Crazy Coleman’s Cantankerous Conjecturing
Cross posted at Excons.org.
Alliteration makes me happiness.
I’d like to introduce you to John Coleman, whose claims to fame are that he was the first weatherman on Good Morning America, and that he was the founder of the Weather Channel. So, without further adieu, I give you John Coleman:
Currently, Coleman is a weatherman at KUSI in San Diego, California, where he apparently works with Tucker Carlson and Clay Aiken’s older brother.
Occasionally, he writes skeptical conspiracy theory propaganda, which is posted to the station’s website in a section called “Coleman’s Corner”. Much of it reads like a transcript of the Rush Limbaugh radio program. His latest work, in which he claims that global warming is responsible for our recent increases in the price of oil and even our economic downturn, has been making it’s rounds in right-wing circles.
Many on the right side of the aisle provide Coleman’s opinions as proof that global warming does not exist, which is understandable since he’s basically Einstein. I mean, he’s a friggin’ weatherman, and who would know better about forecasting global trends decades in advance based on weather conditions averaged over long periods of time than a guy who predicts San Diego’s weather into next week, right?
The claims made in Coleman’s can be separated into three categories: common skeptical theories, non-scientific obfuscations, and conspiracy theory nonsense. The nonsense, while useful for entertainment purposes, is patently absurd, so I’ll address the first two.
Coleman’s first scientific skeptical argument is actually a combination of two common arguments. In it, he states that our current warming is due to changes in solar activity and that warming stopped in 1998:
Worldwide there was a significant natural warming trend in the 1980’s and 1990’s as a Solar cycle peaked with lots of sunspots and solar flares. That ended in 1998 and now the Sun has gone quiet with fewer Sun spots, and the global temperatures have gone into decline. Earth has cooled for ten straight years. So, I ask Al Gore, where’s the global warming?
Coleman doesn’t need to ask Al Gore. He can just consult NASA’s GISS Department, which would point him to this graph:
You may notice that, instead of a constant cycle that peaked in the 80’s and 90’s, there is a steady increase in temperatures throughout the past century. This business of cooling since 1998 is based on 1998’s anomalous temperature, which is primarily the result of a very powerful El Nino effect. However, NASA GISS shows 2005 as being slightly warmer and the general trend is still upward.
Coleman’s next skeptical argument is a favorite of the oil and coal industries:
[CO2] is a natural component of our atmosphere…Every time we breathe out, we emit carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. It is not a pollutant. It is not smog. It is a naturally occurring invisible gas.
As with several other skeptical arguments, this one is true but irrelevant. It is an often used red herring. The fact that CO2 also occurs naturally does not change the fact that it is a greenhouse gas that absorbs infrared light. Now, Coleman does have a point about there being a large percentage CO2 emissions from natural sources. However, there is also a large natural sink, which largely negates the natural emissions in what is called the Carbon Cycle. It is our recent increases in manmade emissions that are responsible for increases in CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere.
Coleman then moved on to the argument that CO2 is a trace gas:
I estimate that this square in front of my face contains 100,000 molecules of atmosphere. Of those 100,000 only 38 are CO2…how can this tiny trace upset the entire balance of the climate of Earth? It can’t. That’s all there is to it; it can’t.
Genius. It just can’t. I mean, who needs scientific measurements and calculations when you just know that “it can’t”? It’s not like climatologists have quantified the amount of heating that greenhouse gases are responsible for or anything.
Next, Coleman mentions a list of thousands of scientists who disagree with the theory of anthropogenic global warming. This list, called the Oregon Petition, has been ridiculed by many for its lack of verifiable information. Most attempts to verify credentials of its signatories have resulted in less than impressive results:
When questioned in 1998, OISM’s Arthur Robinson admitted that only 2,100 signers of the Oregon Petition had identified themselves as physicists, geophysicists, climatologists, or meteorologists, “and of those the greatest number are physicists.” This grouping of fields concealed the fact that only a few dozen, at most, of the signatories were drawn from the core disciplines of climate science – such as meteorology, oceanography, and glaciology – and almost none were climate specialists. The names of the signers are available on the OISM’s website, but without listing any institutional affiliations or even city of residence, making it very difficult to determine their credentials or even whether they exist at all.
The petition was basically a mass mailing, of which I also received a copy, that included a non-peer-reviewed “research paper”, a Wall Street Journal op-ed cut out and a form asking for a signature and some personal information. There was also a section on the form to ask for more copies to give to friends and colleagues. 31,000 is a large number, but it doesn’t really matter what the butcher, the baker, and the candlestick maker think about climate change.
So John Coleman is basically an old codger, who fits squarely in the Faux News and Rush Limbaugh audience demographics, and who’d rather believe in unsupported skeptical arguments, red herrings, and conspiracy theories than peer-reviewed scientific research. It’s people like Coleman who are helping to delay our government’s response to climate change. Fortunately, both of the two candidates in the current election, have expressed a willingness to address global warming.
CORRECTION: The guy in the middle of the picture above is not Tucker Carlson. His name is actually Goober McBowtie. My apologies.