Fact Check

Did a Weather Channel Co-Founder Disprove Climate Change?

Comments by Weather Channel co-founder John Coleman supposedly refute global warming, but they were not an accurate analysis of climate change science.

Published Jun 20, 2008

Weather Channel co-founder John Coleman provided evidence that convincingly refutes the concept of anthropogenic global warming.

On 1 June 2017, President Donald Trump announced that he would withdraw the United States from the Paris Agreement, an international accord that seeks to "bring all nations into a common cause to undertake ambitious efforts to combat climate change and adapt to its effects." Many environmentalists, scientists, politicians, and others criticized President Trump's decision, one entity among that group of dissenters being the web site of the Weather Channel, which was altered in ways that clearly indicated disagreement with the President's announcement:

This form of protest might have seemed all the more surprising given that the Weather Channel's co-founder has long disputed the concept of anthropogenic global warming.

John Coleman, who passed away in January 2018, was a former television weather forecaster who worked in that field for over six decades, at a number of different TV stations across the U.S., until he suddenly retired from his last job at KUSI-TV in San Diego in April 2014. Coleman pioneered the use of such now-standard TV weather forecasting elements as onscreen satellite technology and computer graphics, and he was also instrumental in the founding of The Weather Channel (TWC) on cable television, serving as that channel's CEO and President during its establishment and its first year of operation.

John Coleman also became, in later years, an outspoken critic of the global warming issue, stating that his epiphany came while he was viewing a football game in 2007:

The Eagles were playing the Cowboys in Philadelphia on Sunday Night Football, and as a gesture of environmental awareness — it was "Green is Universal" week at NBC-Universal — the studio lights were cut for portions of the pre-game and half-time shows. Coleman, who had been growing increasingly skeptical about global warming for more than a decade, finally snapped. "I couldn’t take it anymore," said. "I did a Howard Beale."

In November 2007 Coleman penned a widely-reproduced essay in which he labeled global warming "the greatest scam in history" and "a manufactured crisis," and he delivered a speech in that same vein to the San Diego Chamber of Commerce in June 2008:

You may want to give credit where credit is due to Al Gore and his global warming campaign the next time you fill your car with gasoline, because there is a direct connection between Global Warming and four dollar a gallon gas. It is shocking, but true, to learn that the entire Global Warming frenzy is based on the environmentalist’s attack on fossil fuels, particularly gasoline. All this big time science, international meetings, thick research papers, dire threats for the future; all of it, comes down to their claim that the carbon dioxide in the exhaust from your car and in the smoke stacks from our power plants is destroying the climate of planet Earth. What an amazing fraud; what a scam.

The future of our civilization lies in the balance.

That's the battle cry of the High Priest of Global Warming Al Gore and his fellow, agenda driven disciples as they predict a calamitous outcome from anthropogenic global warming. According to Mr. Gore the polar ice caps will collapse and melt and sea levels will rise 20 feet inundating the coastal cities making 100 million of us refugees. Vice President Gore tells us numerous Pacific islands will be totally submerged and uninhabitable. He tells us global warming will disrupt the circulation of the ocean waters, dramatically changing climates, throwing the world food supply into chaos. He tells us global warming will turn hurricanes into super storms, produce droughts, wipe out the polar bears and result in bleaching of coral reefs. He tells us tropical diseases will spread to mid latitudes and heat waves will kill tens of thousands. He preaches to us that we must change our lives and eliminate fossil fuels or face the dire consequences. The future of our civilization is in the balance.

With a preacher's zeal, Mr. Gore sets out to strike terror into us and our children and make us feel we are all complicit in the potential demise of the planet.

Here is my rebuttal.

There is no significant man made global warming. There has not been any in the past, there is none now and there is no reason to fear any in the future. The climate of Earth is changing. It has always changed. But mankind’s activities have not overwhelmed or significantly modified the natural forces.

[Rest of speech here.]

Although this item is superficially "true" in the sense that the words quoted above were indeed written by John Coleman, the statement that they "refute" global warming (i.e., prove it to be false) is something of an exaggeration. As Coleman's critics have noted, he did not hold a degree in climatology or any related discipline, nor did he study or conduct any research in that field; he merely parroted arguments advanced by others:

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.

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. 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.

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.

Moreover, much of Coleman's criticism of climate change dealt with impugning the motives of those engaged in that discipline rather than refuting the science behind their work:

For the many Americans who don't understand the difference between weather — the short-term behavior of the atmosphere — and climate — the broader system in which weather happens — Coleman's professional background made him a genuine authority on global warming. It was an impression that Coleman encouraged. Global warming "is not something you 'believe in,'" he wrote in his essay. "It is science; the science of meteorology. This is my field of life-long expertise."

Except that it wasn't. Coleman had spent half a century in the trenches of TV weathercasting; he had once been an accredited meteorologist, and remained a virtuoso forecaster. But his work was more a highly technical art than a science. His degree, received fifty years earlier at the University of Illinois, was in journalism. And then there was the fact that the research that Coleman was rejecting wasn't "the science of meteorology" at all — it was the science of climatology, a field in which Coleman had spent no time whatsoever.

Skepticism is, of course, the core value of scientific inquiry. But the essay that Coleman published would have more properly been termed rejectionism. Coleman wasn't arguing against the integrity of a particular conclusion based on careful original research — something that would have constituted useful scientific skepticism. Instead, he went after the motives of the scientists themselves. Climate researchers, he wrote, "look askance at the rest of us, certain of their superiority. They respect government and disrespect business, particularly big business. They are environmentalists above all else."

Critics of Coleman who do study and work in the field of climate science have produced detailed line-by-line rebuttals of his arguments against global warming.


Homans, Charles.   "Hot Air."     Columbia Journalism Review.   7 January 2010.

Peterson, Carla.   "Forecast for John Coleman: Retirement."     U-T San Diego.   10 April 2014.

Weyrich, Paul M.   "A False Frenzy on Global Warming "     CNSNews.   11 July 2008.

Samenow, Jason.   "Why Does Anyone Pay Attention to John Coleman, Weather Channel Co-Founder, on Climate Change?"     The Washington Post.   3 November 2014.