Editor’s note: This letters are in response to Purdue President Mitch Daniels’ most recent op-ed defending "climate contrarian" Steve Koonin, published in The Exponent on Oct. 14.
Steve Koonin undercuts Purdue's climate scientists
I’d like to thank Mitch Daniels, a man who exercises nearly unlimited power in his own Purdue fiefdom, for explaining to all of us peasants what “speaking truth to power” should really mean. Surprisingly for us, it means saying what those who hold and wield actual power in our country want people to say. It doesn’t mean, for example, pointing out any problems at Purdue or in society at large that Purdue prefers not to deal seriously with; it means undercutting Purdue’s own prominent climate scientists, including unsupported accusations of scientific misconduct by someone cherry-picking their own data to promote a lack of any meaningful action.
I have to admit that this point of view hadn’t occurred to me, but now I can see that only white men in power, like Daniels and (Steve) Koonin, can be arbiters of truth. The fact that they risk nothing and have everything to gain by speaking their concept of truth makes them the true heroes.
- Eric Thiel, former Purdue staff member
Daniels' op-ed cherry picks phrases to make his point
President Daniels’ Washington Post editorial on Oct. 12 cherry-picks a phrase from the 2018 IPCC “Key Economic Sectors and Services” report where the authors state “(the) impact of climate change will be small.”
On the next page, the authors explain “Global economic impacts from climate change are difficult to estimate. Economic impact estimates completed over the past 20 years vary in their coverage of subsets of economic sectors and depend on a large number of assumptions, many of which are disputable, and estimates do not account for catastrophic changes, tipping points, and many other factors….Not all key economic sectors and services have been subject to detailed research.”
The problem of data disparity was the subject of an article published last week in Scientific American. Researchers used AI to analyze 102,000 climate change studies and found “There are clear divisions across geographic and economic lines…High-income countries are nearly twice as likely to have high evidence for climate impacts as low-income countries. Low evidence…is especially prevalent across Africa and Asia... That means large swaths of the Earth’s population live in places where there’s been relatively little research on the consequences of climate change.”
Among those studies that have quantified the global impact of climate change, a 2016 article in Nature states that “In line with the results of other studies, we find an enormous global inequality where 20 of the 36 highest emitting countries are among the least vulnerable to negative impacts of future climate change. Conversely, 11 of the 17 countries with low or moderate GHG emissions are acutely vulnerable to negative impacts of climate change.”
Convincing leaders in wealthy countries they must stop damaging less-affluent countries is what it means to speak truth to power.
- Stacey Bogan, 2016 Purdue graduate