Steve Koonin & The Factcheckers


By Paul Homewood

I was asked last week about the factchecker smear of Steve Koonin’s book, earlier in the year.

Steve himself posted a detailed reply in May, which I have summarised below.

The original text is in bold, and the factcheckers’ comments in italics. Steve’s response follows, headed SK.

I have also added a few brief comments of my own in red.

It should be pointed out that the factcheck was actually on the Wall Street Journal review of the book. As Steve points out, any such review is far too short to cover all nuances and facts. The factcheck has taken advantage of this to improperly the book itself, which does address their criticisms.

”Greenland’s ice sheet isn’t shrinking any more rapidly today than it was eighty years ago.”

This statement is untrue. In fact, the Greenland Ice Sheet lost more mass during 2003–2010 than during all of 1900–2003 combined.


Response: The “fact check” does not refute the statement quoted, which is about the rate of sea level rise 80 years ago. Quoting the rate over the seven-year period 2003–2010 is not climatologically relevant. And comparison of the rate over the twenty years from 1983 with the average over the 83 years from 1900 obscures the decadal variability during that longer period.

The comparison of recent decadal-scale changes with centennial scale averages is a common artifice to obscure prior decadal-scale variability, whose presence makes recent decades seem less unusual.

The 2019 paper by Frederikse et al. clearly shows that Greenland’s contribution to sea level rise around 1940 was about three times higher than it was in the last decades of the 20th century.

As we know, temperatures across Greenland were as high in the 1930s and 40s, as they have been in the last two decades.

We also know from tide gauges that sea level rise was at a similar level in those years.

Measuring ice sheet changes is still little more than a guess even now. Back in the early 20thC, nobody had the slightest clue. While SK’s statement may be controversial, the factcheckers simply do not have the data to prove otherwise.

”The rate of sea-level rise has not accelerated.”

This statement is inaccurate; all observational sea level rise (SLR) datasets show rapid acceleration in recent years, and most now show sea levels rising faster than at any point since records began in the early 1900s.


Response: The statement [by the WSJ] is a misleading compression, likely due to Mr. Mills’ (or his editor’s) need for brevity. A more complete description would be the acceleration seen over the past few decades is comparable to that seen around 1930, when human influences on the climate were much smaller.

But it is incorrect to attribute the brief statement to me. Chapter 8 of Unsettled is a discussion of sea level data like that shown in the graph, including the acceleration (and deceleration) earlier in the 20th century that complicates attribution of the acceleration in recent decades.

The IPCC has accepted that sea levels were rising at a similar level to now earlier in the 20thC, a fact which is evident from tide gauges.

”The extent of global fires has been trending significantly downward.”

This statement is accurate but misleading. The vast majority of fires globally are purposefully set for agricultural clearing, and these have declined in recent years. Conflating all fires with forest and wildfires is not helpful in understanding changing drivers of fire risk.


Response: The fact checkers do not dispute the statement, which surprises most non-experts, who typically believe that human influences on the climate are the dominant cause of fires. However, I agree that it requires more context than is possible to give in a 900-word book review. I give that context, including many of the points raised, in Unsettled’s Chapter 7.

The factchecks make no comment on the effects of decades of fire suppression and poor forest management which undoubtedly are a major factor now.

Curiously they also ignore the massive decline in US wildfires, including California, since 1900, which has nothing at all to do with “agricultural clearing”.

”Tornado frequency and severity are also not trending up; nor are the number and severity of droughts.”

Koonin sets up a strawman in claiming that tornado frequency and severity are not trending up. The scientific consensus on this is that we simply do not have the data to determine trends in tornadoes, and what little theoretical work has been done on this suggests that severity might go up and frequency might go down, but again there is no real consensus.


Response: The statement is true, and the fact checkers do not dispute it, but rather give reasons why it is true and why it might not be true in the future. The second half of Unsettled’s Chapter 6 covers the points they raise, including the clustering and spatial shifts mentioned by Swain and Prein.

Highlighting that there are no climatologically significant trends in tornadoes, as is true for many other severe weather phenomena, is a tonic to the widespread perception that “we’ve already broken the climate”. Emanuel’s claim of a strawman is then curious. Would he have scientists discuss only those severe weather phenomena that do show a deleterious trend? Doing that would alarmingly misinform non-experts.

The criticism by Kerry Emmanuel is beyond absurd, given he and his colleagues routinely claim trends where no proper data exists.

He is also completely wrong, as NOAA’s won data shows a marked decline the number of strong tornadoes.

” The number and severity of droughts are also not trending up.”

Observed spatial trends in global hydroclimate over the past century have been consistent with those expected from human influence in the climate system[35]. In many mid-latitude and subtropical regions, this has indeed included an increase in the frequency/intensity of drought[36,37]–but in other regions (such as the Northern Hemisphere high latitudes), this includes an increase in moisture availability and decrease in drought (as expected from climate model simulations). Therefore, it doesn’t really make sense to make blanket statements regarding overall global drought trends, since only some places are expected to get drier (and others wetter) in a warming climate.


Response: Perhaps, as Swain says, “it doesn’t really make sense to make blanket statements” like this, but that’s precisely what the IPCC did. Unsettled (pg 98) quotes the following from IPCC AR5 WGI Section

. . . low confidence in a global-scale observed trend in drought or dryness (lack of rainfall) since the middle of the 20th century . . .

And the report’s page 215 elaborates:

In summary, the current assessment concludes that there is not enough evidence at present to suggest more than low confidence in a global-scale observed trend in drought or dryness (lack of rainfall) since the middle of the 20th century, owing to lack of direct observations, geographical inconsistencies in the trends, and dependencies of inferred trends on the index choice. Based on updated studies, AR4 conclusions regarding global increasing trends in drought since the 1970s were probably overstated. However, it is likely that the frequency and intensity of drought has increased in the Mediterranean and West Africa and decreased in central North America and north-west Australia since 1950.

As my book’s Chapter 7 says (beginning on page 138), it is also difficult to see any long-term trend in drought across the contiguous US, but there are clear regional trends, particularly in the US Southwest.

“Humans have had no detectable impact on hurricanes over the past century”

This statement is flat out wrong. In the first place, the theoretically predicted trends would not have been detectable in the sparse and noisy hurricane record until recently, and in fact they HAVE recently been detected. The most up-to-date research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences demonstrates an increase in the proportion of hurricanes that become major hurricanes (Category 3–5) globally, supporting theoretical predictions that date back to 1987.

Furthermore, the phrase “in the past century” is telling nothing since no one familiar with the global record of tropical cyclones would look at data prior to 1980; it is just way too poor to be able to detect trends.


Response: Emanuel seems to have forgotten that he was a co-author on a 2019 paper that displayed and assessed hurricane trends extending back more than a century. I paraphrase that paper’s conclusion on Unsettled’s page 119:

Those authors found that the strongest case for any detectable change in tropical cyclone activity was a very slow northward shift of the average track of storms in the northwest Pacific (0.19° ± 0.125° latitude per decade over the past seventy years, a 1.5 σ result). Moreover, even for that slow, small change (21 km or 13 miles per decade), eight of the eleven authors had only low to medium confidence. Most significantly, the majority of the authors had only low confidence that any other observed tropical cyclone changes were beyond what could be attributed to natural variability.

As I discuss in Unsettled’s Chapter 6, that conclusion is consonant with those of 2014 US National Climate Assessment and of the subsequent 2017 CSSR (its Section 9.2).

Emmanuel tries to establish century long trends by using data since 1980. However, as he ought to know, the short period since 1980 is influenced by the switch from cold to warm phase of the AMO. Real hurricane experts, which he is not, say that hurricanes tend to become more intense during the warm phase, which we have been in since the mid 1990s.

Real hurricane experts also confirm that SK’s statement is essentially correct.

”Global crop yields are rising, not falling.”

While global crop yields are rising, this does not constitute evidence that climate change is not adversely affecting agriculture. IPCC estimates are that increased heat and drought resulting from anthropogenic warming will slow the rate of yield growth, not reverse it


Response: The fact checkers agree with the statement, which is another tonic to the notion that the world is suffering from climate devastation. Their additional points concern proving counterfactuals about a different measure of agricultural productivity — what would agriculture have been if the climate had not been subject to human influences? There are fundamental problems in validating such claims, as I discuss in Unsettled’s Chapter 9.

This criticism by the factcheckers is beyond absurd. They are basing it on theoretical modelling, in stark contrast to Kerry Emmanuel’s earlier complaint that we should not draw conclusions where we do not have the full data!

Nobody has a clue in reality what yields would have been in a colder world.

The criticism also ignores the fact that society now has the infrastructure, skills and knowledge to adapt crops to changing climate and extreme weather.

My Conclusion

These factcheckers have no interest in facts. Their only concern is that views are not expressed which run counter to their extremist outlook, which is not based on fact and hard data, but on models and prejudice.

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Joe Born
October 10, 2021 2:07 pm
Joe Born
Reply to  Joe Born
October 10, 2021 2:17 pm
John Tillman
October 10, 2021 2:12 pm

Paul’s comments don’t appear in red.

Michael Underwood
Reply to  John Tillman
October 10, 2021 2:25 pm

They did in the original post.

John Tillman
Reply to  Michael Underwood
October 10, 2021 2:33 pm

Thanks. I didn’t check that.

Reply to  John Tillman
October 10, 2021 2:58 pm

Fixed. My bad.

John Tillman
Reply to  Charles Rotter
October 10, 2021 4:23 pm


russell robles-thome
October 10, 2021 2:22 pm

Journalist John Stossel is suing facebook for defamation after their incorrect ‘factcheck’. It would be fabulous to see someone bankrupted for spouting this crap.

Reply to  russell robles-thome
October 10, 2021 2:36 pm

You mean the Bankrupting of that bastion of woke sensorship, Facebook, I presume?

Russell Robles-Thome
Reply to  BCBill
October 12, 2021 3:25 am

I was indicating that I would be delighted if Steve Koonin successfully sued those responsible for the ‘fact check’. I don’t know who they are or if he can/should/would, but I do know someone else has found a way. The risk of having to shell out millions might stop them lying to our faces.

October 10, 2021 2:26 pm

The WSJ “fact check” simply confirms Koonin’s premise that what the media reports has become an extreme exaggeration of what the scientific facts really are able to tell us.

John Tillman
Reply to  DMacKenzie
October 10, 2021 2:34 pm

“Extreme exaggeration” is a polite understatement.

Tom Halla
October 10, 2021 2:40 pm

On acceleration of sea level rise, there is good evidence that it was an artifact of satellite measurement, as no such acceleration is in tide gauge records.

Pamela Matlack-Klein
Reply to  Tom Halla
October 10, 2021 3:21 pm

Satellite measurement of sea level is worthless, consistently giving exaggerated numbers.

Tom Halla
Reply to  Pamela Matlack-Klein
October 10, 2021 3:33 pm

Agreed. And the “acceleration” is from satellites not agreeing with each other as replaced. The individual satellites we’re showing no acceleration, but stitching together the separate records gave the impression of acceleration.

Ron Long
October 10, 2021 2:45 pm

Good book and good replies to woke factcheckers by SK. Have you noticed that CNN has gone full monty on global warming as a lead-in to the COP26 event? Their echo-chamber invitation of commentators spouting the new religion are amazing to behold. Eventually history will condemn giving children puberty-halting drugs and global warming scare tactics.

John Tillman
Reply to  Ron Long
October 10, 2021 2:49 pm

One of the few benefits to Chile’s quarantine rules was not being exposed to CNN in airports, the only way I ever suffered that affront to truth, justice and the American way.

Reply to  John Tillman
October 11, 2021 3:51 am

No kidding, XINN is awful for your brain

October 10, 2021 2:52 pm

There is a reason why a lot of people call them fakecheckers.

AGW is Not Science
Reply to  R_G
October 11, 2021 1:23 pm

I’m gonna use that!

October 10, 2021 3:10 pm

It has been my experience that “fact checkers” is another leftist double-speak. Occasionally they will debunk a leftist just to make people think they are being objective. But in reality, it is pure propaganda.

Reply to  Wade
October 11, 2021 9:04 am

Fact checking is no more than VIEWPOINT CENSORSHIP… and when I see “fact checking” being done, it is an automatic signal to me that the issue is debatable and that the author being censored is probably correct.

Streisand Effect
The Streisand effect is a phenomenon that occurs when an attempt to hide, remove, or censor information has the unintended consequence of increasing awareness of that information, often via the Internet.

Personally, it was Wikileaks that turned me into a climate skeptic (from actually teaching it at university). I couldn’t believe that John Podesta and Think Progress were going after (trying to censor) Roger Pielke Jr. … over a scientific (non-political) issue. While I don’t know Pielke personally, I have colleagues that do. And with that action, I have swayed literally dozens of people to the skeptic side. I now regret all the years teaching CAGW at University and have even gone back and apologized to students who I had previously dismissed as anti-science “cranks“.

So, ironic as it seems, without the censorship… I would have been oblivious.(lol)

October 10, 2021 3:34 pm

Follow the science, the Political Science.

Joel O’Bryan
October 10, 2021 3:34 pm

The fact checkers have proven themselves time and again not only to be non-trust worthy but also politically motivated to support Democrat Party agendas. Their claimed analyses and facts are twisted-distorted and straw-man arguments created in order to support suppressing and canceling the inconvenient facts being disseminated from Big Tech social media and mainstream media refusing to carry.

Two of the most prominent examples:
-Hunter Biden’s “fact checked” laptop emails as likely Russian disinformation. fact check proven false now. allowed big tech to suppress and Dems to claim they were Russian disinformation.
-Wuhan Covid lab leak hypothesis fact check. Now a false fact check done to suppress social media dissemination and discussion.

There are plenty of other false fact checks.
How many times do we need politically motivated fact checkers lying to the public to know they are liars? This is especially true with regards to the Democrat’s central project of power grabbing via the manufactured climate alarmism scam.

Tom Abbott
Reply to  Joel O’Bryan
October 11, 2021 7:55 am

I heard this morning that only about seven percent of those polled have a lot of faith in the Mainstream News Media.

The Leftwing cable network’s ratings are tanking.

October 10, 2021 3:38 pm

If AGW is the religion
then factcheckers are its highest gatekeepers(presstitutes with a new title)
The judges of the Mafia,paid by the Mafia,protecting its own clan members while pretending to judge them.

Using any dirty trick in the book.
After Biden and Obama eulogized Ku Klux Klan democrat Robert Byrd (always protected by the factchecking msm)
it was no longer possible to hide that fact.
What did the factcheckers do?
They “debunked” the “fact” that Robert Byrd was a KKK grand wizard.
Now it does not matter wether the factcheckers invented the grand wizard Story themselves or searched
the Internet until they found something they can use as strawman argument.
It matters that they debunked nothing(except their own lie they created to get the chance to factcheck) as the subject was about the scandal of being a kkk member and recruiter(and getting his butt kissed by Obama and Joe) and not about his rank as 99.9% of people don’t know nor care wether a grand wizard rank even exists .

And whenever they debunk the impressive Clinton Bodycount they always use the same trick:
They pick out names and claimes that have nothing to do with the real list
and then use them as proof .
(rip seth rich,not you Epstein as you were the host and Clintons just regular guests and therefore lower in terms of hierarchy and for sure not allowed to touch a billionaire)

Joel O'Bryan
Reply to  SxyxS
October 10, 2021 9:19 pm

The media’s Fact Checkers, themselves caught now in so many of their own lies, are totally irrelevant to people and how they view the news. The whole Fact Checking media phenomenon will gradually disapear as it is now widely seen by the public as simply supporting Fake News narratives.

October 10, 2021 3:39 pm

off topic: Hawaii has been barking for the last 10 days with mini series of small quakes striking on a semi regular basis. Hawaii just had a strong 6.2 quake. The planetary configuration is interesting looking. A number of the larger quakes occur when Mercury is lined up with some of the other planets. …,-436.64063&extent=82.44876,77.34375&baseLayer=satellite&timeZone=utc

Joel O'Bryan
Reply to  goldminor
October 10, 2021 9:20 pm

OT by just wee bit.

Steve Case
October 10, 2021 3:51 pm

Regarding sea level rise, anyone with a little effort can find their way to the Permanent Service for Mean Sea Level PSMSL and download the long term tide gauges and analyze the data to figure out for themselves what the rates have been over various time periods or if there’s any acceleration. It’s not difficult, Excel spreadsheets make it easy.

Quoting the rate over the seven-year period 2003–2010 is not climatologically relevant.

Climatologically relevant?

How ’bout calling it bullshit.

October 10, 2021 6:00 pm

So, it’s a “Fact Check” of a Review of the book. Seems like the Woke havent got the Cajones to review the actual book, which is a shame as a) they might learn something and b) the Existental Climate Crisis Narrative needs to be stopped. It is a sad indictment of the state of journalism and the way in which the majority are sleepwalking in to 1984….

Robert of Texas
October 10, 2021 11:11 pm

The only trustworthy fact-checker is oneself. Trusting any other fact-checker requires faith.

The problem now is the “facts” themselves are being picked by the “publishers”. If you can control the “facts”, you can control the conclusions.

Normal people call this propaganda. It sure “ain’t” science.

October 11, 2021 2:53 am

Fack checking is about to go on steroids.
Haugen’s testimony is a ploy to automate censorship that only Big Tech could possible afford. I.E small blog and web services will be forced out of business.
No surprise MSM WSJ legacy media are already fully onboard.
Expect a version of the British Online Harms bill and that right before midterms.

The USA is well on the way to a British parliamentary system…

Tom Abbott
Reply to  bonbon
October 11, 2021 8:12 am

“The USA is well on the way to a British parliamentary system…”

There are about 25 U.S. States that are Republican controlled and they won’t go along with changing the way we are governed, whether it be to a parliamentary system or to a radical Democrat dictatorial system like the Biden administration is trying to establish.

The States may have to go their own way to preserve their freedoms, in such a circumstance.

The best outcome will be for the American people to oust all the radical Democrats from office in the coming election, and then the Republican States won’t have to leave the Union.

October 11, 2021 3:17 am

“While global crop yields are rising, this does not constitute evidence that climate change is not adversely affecting agriculture. IPCC estimates are that increased heat and drought resulting from anthropogenic warming will slow the rate of yield growth, not reverse it”
The so-called Fact Checker seems a bit confused about tenses. The statement by Steve Koonin uses the present tense. The Fact Checker attempts to show that the statement is not evidence that climate change IS (present tense) not adversely affecting agriculture by referring to estimates about the future. I don’t think that any scientist would take estimates as being the same as evidence.

AGW is Not Science
Reply to  Alba
October 11, 2021 1:30 pm

Estimates = evidence in the eyes of every Climate Fascist.

If they had to base their claims on actual evidence they would have nothing to talk about…because there IS no evidence that supports their claims.

October 11, 2021 5:10 am

Steve Koonin: Greenland’s ice sheet isn’t shrinking any more rapidly today than it was eighty years ago.

Twila Moon: This statement is untrue. In fact, the Greenland Ice Sheet lost more mass during 2003–2010 than during all of 1900–2003 combined.

Steve Koonin: The “fact check” does not refute the statement quoted, which is about the rate of sea level rise 80 years ago.

The “fact check” literally refutes the statement quoted. Steve had the opportunity here to challenge that refutation by providing evidence supporting his position that Greenland’s ice sheet isn’t shrinking anymore. He changes the topic to sea level rise instead.

paul courtney
Reply to  bdgwx
October 11, 2021 6:11 am

Mr. x: Need to brush up on reading skills? “Today vs. 80 yrs ago” doesn’t correlate to “mass from 1900-2003”. Your misuse of “literally” is a clue to your illiteracy. Thanks for giving it away.

Reply to  paul courtney
October 11, 2021 6:49 am

It is important to note that Twila Moon’s fact check actually goes up to 2018. I think most would agree that it is reasonable to equate that to today.

And from NASA’s 2019 Arctic Report Card we can see that the decline from 2010 to 2018 is more than the decline from 2003-2010.
comment image

Reply to  bdgwx
October 11, 2021 5:26 pm

What a ridiculous graph with a scale chosen to maximize alarmism. I’m sure we’ll be drowning any day now…
comment image

Reply to  Independent
October 11, 2021 6:44 pm

That Briner et al 2016 publication is pretty good. The data for the graph comes from Larsen et al. 2015 GIS model. The graph you posted is not as it originally appeared. It has been photoshopped. Specifically the red “1900-2015” label and arrow has been added to the graph. The problem is that the x-axis is ka before present where “present” is defined as 1950. And the data in the graph doesn’t even go up to 1950 so it is missing nearly all of the contemporary ice melt. The publication goes on to say that the mass loss “exceeded 100 Gt/yr” during the Holocene Optimum. Compare this with the nearly 300 Gt/yr mass loss being observed today. And I’ll leave you with the fact that the ice sheet surface area is now less than 1.8e12 m^2. Greenland’s ice sheet melting today is very significant in the historical context. That’s what the Briner et al. 2016 publication says anyway. BTW…since I’m assuming you accept Larsen’s work in this regard I recommend you read his other publications as well.

George Daddis
October 11, 2021 7:23 am

It all makes sense when you realize “belief in science” actually translates to “belief in scientists” – and only those scientists who conform to “the narrative”. (A circular argument.)

That applies to various issues that have turned political – climate, covid, gender etc.

Matthew Siekierski
Reply to  George Daddis
October 11, 2021 9:50 am

This is also the problem with peer review. When the reviewers are alleged experts fixated on their own interpretation of the data they can quash any interpretation with which they disagree. And then they get to point out that studies with competing hypotheses are not peer reviewed. Gatekeeping at its finest.

Tom Abbott
October 11, 2021 7:26 am

From the article: “The 2019 paper by Frederikse et al. clearly shows that Greenland’s contribution to sea level rise around 1940 was about three times higher than it was in the last decades of the 20th century.”

Oops! There it is: The Early Twentieth Century showing up in a record, again.

The Early Twentieth Century was just as warm as it is today. Therefore, CO2 is not a major player in regulating the Earth’s temperature.

Tom Abbott
October 11, 2021 7:32 am

From the article: “A more complete description would be the acceleration seen over the past few decades is comparable to that seen around 1930, when human influences on the climate were much smaller.”

Oops! There it is again! That Early Twentieth Century is always popping up.

Alarmists deny the Early Twentieth Century has any significance. The alarmists are wrong.

Tom Abbott
October 11, 2021 7:44 am

From the article: “He is also completely wrong, as NOAA’s own data shows a marked decline the number of strong tornadoes.”

I can attest to that. Tornadoes were more powerful and more frequent in my youth than they are now. Noticeably so. And I’ve lived in Tornado Alley all my life.

We had several tornadoes pop up last night in Oklahoma. They were EF0 or EF1 at most. Of course, the late season also makes a difference in the power as the temperatures are usually cooler during this time of year and tornadoes feed on temperature differences. If there’s not much of a temperature difference between the incoming cold front and the warm air it is colliding with, then the tornadoes won’t blow up too strong.

I mainly just got a good rain out of it. I think we have several more days of storm fronts coming through, but now the temperatures are lower by 20F so the chances of extreme weather are lower.

Tom Abbott
October 11, 2021 8:25 am

From the article: “Real hurricane experts, which he is not, say that hurricanes tend to become more intense during the warm phase, which we have been in since the mid 1990s.”

What happened to this year’s hurricane season? It’s awfully calm out there. Are we in for another period of a 12 year drought in major land-falling hurricanes like what happened after Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005?

The poor alarmists don’t have a hurricane they can express alarm about!

What will they do now? I guess they could try to link the big snow coming to the western U.S. to CO2 somehow. That’s about the only thing they have to work with right now.

AGW is Not Science
October 11, 2021 12:58 pm

They should be honest and call themselves propaganda checkers. What they deem not to be “factual” is anything that agrees with the propaganda, i.e., nonsense, that they “believe” based on the bullshit they have swallowed hook, line and sinker.

Tom Abbott
Reply to  AGW is Not Science
October 12, 2021 4:58 am

“propaganda checkers”

That’s a much better description of what they do than calling themselves “fact checkers”.

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