return to as I ponder how we can respond to climate change.

Green fraud: Why the Green New Deal is worse than you think

Morano’s book is clearly pitched at Trump’s base. The book opens with endorsement statements from Hannity, Inhofe, Limbaugh etc. Chapter 1 establishes Morano’s bona fides as the biggest, baddest climate skeptic of them all.

However, if you can get past the first 26 pages, this book provides a very cogent analysis of U.S. climate politics. At the end of Chapter 1, Morano provides a summary of the forthcoming chapters; I’ve rather clumsily taken screen shots of this text.

The book does not ‘deny’ the basic science of climate change, but challenges whether it is ‘dangerous’ (and this topic comprises only one chapter). The book is not about the science, but rather our political response and the failure of the ‘solutions.’. The book includes carefully crafted arguments, spiced with many amusing anecdotes. The book has almost 90 pages of endnotes and references.

As far as I can tell, Green Fraud has not been reviewed by any mainstream outlet. The response from the climatariat has been attempts to get the book ‘cancelled’. From the Daily Kos:

Longtime fossil fool Marc Morano has a ‘new’ book out about how ‘the Green New Deal is even worse than you think.’ ($24.99 on Amazon)…

Given that Amazon claims to want to be a climate savior, how does it justify selling books like this, and so, so many others, that very intentionally work against a goal of climate action? You can either be a climate champion, or you can sell and profit off of climate denial books like Morano’s, that ‘recycle scientifically unfounded claims that are then amplified by the conservative movement, media, and political elites.’

Anyone who wants to understand the U.S. political debate over climate change should read this book. Climate activists should read this book to understand what they are up against (and also some of the foolishness in the name of climate activism). I would love to see a real attempt at critiquing this book (rather than attempts to cancel it or smear Morano).

JC reflections

I really appreciate reading single-authored books on climate change that lay out a vision of the ‘whole thing’. The long form allows for synthesis and extended arguments and single logic, and the single author avoids negotiated agreement that waters down the whole thing. As you can see, there are many different perspectives and ways of framing the climate problem and its solutions.

With regards to ‘The Science,’ there is nothing in Koonin’s or Morano’s book that isn’t within the likely/very likely range of the IPCC for a low/medium confidence finding. Koonin gets it mostly right by focusing on historical observations and acknowledging that much is ‘unsettled.’ We need to get past fighting the climate policy wars through ‘The Science,’ which will remain unsettled particularly with regards to future projections.

The bigger issue is whether climate change is ‘dangerous.’ Lomborg’s and Schellenberger’s books focus on this topic, and it also appears in Koonin’s and Morano’s books. If climate change is perceived to be locally dangerous, then local adaptation (per Kahn) is the way to go.

The science/policy interface is dealt with explicitly by Mann, Koonin and Morano. Koonin touches on some of the key issues regarding the disfunction at this interface.

With regards to mitigation. Morano argues that it isn’t necessary, Lomborg and Koonin argue that it is ineffective at influencing the climate, and Schellenberger and Gates argue for better technologies (with Schellenberger focused on nuclear).

While covering similar territory (climate politics), Morano’s book is the polar opposite of Mann’s book in terms of perspective and who are the villains. Both books are somewhat polemical, but present two very different political world views.

A wicked problem is characterized by multiple problem definitions, knowability, knowledge fragmentation, interest differentiation and a dysfunction distribution of power among stakeholders. These different perspectives clearly reflect the wickedness of the climate change problem.

The most useful way to grapple with this wickedness is to understand multiple perspectives on the problem. This involves individuals reading both Mann’s and Morano’s books, and not attempting to cancel the books that don’t align with your own perspective.

And finally, Amazon’s sales rankings in Environment Policy (as of 5/9)

Bill Gates #1

Born Lomborg #2

Michael Schellenberger #3

Marc Morano #5

Michael Mann #20

4.7 7 votes
Article Rating
28 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Pat from kerbob
May 10, 2021 6:56 pm

Poor Piltdown Mann, relegated to 20th

mikebartnz
May 10, 2021 7:18 pm

I am amazed that that megalomaniac is #1 and interested to see that that narcissist is #20.

Dave Fair
Reply to  mikebartnz
May 10, 2021 8:26 pm

#1 – Name recognition.

Joel O'Bryan
Reply to  mikebartnz
May 12, 2021 10:11 am

Gates as the 3rd richest person in the world probably bought a few million of his own books to boost his ego with a #1 sales ranking. $25 million to Gates for an ego stroke would be like you or me spending $25 bucks.

Last edited 1 month ago by joelobryan
markl
May 10, 2021 7:47 pm

” Koonin argues that misinformation in the service of persuasion is not at the behest of “some secret cabal but rather a self-reinforcing alignment of perspectives and interests” Now there’s either a bit of naivete, or an attempt to assuage some readers, or an attempt not to be categorized as a conspiracy theorist.

M Courtney
Reply to  markl
May 11, 2021 12:12 am

Or he’s right.
And he is.
There is no secret cabal influencing Le Monde and Facebook and academia and western governments and the tin-rattling NGOs.
It’s just convenient for them all to go along with this. It’s about money and status.

Sebastian Magee
Reply to  M Courtney
May 11, 2021 7:13 am

You can call it however you what, but it doesn’t change the fact that Soros, Bill Gates and the select group of billionaires are y financing hundreds of NGOs to lobby the political organs of nations and the EU. In as much as most people haven’t the finest idea of the extension of this process calling it a secret cabal is not far off. It is a secret cabal hiding on plain sight, maintained in the shadow just by the complying news media, which they also mainly own by donations.
Money is the method but the motive its way beyond profit, these people are all about power.

May 10, 2021 8:21 pm

“Mr. Koonin argues not against current climate science but that what the media and politicians and activists say about climate science has drifted so far out of touch with the actual science as to be absurdly, demonstrably false”.

This quote is not from Forbes, it is from the Holman Jenkins of the Wall Street Journal.

Last edited 1 month ago by Andy May
Mark Silbert
Reply to  Andy May
May 12, 2021 12:03 pm

Andy,

I noticed that you were acknowledged by Koonin as a reviewer. Congrats. I think the book is great.

Doonman
May 10, 2021 8:27 pm

No one has written a book yet on why people who want to fight climate change so badly always have as their #1 solution building new energy systems that are wholly and completely dependent on the climate.

C’mon man, you can’t fight for and against the same thing at the same time.

Chris Hanley
May 10, 2021 9:56 pm

… there are many different perspectives and ways of framing the climate problem and its solutions …

What problem? Framing climate as a problem is the problem.
The whole topic is based on a heap of logical fallacies that is impossible to untangle.
The certainty is that the CO2 concentration will continue to rise at about the same rate this century whatever the US UK EU and other so-called developed countries do.
The only thing to do is sit-it-out until the inevitable nasty economic fallout, I hope I’m still around to witness the payback process.

Reply to  Chris Hanley
May 11, 2021 6:40 am

“The only thing to do is sit-it-out until the inevitable nasty economic fallout, I hope I’m still around to witness the payback process.”

Agreed, but I probably won’t be around. I still post a bit in the Times, Telegraph and Financial Times (gave up on Guardian) – sometimes linking to articles here or at Paul Homewood’s “NotALotOfPeopleKnowThat”

I’m disappointed that more of my scientist, or rather geologist, friends won’t speak out even though they are appalled at the deliberate ignoring of data and information that cast doubt about the devil carbon.

AGW is Not Science
Reply to  Chris Hanley
May 11, 2021 9:47 am

What problem? Framing climate as a problem is the problem.

DING! DING! DING! We have a winner!

Every time somebody starts droning on about “climate impacts” or some such nonsense it just makes me want to slap them out of their propaganda-induced stupor. There ARE no “impacts” of “climate change,” nor is “climate change” caused by us.

The only “climate crisis” humanity will ever experience will be the descent into the next glaciation. “Global milding” has not ever, is not, and will never be a “crisis” at any level.

The only “crisis” right now is their proposed “cures” to the non-existent “crisis,” which will do FAR more harm than their fantasized “crisis” could do even if it was real.

kim
Reply to  AGW is Not Science
May 11, 2021 6:51 pm

Yep.
===

Rud Istvan
May 10, 2021 10:42 pm

I was deeply honored when Judith agreed to write her foreword to my 2014 ebook Blowing Smoke. Still am.

dk_
May 11, 2021 1:37 am

Well stated and well taken, but can we continue to characterize this as a debate? The most prominent proponents of the need for drastic and immediate economic and political change do not debate, refuse every conversational gambit, and denounce attempts at negotiation. Arguably perhaps one of those is represented in this list of authors. Whether any of their works convince me one way or the other, if we quietly and calmly evaluate their merits and short comings, we may look up to suddenly find the discussion irrelevant.
Perhaps this opinion will somehow, falsely, get me or my comment labeled and dismissed as that of a Trump Supporter (I do find that phrase used by Dr. Curry disturbing), but wouldn’t that exactly make the point valid?

Last edited 1 month ago by dk_
kim
Reply to  dk_
May 11, 2021 6:54 pm

Cancel deniers,
The call of all alarmists.
Relax, Gaia’s got this.
=============

Barnes Moore
May 11, 2021 4:21 am

Ladies and gentlemen: We live in a world in which people are suspicious of politicians, but still respect scientists. Politicians are therefore eager to borrow the prestige of science, to camouflage their own agenda with a veneer of scientific authority“. I found this quote in a presentation made by Donna Laframboise from 2015. It is an excellent presentation that exposes the political nature of the IPCC and is well worth reading. 3 Things Scientists Need to Know About the IPCC | Big Picture News, Informed Analysis (nofrakkingconsensus.com)

As to the climate emergency, anyone who has not read Willis’s posts re: Where’s the Emergency, should. As to the “solutions” being proposed, the recent posts by Charles re: renewable performance in the UK, Germany, and France are quite enlightening.

While I respect Judith Curry, I find it a bit disingenuous to characterize Morano’s book as being pitched at Trump’s base. His perspective has nothing to do with Trump or his base – he is simply putting into book form much of what he has been preaching ever since he started his blog. As to the GND, you have to be supremely ignorant to think that anything like it makes any sense at all. This quote from Charles post re: renewable performance is 100% correct: “An excellent way to undermine Western economies is to render their power generation unreliable and expensive. That objective of Green thinking is progressively being achieved by Government policies throughout the Western world, but without popular mandate”.

kim
Reply to  Barnes Moore
May 11, 2021 6:57 pm

Colonial Line
Pipes internal combustion.
You got gas money?
===========

Tom Abbott
May 11, 2021 7:11 am

From the article: Matthew Kahn: “It is all but certain that the next century will be hotter than any we’ve experienced before.”

There is no evidence supporting this contention. It is pure unsubstantiated speculation. It’s not very scienfific.

AGW is Not Science
Reply to  Tom Abbott
May 11, 2021 9:56 am

And I’m sick about hearing about “hotter,” as well.

The small increase in AVERAGE temperature (as meaningless as that “construct” really is, but that is a whole other discussion), from a start date that was within a anomalously COLD climate period, has been 100% beneficial to all life on this planet, and is NOT caused by fossil fuel use anyway. Further, the AVERAGE has been increased NOT by the Earth getting “hotter,” but mostly by nighttime LOW temperatures not getting as cold. This reduces day-night temperature differentials and reduces, not increases, extreme weather, if anything.

There’s no “crisis” in “global milding.”

kim
Reply to  AGW is Not Science
May 11, 2021 7:06 pm

Paleontology shows that warmer always enhances the whole biome and that colder always constrains it.
Higher CO2 also improves the whole biome and man’s serendipitic release of CO2 has been, is, and will long continue to be magically cornucopic.
================

kim
Reply to  Tom Abbott
May 11, 2021 7:00 pm

And evidence against it, witness the Mid-Holocene maximum.
When glaciers grow in Tennessee.

H/t that free man Dyson.
==================

Raphael Ketani
May 11, 2021 3:32 pm

“The most useful way to grapple with this wickedness is to understand multiple perspectives on the problem. This involves individuals reading both Mann’s and Morano’s books, and not attempting to cancel the books that don’t align with your own perspective.”

I think Dr. Curry is a bit naive. Who in their right mind (except of course an AGW extremist, but, then, they aren’t in their right minds) would want to read Mann’s garbage that is offered on Amazon. The blurbs at the top of each book’s web page show you the nonsense that is contained inside! There’s no rational comparison between the work of Mann and anyone else. Junk science (if you can call it that without throwing up) is junk science and Mann is by far the master of it and of deception and dirty deeds. Dr. Curry should have known better! Maybe her intellectual honesty got the better of her?

kim
Reply to  Raphael Ketani
May 11, 2021 7:08 pm

The Piltdown Mann.

H/t to me & Tnx for the use by Pat from kerbob.
=============

Emily
May 14, 2021 9:01 am

Global warming has been getting more and more worsen day by day! There are many ways to get reach out to the desired people! The way of making this environment is perfectly developed and thus most of the people would like to get involved with the people. This flirtymania will enable people with getting connected with people across the world. Thanks for sharing this post with us.

Stephinie
May 14, 2021 9:03 am

Global warming has been getting more and more worsen day by day! There are many ways to get reach out to the desired people! The way of making this environment is perfectly developed and thus most of the people would like to get involved with the people. This website will enable people with getting connected with people across the world. Thanks for sharing this post with us.

May 24, 2021 9:36 am

Hi, thanks for sharing this interesting and very informative post, I often study similar book reviews, I kept the title of a couple of notes. In general, I really like to read books that are important for general development. I also recommend for you, according to the link in my bio, to get acquainted with a selection of analytical materials about the novel Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, where you can read interesting materials about technology, censorship, symbolism, literary analysis of the book, and various comparisons.

%d bloggers like this: