San Diego is home to renowned scientific hubs such as the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, so to provide some kind of cosmic balance, perhaps it's only right that San Diego is also home to John Coleman and KUSI.
On Saturday evening, Jan. 16, the independent local station aired an hour-long show narrated and co-written by weatherman John Coleman that promised to provide “the other side” of the climate-change debate. “Our carbon footprints are not creating any significant global warming. The global-warming frenzy is based on a myth, a scientific hypothesis that has gone bad,” Coleman declared at the outset.
Coleman, who's been aboard the climate-change-skepticism bandwagon since at least 2007, mocked Al Gore and essentially called the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the leading international authority on the matter, corrupt. Coleman's conclusions: The global-warming “scare” is trumped-up alarmism driven by politics and money; the Earth is actually cooling, and, in fact, we'll be better off if we double the amount of carbon dioxide we emit into the atmosphere. He claimed his message is not political but followed up with a warning that the impact of the climate-change hype is higher taxes and consumer prices.
We called Scripps this week to get a reaction to Coleman's show and learned that KUSI had interviewed Richard Somerville, a climate scientist, a Scripps distinguished professor emeritus and a coordinating lead author for one of the working groups responsible for IPCC's 2007 Fourth Assessment Report. Somerville told us that KUSI promised to present his written statement on-air but didn't. The station, he said, included only a couple of “garbled” sentences from a lengthy interview during a 10 p.m. newscast. He called KUSI and Coleman unethical.
We asked Somerville to assess the seven climate-change deniers Coleman used to construct his case. Somerville said they fall into two categories—scientists who are credible and scientists who are not. He put all but one in the latter category; their résumés lack the published research necessary for the scientific community to even assess their work. The one credible authority in the bunch, Somerville said, was Richard Lindzen, an atmospheric physicist and member of the National Academy of Sciences whom Somerville has known for many years. Somerville called Lindzen an “outlier” in the realm of climate science; his peers simply don't agree with his challenges.
Somerville acknowledged that Galileos—ostracized scientists who eventually prove the mainstream wrong—come along every once in a long while. But, he added flatly, “almost everybody who thinks he's a Galileo is wrong.”
Somerville could shoot down each claim of fact or misinterpretation of data Coleman made during his show, but it would require far more space than we have available here. Somerville noted that he refuses to debate Coleman because Coleman's not a worthy-enough opponent, and a one-on-one with such a character would cheapen the issue. “It's the same reason biologists don't debate creationists,” Somerville said.
Coleman is a journalist by education and a meteorologist by trade—a far cry from climate scientist. Somerville said the weather forecaster isn't qualified to even read scientific research, as he claims to have done, let alone challenge its merits. That's not as harsh an insult as it sounds; Somerville's pointing out that it takes a certain level of training to grasp what's being said in highly complex research.
However, Somerville's biting remarks about Coleman's and KUSI's brand of journalism are intentional. He said all Coleman had to do was drive over to Scripps to get each of his questions answered—particularly questions about the esteemed scientist Roger Revelle, the former director of the Scripps Institution who warned of harmful climate change way back in the 1950s.
Coleman noted that Al Gore was influenced by Revelle and that Revelle had a change of heart late in his life, an assertion that Revelle's daughter, Carolyn Revelle Hufbauer, said in a 1992 Washington Post article was misinterpreted by climate-change skeptics.
It almost seems silly spending this much energy commenting on a knucklehead like Coleman, but his show might have appeared plausible to some viewers, and KUSI, a large-market broadcasting company—whose owners are prolific contributors to the Republican Party and its candidates—gave us no choice.
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