Hurricane Forecaster Rejects Human-Induced Global Warming as ‘Foolishness’

The 2007 National Hurricane Conference ended in New Orleans on April 6 with its principal speaker unleashing a fiery indictment of climate change science, the mainstream media and former Vice-President and environmental activist Al Gore.

On the same day that the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released its latest report, professor of atmospheric science William Gray, a hurricane forecaster at Colorado State University, dismissed the scientific consensus that global warming is a real problem, that it is caused by human activity and that it will lead to more intense storms like Hurricane Katrina.

His speech made headlines around the world and overshadowed a week of courses and workshops on advances in disaster management, public preparedness education and emergency communication systems.

“You’ve heard a lot of foolishness over the last couple years,” said Dr Gray. “I think the whole human-induced greenhouse gas thing is a red herring … I see climate change as due to the ocean circulation pattern.” He believes the earth has been in a natural warming cycle for 30 years owing to fluctuations in ocean currents and that temperatures will cool down in another five to ten years as the currents shift again.

He singled out Mr Gore as a “gross alarmist” and said: “He’s one of these guys that preaches the end of the world type of things. I think he’s doing a great disservice and he doesn’t know what he’s talking about.”

Yet the latter charge is one that Dr Gray has had to increasingly defend because his theories on climate change have isolated him in the scientific community. He no longer receives government grants to conduct his research, and his views are rejected by the overwhelming majority of his peers. His conference speeches are notable for their quotes from Senator James Inhofe (R-Okla.) and science fiction author Michael Crichton, while lacking in references to scientific research.

Critics have said that Dr Gray has not allowed his claims about global warming to be evaluated by the scientific community.  Dr Judith Curry, Chair of the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at Georgia Institute of Technology, told the Palm Beach Post that the merits of scientific theories must be tested by being published in leading journals such as Science and Nature, yet “I have not seen any refereed publications written by Bill Gray on this topic during the last few years. Research scientists conduct their exchange of ideas in the peer-reviewed literature and at professional conferences, not through the media.”

Dr Gray also took aim at the news media for reporting the IPCC’s findings, and suggested that the scientific consensus only gets coverage because it “makes a hell of a good story”. On the other hand, media ethics experts insist that it is incumbent on journalists to report evidence-based scientific findings while treating untested fringe theories with caution, which is especially important when science meets politics.

Journalist and author Chris Mooney, who has written extensively on science in politics, has argued in the Columbia Journalism Review that “… scientific consensus can be expected to hold up under scrutiny precisely because it was reached through a lengthy and rigorous process of professional skepticism and criticism. At the very least, journalists covering science-based policy debates should familiarize themselves with this professional proving ground, learn what it says about the relative merits of competing claims, and balance their reports accordingly.”

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