Dead scientists vs TV weathercasters

This blog was written by John D. Wilson, former Deputy Director for Regulatory Policy at the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy.

Guest Blog | January 7, 2010 | Climate Change

Here’s a question: Who do you trust more to explain climate change science, a dead scientist or a TV weathercaster?

Real Climate writes about the 1950s-era scientist who attempted to forecast the impact of global warming pollution on climate. Gavin Schmidt concludes that Gilbert Plass was “was correct about all of the big issues,” but “lucky” in that his fairly good estimate of CO2 and global temperature trends had errors that “went both ways and end up pretty much canceling out.”

For a contrast, Charles Homans writes in the Columbia Journalism Review about TV weathercaster (some of whom are meteorologists) who reject the science of climatology. In the face of often-uninformed criticisms by these highly-respected and visible individuals, “several institutions—the National Environmental Education Foundation (NEEF), the Yale Forum on Climate Change & the Media, and the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research among them—have decided that education is the problem, and have launched projects aimed at teaching the weathercasters the basics of climatology.”

Writing about Bob Breck, a New Orleans weathercaster, Homans says:

[His] theories were not only contradictory of each other, but had also been considered and rejected by climate researchers years ago. But Breck didn’t read much climate research; “the technical journals are controlled by the professors who run the various societies,” he told me, and those professors were hopelessly dependent on the “gravy train of grants from the NSF” that required them to propagate “alarmist theories.” When I mentioned the AMS, Breck bristled. “I don’t need the AMS seal—which I have,” he said. “I don’t need their endorsements. The only endorsements I need are my viewers, and they like what I do.”

Five decades after Dr. Plass emerged as one of the first “alarmists,” much of Mr. Breck’s audience will put their trust in his evaluation of climate research . . . that he hasn’t read.

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