Weather Channel co-founder John Coleman prefers denial of reality to climate science
Man in tinfoil hat (Shutterstock)

The Weather Channel co-founder John Coleman was recently interviewed by Megyn Kelly on Fox News , calling human-caused global warming “a myth.” The interview was then amplified through the media echo chamber, including an article at left-leaning Huffington Post , and Coleman was subsequently interviewed on CNN’s Reliable Sources .

Coleman has publicly denied the scientific reality of human-caused global warming for years, telling Fox News in 2008 that he wanted to sue Al Gore, for example. There’s no new content in these latest interviews; just the usual long-debunked climate myths and conspiracy theories. Coleman is apparently considered a credible climate interviewee because he was instrumental in creating The Weather Channel 32 years ago, but he’s woefully misinformed when it comes to climate science.

Coleman Denies Basic Climate Science

In his Fox News interview, Coleman said,

The Antarctic ice cap is at an all-time record high in both coverage and thickness, and the Arctic ice cap at the North Pole is at the highest it has been in several years. It’s in its so-called normal range since we got satellite observations that can measure it. So not only is the ice not melting, more polar bears are alive and happy today than in 100 years.

Each of these points is either wrong or misleading.

Although more Arctic sea ice survived this year than in the record-shattering melt of 2012, in 2014 the ice was nevertheless at its 6th-lowest level in thousands of years . About 70% of the sea ice in the Arctic has disappeared over the past three decades, mainly due to human-caused global warming . This rapid decline is well outside “the normal range” of Arctic sea ice extent and volume.

The Arctic has lost 10 times more sea ice than the Antarctic has gained , and resent research suggests the collapse of the land-based Antarctic ice sheet may already be inevitable .

Of the 12 polar bear populations for which we have sufficient observational data, 8 are declining and just 1 is increasing . There’s a myth that polar bear populations are thriving because they’ve grown since the 1970s. That growth has nothing to do with the climate – it was due to the introduction of the International Agreement on the Conservation of Polar Bears in 1973, which restricted and in some circumstances banned the hunting of polar bears, which had caused their populations to dwindle. Global warming – specifically the rapid decline in the Arctic sea ice they need to hunt – has caused polar bear populations to decline in recent years.

Well there are 9,000 Ph.D.’s and 31 [thousand] scientists who have signed a petition that says that [carbon dioxide] is not a significant greenhouse gas

On both Fox and CNN Coleman referred to the discredited Oregon Petition , which can be signed by anyone with just about any college science degree, and which has included “signatures” from fictional characters and Spice Girls . In reality, 97% of climate science experts and their peer-reviewed research agree that human carbon dioxide emissions are driving global warming.

On CNN (which to its credit, established before the interview that there is a 97% expert consensus on human-caused global warming and there aren’t two equal sides in this ‘debate’), Coleman went even further in denying basic science, saying,

Climate change is not happening. There is no significant man-made global warming now, there hasn’t been any in the past, and there’s no reason to expect any in the future. There’s a whole lot of baloney ... there is no global warming.

That’s just a denial of reality .

Coleman is Not Credible on Climate

Several times during the Fox interview, Megyn Kelly commented that The Weather Channel will “be pushed out of existence since [Coleman has] taken this position.” In reality, Coleman was forced out of The Weather Channel in 1983, just a year after he helped found it. Coleman has had no affiliation with The Weather Channel for over 30 years. The Weather Channel has an official statement on climate change , which it updated a few days after the Coleman interview. It states,

More than a century’s worth of detailed climate observations shows a sharp increase in both carbon dioxide and temperature. These observations, 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.

On CNN, The Weather Channel CEO David Kenny said,

I’m concerned whenever the discussion of climate change veers from the science. The science is really clear, and I don’t like our brand being associated with something that’s not scientifically based. I think we can all be proud of our résumés, but I would prefer people use the credentials they have today, not the credentials of three decades ago.

On CNN, Coleman claimed to be a scientist. He’s been a TV weatherman for over 60 years, but his degree is in journalism . In recent years he forecasted the weather in San Diego, where it generally ranges from sunny and warm to sunnier and warmer.

The Weather Channel, on the other hand, employs meteorologists with climate science training. For example, Heidi Cullen was The Weather Channel’s first on-air climate expert. Cullen received a Ph.D. in climatology and ocean-atmosphere dynamics at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University and has worked as a research scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research and Columbia University’s International Research Institute for Climate and Society. On the subject of climate change, Cullen has said ,

There is convincing evidence that since the industrial revolution, human activities, resulting in increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases and other trace constituents in the atmosphere, have become a major agent of climate change ... If a meteorologist has an AMS Seal of Approval , which is used to confer legitimacy to TV meteorologists, then meteorologists have a responsibility to truly educate themselves on the science of global warming.

Those comments certainly apply to John Coleman.

Coleman’s Conspiracy Theories

Coleman has previously gone as far as to suggest that climate science is part of a conspiracy to create a one-world government. On CNN, he claimed,

The government puts out about $2.5m directly for climate research every year. It only gives that money to scientists who will produce scientific results that support the global warming hypothesis of the Democratic Party, or the position. So, they don’t have any choice. If you’re gonna get the money, you’ve gotta support their position. Therefore, 97% of the scientific reports publish support global warming.

This is conspiratorial nonsense. Grants are awarded before research is performed and before its conclusions are known. The 3% of contrarian climate scientists like Roy Spencer and Richard Lindzen have received millions of dollars in government research grants.

CNN host Brian Stelter even went as far as to specifically ask Coleman, “Is The Weather Channel part of the conspiracy?”. Coleman responded,

Well, The Weather Channel has bought into it. As I say, they’ve drunk the Kool-Aid.

It’s ironic that on CNN’s Reliable Sources, Coleman revealed that on climate change, he’s a completely unreliable source with no expertise or credibility on the subject, preferring conspiracy theories to science. © Guardian News and Media 2014