John Coleman, KUSI weatherman and founder of The Weather Channel, has declared global warming a charade. In a piece he first posted last Thursday on the anti-global-warming website Icecap.us, and later in revised form on KUSI's website, Coleman declared global warming to be “a non-event, a manufactured crisis and a total scam.”
The pronouncement was enough to get Coleman airtime on Rush Limbaugh, CNN and Fox News, among other radio and TV programs, plus a few exclusive minutes on KUSI, San Diego's independently owned TV station. Any credibility he might have on the subject derives from the fact that he was one of the original founders of The Weather Channel. In the early 1980s, Coleman persuaded Frank Batten of Landmark Communications to help him start a 24-hour news service. Coleman ran the station for its first year in 1982 before he was forced out, he has said, by corporate politics.
He “retired” to his job at KUSI shortly thereafter.
Neither Coleman nor KUSI responded to calls for comment.
Speaking on KUSI, Coleman said he started reading up on global warming after deciding that when it came to human-caused climate change, “something just didn't add up.”
He went on to say how he spoke to several scientists, none of whom were apparently able to convince him. He moved on to doing his own research.
“I didn't accept media accounts. Instead, I read dozens of the scientific papers. I have talked with numerous scientists. I have studied. I have thought about it,” Coleman wrote.
Coleman blames the academic community for using “massaged data” to secure research funding. “If they do research that sounds alarms, they will become well-known and respected and receive scholarly awards and, very importantly, more research dollars will come flooding their way,” he wrote.
At the bottom of his post on KUSI.com, Coleman provided links to the research that helped him draw his conclusion. Nearly all of them were written by a Canadian economist working at the University of Guelph, in Ontario, named Ross McKitrick. A global-warming skeptic, McKitrick has been embroiled in battles for years in academic circles for his criticism of climate-research methodology and also over technical errors found in his work.
Coleman is taking on a scientific consensus that has existed for at least 30 years. Most recently, an international group of hundreds of scientists called the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), assessed all the published climate research and determined that increased carbon in the atmosphere caused by human activity is prompting a rise in the Earth's temperatures. Among other tangible effects of global warming are years-long droughts in the western United States and parts of Africa, the sudden existence of the Northwest Passage due to the shrinking of the polar ice cap and the generally warmer-than-average temperatures felt throughout the globe.
The Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla has been a home to climate-change research for nearly 40 years. Most famous of all was Charles Keeling, who first showed that the level of carbon in the atmosphere is increasing, the now-famous “Keeling Curve.” Several scientists at Scripps are members of the IPCC and contributed to the organization's work on climate change.
“Global warming is real. We are in it,” wrote Wolfgang Berger, a researcher at Scripps who studies climate, in an e-mail to CityBeat.
Professor Ralph Keeling, a geochemist at Scripps, an IPCC member and Charles Keeling's son, was appalled but hardly surprised by Coleman's comments.
“It's not in doubt that the world has warmed quite significantly in the last 25 years. That stands up to almost any scrutiny of the data,” Keeling said.
As to the question of cause, Keeling argued that there was no better explanation for the corresponding increase in atmospheric carbon and global temperatures than human activity.
“If there were a maverick scientist out there with a credible explanation that dispelled global warming, that scientist would be the next Einstein,” he said. “So the incentives are great. But there isn't one. The debate is over.”
In taking his position, Coleman might be surprised to find himself in a steadily shrinking group of allies. Among the most recent defectors is Newt Gingrich, the conservative former Speaker of the House of Representatives. Gingrich recently told The New York Times, “It's probable that global warming is going on, and it's conceivable that humans have a role, and therefore, as a matter of prudence, let's have less carbon loading of the atmosphere.”