As evidence mounts that humans are causing dangerous changes in Earth's climate, a handful of skeptics are providing some serious blowback
IT SHOULD BE GLORIOUS TO BE BILL GRAY, professor emeritus. He is often called the World's Most Famous Hurricane Expert. He's the guy who, every year, predicts the number of hurricanes that will form during the coming tropical storm season. He works on a country road leading into the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains, in the atmospheric science department of Colorado State University. He's mentored dozens of scientists. By rights, Bill Gray should be in deep clover, enjoying retirement, pausing only to collect the occasional lifetime achievement award.
He's a towering figure in his profession and in person. He's 6 feet 5 inches tall, handsome, with blue eyes and white hair combed straight back. He's still lanky, like the baseball player he used to be back at Woodrow Wilson High School in Washington in the 1940s. When he wears a suit, a dark shirt and tinted sunglasses, you can imagine him as a casino owner or a Hollywood mogul. In a room jammed with scientists, you'd probably notice him first.
He's loud. His laugh is gale force. His personality threatens to spill into the hallway and onto the chaparral. He can be very charming.
But he's also angry. He's outraged.
He recently had a public shouting match with one of his former students. It went on for 45 minutes.
He was supposed to debate another scientist at a weather conference, but the organizer found him to be too obstreperous, and disinvited him.
Much of his government funding has dried up. He has had to put his own money, more than $100,000, into keeping his research going. He feels intellectually abandoned. If none of his colleagues comes to his funeral, he says, that'll be evidence that he had the courage to say what they were afraid to admit.
Which is this: Global warming is a hoax.
"I am of the opinion that this is one of the greatest hoaxes ever perpetrated on the American people," he says when I visit him in his office on a sunny spring afternoon.
He has testified about this to the United States Senate. He has written magazine articles, given speeches, done everything he could to get the message out. His scientific position relies heavily on what is known as the Argument From Authority. He's the authority.
"I've been in meteorology over 50 years. I've worked damn hard, and I've been around. My feeling is some of us older guys who've been around have not been asked about this. It's sort of a baby boomer, yuppie thing."