Clip of deceased weatherman pushes climate change falsehoods
A 2014 CNN interview segment of late climate-denier and Weather Channel co-founder John Coleman is being shared online years after his passing as proof that climate change does not exist and that the specialized media outlet "debunked" global warming. But Coleman, who is not a scientist, offered no evidence for his claims and The Weather Channel endorses the scientific consensus on climate change.
"There is no consensus in science... 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... The science is on my side... There is no global warming," Coleman, a weatherman who died in 2018, is heard saying in an interview with CNN, recirculating on social media.
A spokeswoman for The Weather Company, owned by IBM, and which included The Weather Channel until 2018 when it was sold to an independent studio, told AFP in an email that the CNN clip was "from 2014, which, even then, was three decades after (Coleman) had anything to do with The Weather Channel."
She added: "In fact, The Weather Channel rejected his claims in the same CNN video segment."
The interview is available on CNN's website, here, and David Kenny, president of the network at the time, is seen responding to Coleman's claims right after the segment shared in the social media posts.
"Some people were confused to hear a statement from somebody who was noted as a co-founder of The Weather Channel, which is true, we are grateful that he got it started 32 years ago -- but he has not been with us in 31 years so he is not really speaking for The Weather Channel in any way today. Our position (on climate change) is really clear, it's scientifically based... I don't like our brand being associated with something that's not scientifically based," Kenny said on CNN.
Coleman parted ways with The Weather Channel shortly after 1982, Sheri Bachstein, the current president of The Weather Company, confirmed to AFP in a statement sent by email. "He hasn't represented the brand or spoken for us" since, she added.
"The science on our changing climate is clear," said Bachstein, adding the group was taking measures to respond to and monitor the "climate crisis."
For the posts to claim that The Weather Channel "debunked" the existence of climate change in this segment is false.
Coleman was not a scientist
The on-air weather presenter who was part of the launch of the channel had been known for publicly spreading falsehoods about the impact humans have on global warming for years.
In 2007, he described global warming as "the greatest scam in history."
Coleman had no scientific credentials. He graduated in media from the University of Illinois in 1957, according to the University's records.
Coleman often introduced himself as a "scientist" and "meteorologist" in interviews and articles, and stated he was a "professional member of of American Meteorological Society (AMS) for many years," while admitting not being qualified to do "climate research."
He did receive an award from the AMS in 1983 "for his many years of service in presenting weather reports of high informational, educational, and professional quality to a national television audience, and for his pioneering efforts in establishing a national cable weather channel."
Paul Higgins, a senior scientist and associate director at the AMS told AFP in an email that the organization welcomes members with a wide range of areas of expertise and "we do not require members to agree."
He added: "Some members are familiar with the evidence of climate change and others aren't (they have other areas of expertise)."
The AMS did not endorse Coleman's rejection of human-induced climate change or his claim of a lack of consensus among the scientific community, Higgins said.
"Those who target public audiences with messages that contradict the conclusions of comprehensive assessments of evidence are not credible and should be ignored. They do a disservice to science and the public," he said.
The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which reviews studies to summarize the state of knowledge about how humans are driving climate change and uses reports compiled by hundreds of scientists in dozens of countries, declared "human influence has warmed the atmosphere, ocean and land."
And the UN's World Meteorological Organization (WMO) also says human activity is causing planetary-scale changes on land, in the ocean and in the atmosphere, with harmful and long-lasting ramifications for ecosystems.
Lack of consensus?
The consensus that humans are driving global warming by burning fossil fuels has been refuted by skeptics, including Coleman, for years. But multiple analyses have shown strong evidence that the scientific community is close to unanimous on that question.
A recently published research report concluded: "There is no significant scientific debate among experts about whether or not climate change is human-caused."
It says the issue is no longer contested and should be considered "comprehensively settled" in the same way scientists agree on "plate tectonics or evolution."
Read more fact checks about climate change here.