Theoretical Physicist and Author of Unsettled, NYU Professor Steven E. Koonin Discusses What Science Tells Us

Theoretical Physicist and Author of Unsettled, NYU Professor Steven E. Koonin Discusses What Science Tells Us


Live from Music Row Friday morning on The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. – host Leahy welcomed author and theoretical physicist, Professor Steven E. Koonin to the newsmakers line to discuss climate science and renewable energy viability.

Leahy: We are delighted to have author, Professor at NYU, and former Obama administration under Secretary for Science Stephen Koonin. Steven is the author of Unsettled: What Climate Science Tells Us What It Doesn’t and Why It Matters. Professor Koonin, are you with us this morning?

Koonin: I am and I’m happy to be talking to you from New York.

Leahy: Well, we are delighted to have you on the line. So tell us what does climate science tell us?

Koonin: Well, we know a few facts for sure about the climate. The globe has warmed, on average, about two degrees Fahrenheit over the last century or 120 years. We see some signs of warming. The oceans are getting warmer. We see some melting of polar ice. But beyond that, most severe weather phenomena don’t show anything outside of their natural variations. And most people are very surprised when you tell them that.

Leahy: What is the cause of that increase in the average temperature of two degrees Fahrenheit over the past 100 years? Is it, as the climate alarmist say, all because of man’s activities, or is it sort of a natural ebb and flow?

Koonin: It’s certainly a combination of both. There’s no doubt that humans are exerting an influence on the climate, mostly through greenhouse gases. And that influence is growing. But there is a lot of natural variability in the system which makes it difficult to determine the precise proportion between the human cause and natural.

If you go back 150 years, the climate was still varying a lot, and that makes it difficult to untangle today what we see between human and natural causes.

Leahy: Is this process of accelerating think over the next hundred years? What’s your best guess?

Koonin: I think we’re going to see it warm another degree Celsius, two degrees Fahrenheit over the next century. Other changes in hurricanes, in severe storms, in heat waves, I think, remain to be seen. As I mentioned so far again in the U.S. we’ve hardly seen any changes in those things.

Leahy: Should the public policy be altered dramatically to cut down on greenhouse gases, et cetera? And would it have any impact on this likely continued increase in the temperature of one degree Fahrenheit over the next hundred years?

Koonin: Two degrees Fahrenheit over the next hundred years. Whether we alter policy either in the U.S. or globally, is really a values question. What science can and should do is outline possible risks and benefits from future changes.

But in the end, society needs to decide its own risk tolerance. How much does it care about development versus the environment, intergenerational equity, and then come to some fully informed decision? Right now, the official projections say that there will be a minimal economic impact of warming of even three or four degrees.

Much more than Paris is talking about over the next century. I think we’ve going to ask ourselves whether it’s worth it or not. And we have not had that informed discussion.

Carmichael: Quick question to help our audience have a background, you are a theoretical physicist. Is that correct?

Koonin: That’s correct. For a brief career, I was for 30 years of professor and then provost at Caltech. I was for five years the chief scientist at BP, the oil company where I helped them move into renewable energy. And then for two and a half years, I was under Secretary for Science in the U.S. Department of Energy in the first Obama administration.

Carmichael: So given your background in renewable energies, are there some renewable energies that you think are going to be economically viable sooner than others?

Koonin: Yes. Some are already quite economically viable. You’ve got a lot of hydropower down in the Southeast, but it’s difficult to build more. The wind is quite economical and solar is certainly economical as well.

The problem is you cannot build a whole electrical system on wind and solar alone because they don’t produce when you need them to produce. They only produce when it’s windy or sunny.

Leahy: When Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez says the world is going to end in 12 years unless we stop global warming, I guess now it’s down to nine years. Something like that. What’s your reaction to those kinds of comments?

Koonin: She’s a politician. And when politicians talk about technical matters, I generally don’t pay them much attention. (Leahy laughs)

Leahy: A good policy.

Koonin: I wish she, Greta, Bernie Sanders, Joe Biden, and John Kerry would read my book because they will discover that the actual science doesn’t say what they think it says.

Carmichael: With all due respect, they’re not going to read your book because they need plausible deniability.

Koonin: Yeah.

Carmichael: And if they read your book, then they have to admit that there is another side of the argument. By the way, I own your book. It’s number three on my list to read.

Koonin: Okay, good. I hope you’ll find it an interesting and engaging read. Many people have.

Carmichael: Well, thank you. I’m looking forward to it.

Leahy: Professor Koonin, so now your book is out. What kind of reaction have you gotten from a, your academic community, and your peers in theoretical physics and climate science, and then b, generally in the public?

Koonin: Many of my colleagues with a scientific or engineering background say, wow, this is really interesting and useful. I’m glad you did it but watch out. And in fact, the climate science community is already after me with a couple of bad reviews, even though everything in the book is from the official report.

Leahy: Are they dishonest when they do something like that?

Koonin: Yeah, I think so. I think so. There are a lot of people invested in the climate crisis and laying down the fact that there is no crisis is not going to please them.

Leahy: Because of this book, is the New York University going to put you on the bad Professor list and do something to harm your situation, or are you going to be okay?

Koonin: Well, you know, having once been pretty much in charge of a university, I’m very sensitive to the tensions between the administration and the faculty. And so when the book was just about finished before it was published, I had a conversation with the leadership at NYU.

And I’ve got to say they said the right things, namely, Steve, were behind you. You’ve got the academic freedom to say what you’re saying. We expect you’re right because we know you’re a rigorous guy, we’ve got your back. And so far, it’s been wonderful.

Leahy: Well, that is very encouraging.

Carmichael: That really is. That’s good. It’s discouraging but unsurprising that you’re getting pushed back by people and they’re really trying to attack your character when all you’re doing is what any good scientist would do in that is study the facts and present them for laypeople like me to be able to understand them.

Koonin: As an educator, my greatest story is just getting people to understand. In the end, I don’t care which way this comes out. But let’s do it where everybody’s got a good understanding of what’s

Leahy: Professor Stephen Koonin, thanks so much for joining us today. Author of the book Unsettled: What Climate Science Tells Us What It Doesn’t and Why It Matters. Come back in about a month and tell us how everything’s gone in the public release of this Dr. Koonin. And thank you for joining.

Koonin: I’d be delighted to chat again.

Listen to the full third hour here:

– – –

Tune in weekdays from 5:00 – 8:00 a.m. to the Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy on Talk Radio 98.3 FM WLAC 1510. Listen online at iHeart Radio.











Misrule of Law Blog Creator Mark Pulliam on His Recent Article Addressing the Renewal of COVID Restrictions Post Vaccination

Misrule of Law Blog Creator Mark Pulliam on His Recent Article Addressing the Renewal of COVID Restrictions Post Vaccination


Live from Music Row Thursday morning on The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. – host Leahy welcomed retired attorney and blog creator of Misrule of Law Mark Pulliam to the newsmakers line to discuss his recent piece regarding the outrageous constraints that are now wearing thin on American citizens and the continuation of after vaccination.

Leahy: We are joined on our newsmaker line by a good friend, Mark Pulliam from East Tennessee. He is a California and now Texas refugee. I guess you could say. Texas California and ended up in Tennessee making good upward movement all the time. Mark Pulliam, thanks for joining us here on The Tennessee Star Report.

Pulliam: Good morning, Michael. I’m happy to be here.

Leahy: So you had an article that first appeared yesterday at Law and Liberty. Obedience Fatigue got a lot of attention Instapundit and Powerline. John Hinder Acker friends up in Minneapolis intended. Of course, the great constitutional law Professor at the University of Tennessee, Glenn Reynolds, are good friends there. And then Real Clear Policy also featured it.

I could not agree with you more. The headline on your commentary here is Obedience Fatigue. And the subtitle is Over a Year of CDC flip flops and credibility Straining Pronouncements leave a compliant public, skeptical. Vaccinated Americans yearn for normalcy. What caused you to write this?

Leahy: Well, we’ve all suffered through this last year of uncertainty with our public health officials literally terrorizing us with the specter of a deadly pandemic. And if we even go outside and breathe any fresh air we will drop dead instantly. And this from the very beginning seemed dubious, and a lot of people questioned it.

But we are an obedient people. We do what we’re told by and large and particularly when the public health authorities are united in their recommendations. And so everybody was wearing masks. Everybody complied with these social distancing and stay-at-home orders. And it literally wrecked our economy and inflicted incalculable damage. Schools were shut down. It was horrific. It was unprecedented.

But people went along with it because they trusted their government. And now, after a year, it’s become clear that that trust was completely misplaced and that even after the vaccine has been rolled out and half the public has been vaccinated, and a good portion of the remaining half was infected and didn’t even know it, and therefore had the antibodies and was immune from reinfection, they continue as if this didn’t happen.

And every time we make an advance they moved the goal posts. So now they’re still saying people should wear masks even vaccinated people should wear masks outdoors. They just came out with some summer camp guide.

Leahy: Yeah, it’s crazy.

Pulliam: It’s insane! And at some point, people have to say, Dr. Fauci, we are not listening to you anymore. This is bogus. And I think it’s almost an experiment on their part to see how far they can push the public and get them to go along with it.

Leahy: Yeah, I think you’re probably right in that regard. It looks like they’re trying to exercise their power to control the public by being outlandish. It appears that way to me. Dr. Fauci is really, to me, a power hungry megalomaniac. That’s what it looks like to me.

Pulliam: And he’s got the whole deep state and the swamp behind him. But the summer camp thing, can you imagine everybody that went to summer camp and the whole point was to be with a bunch of people and do activities that you’re not ordinarily doing. They’re saying that kids who are basically at no risk at all from the Coronavirus have to wear masks every minute there at camp except when they’re swimming and eating.

They have to maintain six foot social distance. They can’t mix with other campers. They can’t share items like games and books and so forth. That’s crazy. They are literally trying to destroy these basic experiences that generations of youths have enjoyed. Just like they try to destroy an entire year of public education and wipe out many small businesses without any scientific justification.

And so now that many people have been vaccinated and a lot of people had the antibodies already, I think people are beginning to realize this doesn’t make sense anymore, even if it originally makes sense. And I’m not convinced that any of it ever made sense.

Leahy: The mask thing. Now, this is from the very beginning. I’m talking over a year ago when the first emergency was declared. And the science behind the efficacy of wearing masks simply is not there. There’s no study that I’ve seen that wearing a mask or mandatory mask-wearing has had any effect on limiting the spread of COVID-19.

Are you familiar with any scientific studies that say when they compare mask-wearing versus non-mask wearing, where they can demonstrate in a significant way, statistically, that wearing a mask actually improves the situation in terms of Covid-19?

Pulliam: I’m not aware of any such data. And I think scientists are united that wearing masks outdoors is completely outlandish and has always been outlandish. The Wall Street Journal last week did an article about the Asian flu epidemic in 1957. Everybody talks about the Spanish flu back in 1918. But this Asian flu epidemic in 1957 is much closer in time.

And it was a pandemic of an airborne respiratory virus that affected the entire United States. But nobody wore masks. It was not declared a national emergency that if you were sick you stayed home until you got better. And we have become from 1957 to now a different nation. And we’re a nation that’s led around that accepts things uncritically and that surrenders their freedom. People being told for a year you cannot go to Church?

This is insane. In hindsight, we should look at this as a horrible experiment that went wrong and something that we can never allow to happen again in the United States.

Leahy: Let me play a little bit of Devil’s advocate on this with you, Mark. Perhaps you could respond to a bit of mystery. I think in the way people look at this, if you look at polling of the public about attitudes towards mask-wearing, and this has been consistent, I think, pretty much from the beginning, even though I am in a crowd that says there is zero zip, not a shred of scientific evidence to show that this wearing of masks has any impact limiting the spread of COVID-19 and whether it’s indoor or outdoor, this is just my view on it.

The public, when you do polling on it, about 60 percent favor regulations wearing masks. Here’s my theory on that. I think it’s just simply because it’s a visible action, right? I don’t know what to do, but I can wear a mask. And they tell me it has a good impact on limiting the spread, even though it’s not backed by science.

I think that’s what the Democrats are doing. They understand that the public perceives that it has a positive effect, and that’s why they keep supporting it, even though the science doesn’t back it. What’s your thought on that?

Pulliam: Well, I agree with that. I think the nation has become deeply polarized, and during the Trump administration became more polarized than ever. And so the nation kind of divided into two camps. The camp that is going to treat COVID almost like wearing a mask was political resistance. If the President discounts it, then we have to treat it as if it’s even more important.

And then also, the thing that’s happened between now and 1957 is that we have this concept of virtue signaling. People want to show that I’m sanctimonious I follow the rules of it’s almost become like a religion, like Catholics wearing ashes on their forehead. It’s a symbol of fealty to the big state.

So you put all these things together, the natural obedience that we have as part of our patriotism. You’ve got this polarization that the people doing it as a political symbol, the virtue signaling. And it’s sort of taken on a life of its own. And also, I think these Karens who want to scold people, that’s something that we didn’t use to have.

Leahy: Karen’s are all over the place.

Listen to the full first hour here:

– – –

Tune in weekdays from 5:00 – 8:00 a.m. to the Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy on Talk Radio 98.3 FM WLAC 1510. Listen online at iHeart Radio.