Physicist Steve Koonin spoke on Tuesday to almost 200 audience members as part of the Presidential Lecture Series and argued in favor of his contrarian views on climate change.
The event was preceded by substantial backlash from students and climate scientists.
Faculty from the Purdue University Center for the Environment authored an open letter criticizing Koonin’s interpretation of climate science.
At the time of the event, the letter had almost 300 signatures, composed mostly of Purdue professors.
Student groups were stationed outside of the event. The Purdue student chapter of Climate Citizen’s Lobby had an information booth where they engaged with attendees beforehand. Other groups, like the Young Democratic Socialists of America, handed out flyers.
Small flyers with “Seven Things to Know about Koonin, Climate Change, and Purdue’s climate record had” on them had been placed on seats before the event.
“Koonin is NOT a climate scientist,” the flyers said.
Throughout the event, Koonin recounted some of the arguments made in his new book “Unsettled: What Climate Science Tells Us, What it Doesn’t and Why it Matters.”
He argued the consensus on climate change has exaggerated the science, and scientists have overstepped by prescribing policy solutions. He also shared his doubts regarding the accuracy of the climate change models.
Jared Bland, a graduate student in the College of Science, was selected ahead of time to ask a question at the event.
“You mentioned that there's a disagreement over the validity of regional versus global effects,” Bland asked Koonin, “but to take a data point from what you talked about earlier, you mentioned that the warmest point in the U.S. hasn't changed much, but is something like Death Valley really predictive or a good indicator for the state of Indiana?”
Koonin responded by clarifying which measurements he was referring to.
Amanda Depoian, a graduate student in the College of Science who also was selected to ask a question, said that the lecture convinced her to read the reports more closely.
“It seems like he's done a lot of research and reading the topics,” she said. “It makes me want to go read them myself not to confirm or deny what his work is, but just to have an unbiased opinion.”