Climate change contrarianism was dealt a blow last week when a contrarian group backed by some TV meteorologists published a rambling, ill-informed rant
by Weather Channel founder John Coleman in which he called global warming "the greatest scam in history" perpetrated by "environmental whacko type" scientists.
Jason Samenow's ForecastToday:
Mostly sunny in the morning, increasing clouds in the afternoon. Highs 51-55Tonight:
Cloudy with some widely scattered showers (20% chance Lows 35-40 (suburbs-city)Monday:
Mostly cloudy and milder. Highs 55-60.
Mr. Coleman's hate-filled and paranoid piece was posted on the web site
of the International Climate and Environmental Change Assessment Project (ICECAP), which is an organization run by a veteran meteorologist in the TV weather industry.
In his op-ed, Coleman says the very concept of global warming offends him, and blames its popularity on a conspiracy of "dastardly scientists with environmental and political motives."
He goes on to refer to climate science as "ridiculous manipulated science" that has preyed upon "well informed but very gullible environmentally conscientious citizens."
So much for reasoned scientific analysis.
Is this really the best rebuttal to mainstream climate science that ICECAP could come up with? It reads like it was written on a cocktail napkin at a happy hour gathering of conspiracy theorists.
Coleman's piece is notable because it lays bare the predicament of the climate change contrarianism movement 2.0. Whereas the first generation of climate change contrarians during the 1980s and much of the 90s wielded enormous political influence when the science was more uncertain, contrarians today have been largely relegated to boisterous backbenchers who air their views in online forums.
Their marginalization to the fringe of the debate is what drives people like Coleman stark raving mad. Yet Coleman's piece actually helps the arguments of those who are seeking action on global warming by making those on his side look desperate and foolish.
For example, rather than citing peer reviewed scientific research to back up his claims, Coleman instead provides no evidence at all to back up his viewpoint. None. Zip, zero, zilch.
Instead he offers up this nugget:
"I have read dozens of scientific papers. I have talked with numerous scientists. I have studied. I have thought about it. I know I am correct
Wow. I'll make such a proclamation on my next grad school exam and will be sure to let Mr. Coleman know how it turns out. (My guess is not very well).
In claiming to understand climate change, Coleman blatantly ignores the differences between meteorology (and TV meteorology at that) and the numerous climate science disciplines, which encompass multiple complex fields from atmospheric physics to oceanography. Considerably more complex than Mr. Coleman is used to in his current position as a TV weather forecaster in sunny San Diego.
Far more troubling than Coleman's rant is the composition of ICECAP itself and its endorsement by some in the TV weather community.
The listing of ICECAP content contributors reads like a who's who list of climate change experts who were quoted in climate stories ten years ago, before the science solidified around a dominant human role in climate change, and before their fossil fuel industry funding was fully revealed. These contributors include such contrarian stalwarts as Sallie Baliunas and Fred Singer.
The 19 TV meteorologists who have endorsed ICECAP to "support an objective consideration and an earnest and open discussion of all aspects of climate change" should think more seriously about whether they're serving the public good by backing a nakedly partisan organization that misrepresents climate change science.
Calling climate scientists "environmental whacko[s]" and slandering them for being part of a conspiracy to take advantage of a gullible public does not qualify as an objective consideration of climate change science. Nor does emphasizing only the contrarian viewpoint on climate science while dismissing outright the scientific evidence to the contrary.
Coleman's rhetoric contrasts sharply with that of former American Meteorological Society President (AMS) and D.C. television weather forecasting institution Bob Ryan, who along with NBC Telemundo Miami meteorologist John Toohey-Morales wrote a recent guest editorial
in the Bulletin of the AMS.
According to them, the public is looking to television weathercasters to provide them with information and guidance on climate change rather than personal views. "When we stray from objectivity in communicating the latest scientific findings, we do the public a disservice," they wrote.
Coleman's piece is an example of precisely the kind of communication that Ryan and Toohey-Morales single out as particularly troubling. "Alarmingly, many weathercasters and certified broadcast meteorologists dismiss, in most cases without any solid scientific arguments, the conclusions of the National Research Council (NRC), Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), and other peer-reviewed research," Ryan and Toohey-Morales wrote.
It only hurts the profession of meteorology, and more specifically the credibility of television meteorologists, to have certified TV meteorologists associating themselves with a group like ICECAP that seeks to confuse the public about a major atmospheric science issue.
This is not to say that TV weathercasters need to adhere to a 'party line' on climate change, but rather that they at the very least not obfuscate the conclusions of groups such as the Nobel Prize Winning and nonpartisan Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
There is also the matter of whether Coleman's onetime affiliation with TWC should be grounds for trusting what he says about climate change. Coleman's piece has been getting significant mileage online due to his onetime affiliation with The Weather Channel, despite the fact that he only ran the cable network for one year and left in 1983.
The Weather Channel issued a statement
in response to Coleman's blog post that reiterated the network's stance on global warming, which holds that there is "strong evidence that the majority of the warming over the past century is a result of human activities. This is also the conclusion drawn, nearly unanimously, by climate scientists. Any meaningful debate on the topic amongst climate experts is over."
Of course, Mr. Coleman's own creation could be part of the conspiracy...