Cornell Clocktower

There is nearly unanimous agreement among climate scientists that humans have caused climate change — with 97% of actively publishing climate scientists in agreement, according to NASA. 


Despite this overwhelming consensus, the bastion of free speech that is Cornell University has decided to hold a debate on climate change tonight at the university’s Call Alumni Auditorium.


This is the opening event for the 2023 Campus Liberty Tour, which has been sponsored by the Steamboat Institute in cooperation with the Free Speech Alliance at Cornell University. The free speech alliance describes itself as “an independent organization made up of alumni, students, faculty and staff, which advocates for free expression, viewpoint diversity, and academic freedom on campus.”


Steven Koonin, Ph.D., will argue against the resolution —  “Climate science compels us to make large and rapid reductions in greenhouse gas emissions,” while Robert H. Socolow, Ph.D., will argue in support of the resolution.  


The debate will be moderated by Sarah Westwood, Steamboat Institute Blankley Fellow and investigative reporter for the Washington Examiner.


Koonin served as Undersecretary for Science at the U.S. Department of Energy under President Barack Obama, where he was lead author of the department’s strategic plan and the inaugural Quadrennial Technology Review (2011). Koonin was also a professor of theoretical physics at Caltech, and he is currently a professor at New York University, with appointments in the Stern School of Business, the Tandon School of Engineering, and the Department of Physics.


Socolow is a professor emeritus at the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at Princeton University. He earned his Ph.D. from Harvard University in theoretical high-energy physics in 1964, was an assistant professor of physics at Yale University from l966 to l97l, and joined the Princeton University faculty in 1971 with the assignment of inventing interdisciplinary environmental research.


According to Steamboat Institute Chairwoman and CEO, Jennifer Schubert-Akin, “As the Campus Liberty Tour moves into its sixth year, we are looking forward to bringing another round of robust debates to college campuses,” She continued saying, “Our goal is not to tell students what to think, but to help teach them how to think critically about information that’s being presented to them.”


According to Randy O. Wayne, an Associate Professor in the CALS School of Integrative Plant Science at Cornell, “The Campus Liberty Tour debate will expose my students to the critical thinking of exceptional people who can demonstrate how to discuss and debate contentious issues intelligently and civilly by stating their assumptions and using evidence and analysis.”


In addition, Harvard University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of Virginia, the Academic Freedom Alliance, and Speech First are Participating Sponsors in the debate.

(3) comments

Nevin Sabet-Swingle

Why not Go Vegan and cut your carbon footprint in half? Or rather just cater animal product events at Cornell as a PhD Student instead??? hmmmmmmmm

Steven Baginski

Is this a news report with opinion blended in or a straight opinion piece?

Cornell is not a “bastion of free speech”. It is something close to the opposite sad to say.

Even if we accept the most far reaching version of “97% of scientists agree….” regarding climate change, that does not mean that an accomplished scientist like Koonin (or others in the “3%”) are not correct or even duty bound to argue a different point of view. Science does not operate by majority vote. At least not these days - Copernicus was burned at the stake after all.

Another area this reporter/editorialist might want to talk down is new avenues of cancer research. Apparently a small minority of scientists believe that cancer research to date has been off track and that an entirely different approach will be more fruitful. Hope they do not try to debate the subject at Cornell and thereby trigger a spasm of sarcasm from Ithaca Times.

Steven Baginski

I might add that 19% of debate attendees who participated in pre and post voting changed their minds as a result of what they heard. Koonin might have hypnotized the audience or somehow brainwashed them. More likely, he makes a convincing argument.

Welcome to the discussion.

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