Both Fox News and CNN have recently invited John Coleman, one of the founders of The Weather Channel and former TV meteorologist, to express his views about climate change to their national audiences. Coleman is simply an awful choice to discuss this issue. He lacks credentials, many of his statements about climate change completely lack substance or mislead, and I’m not even sure he knows what he actually believes.
Video: Coleman on CNN’s Reliable Sources November 2, followed by Weather Company (which owns The Weather Channel) CEO David Kenny
To begin, Coleman hasn’t published a single peer-reviewed paper pertaining to climate change science. His career, a successful and distinguished one, was in TV weather for over half a century, prior to his retirement in San Diego last April. He’s worked in the top markets: Chicago and New York, including a 7-year stint on Good Morning America when it launched. If you watch Coleman on-camera, his skill is obvious. He speaks with authority, injects an irreverent sense of humor and knows how to connect with his viewer.
But a climate scientist, he is not.
“Many people don’t accept my position that there is no significant man-made global warming because I am simply a Television Meteorologist without a Ph.D.,” he admitted in a blog post. “I understand that.”
Still, Coleman asserts he’s qualified to speak on the issue. “I’ve studied and studied and studied,” Coleman said on Fox News. Coleman is justified in saying that if you take the time to educate yourself about an issue, you don’t need a Ph.D. to become a trusted source. I agree with that. For example, I cringe every time a politician ducks discussing climate change issues with the tired excuse: “I am not scientist.”
Related: The climate change science cop-out
I credit Coleman for expending the effort to learn about the issue, but if you lack professional credentials and established expertise on a topic, expect to have your arguments more closely scrutinized. And, if you view an issue through a skewed and biased lens, be ready for criticism.
Coleman has gained a name in the climate change debate by challenging the widely-accepted consensus that most of the observed climate warming in recent decades is due to human activity. On CNN, he said this consensus is manufactured by the Democratic party’s funding of research with preordained results. “If you’re gonna get the money, you’ve got to support their position,” Coleman said. “Therefore, 97 percent of the reports published support global warming.”
Nevermind that multiple, independent scientific assessments (e.g. the Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change – which just released a new report Sunday, the U.S. Global Change Research Program, and the National Academy of Sciences), from institutions and scientists around the world, have reached this conclusion based on multiple lines of evidence. Coleman’s attack seems more political and (per his claims of a global conspiracy) delusional than based on substance.
(Further, a small point, the Democrats alone do not control funding of climate science.)
His position further demonstrates an incredible lack of respect and regard for scores of intelligent, hard-working climate scientists, some of whom are politically conservative, who have dedicated their careers to objectively examining data and publishing research that indicate human-induced warming.
Whereas Coleman rejects appealing to authority and consensus as a solid argument for manmade global warming, he uses exactly the same tactic to cast doubt on it. In the CNN interview he refers to 31,000 “scientists” who have signed a petition with a dissenting view on manmade global warming. Yet this petition has been repeatedly debunked for lack of quality control, not to mention it represents a miniscule fraction (~0.3%) of all U.S. science graduates (source Skeptical Science).
His few scientific arguments also flounder on their merits.
He repeatedly tell Fox News and CNN viewers: “There is no global warming”, which even most climate change skeptics would reject. Data centers around the world (based on thousands of observations) and satellite instruments have unequivocally documented global warming over recent decades (even if the rate of warming has slowed some over the last 15 years, but not over longer averaging periods).
Coleman on Fox News, October 27
On TV and in blogs, Coleman frequently tries to downplay the role of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. He says it represents a tiny portion of the atmosphere but fails to appreciate a gas can have important effects on the earth’s heating even in small quantities, nor does he mention its concentration has risen to levels unsurpassed in at least 800,000 years.
The Weather Channel – which in part owes its existence to Coleman – has smartly distanced itself from him. “We’re grateful that he got us started 32 years ago,” David Kenny, the current CEO of The Weather Company which own The Weather Channel, told CNN. “But he hasn’t been with us in 31 years. So he’s not really speaking for The Weather Channel in any way today.”
In an email to his staff, Kenny added:
Across our platforms we explain clearly that we support the consensus science on climate change as shown by the IPCC and the 2014 National Climate Assessment. We are proud of our scientists who accurately represent the science in their writing, research and coverage. Of course, the work of Dr. Jeff Masters and Stu Ostro come to mind first. Just by reading their blogs or hearing them speak on the topic, you understand why it is so important for us to continue reporting on climate on all of our platforms.
After Coleman’s Fox News interview, The Weather Channel re-released its very sensible and centrist 2007 position statement on climate change. It says:
[O]bservations, together with computer model simulations and historical climate reconstructions from ice cores, ocean sediments and tree rings all provide 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.
In a real head-scratcher, in the same CNN interview in which Coleman called climate change “baloney”, he called The Weather Channel’s statement “pretty reasonable.”
Perhaps Coleman is more mainstream than he leads on and simply makes extreme statements and uses extreme rhetoric as a way to get attention and challenge what some might consider climate change alarmism, i.e. the notion that global warming is going to cause us all to die. But that’s not where mainstream climate science really is. Mainstream climate science maintains manmade climate change is real, presents risks, and that we can manage and reduce those risks by reducing greenhouse gases emissions (to slow the rate of change) and developing strategies to adapt (to cope with the change).
I can’t read Coleman’s mind and motivations. But what’s crystal clear is that he’s not providing good, objective information or a credible viewpoint on the issue. He doesn’t deserve the attention he’s getting – even after a stupendous career as a broadcast weather professional.