Despite enjoying a sixty-year career in television, meteorologist John Coleman called as much attention to himself for being a climate denier as he did for co-founding the Weather Channel cable network.
Coleman, who died in 2018 at the age of 83, first published posts in 2007 claiming — falsely — that the idea of global warming was the “greatest scam in history,” concocted by “environmental extremists” working alongside the media.
But as the Times of San Diego reported in 2017, his views had been percolating for years beforehand thanks to Joseph D’Aleo, with whom he founded the channel in 1982.
“We started together in 1977, I guess,” Coleman said. “He’s the one who has taught me about climate skepticism, about Algorian skepticism, and I learned it through him. And then I learned it through Willie Soon. It goes way, way back before 2007.”
After serving as the channel’s president and chief executive officer and working as a meteorologist in New York and Chicago, Coleman worked for 20 years for KUSI-TV, a conservative news outlet based out of San Diego, California, before retiring in April 2014.
Just under a year later, Coleman attracted headlines again when he released what he claimed was an “independent second opinion” of the findings of the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
“There is no significant man-made global warming at this time, there has been none in the past and there is no reason to fear any in the future,” Coleman claimed. “Efforts to prove the theory that carbon dioxide is a significant greenhouse gas and pollutant causing significant warming or weather effects have failed. There has been no warming over 18 years.”
Coleman’s denialism led both to him leaving the American Meteorological Society and the Weather Channel distancing itself from him; in 2014 David Kenny — the network’s chief executive officer at the time — told CNN that Coleman was “not really speaking for the Weather Channel in any way today” in pushing his claims.
In marking his passing, the channel’s obituary for Coleman noted his denialism by calling his views “controversial” while listing his contributions to the field.
“Thanks in large part to the tireless dedication of John Coleman, The Weather Channel became a true pioneer in cable TV,” weather journalist Bob Henson told the channel. “Coleman was the first to promote the idea of a nationwide weather channel, and he worked many long hours to make it happen. It’s tremendously unfortunate that Coleman later devoted the same energy and drive to dismissing climate change science, but this does not take away from his achievements in making accurate information on daily weather part of the cable-TV landscape.”
Update 1/5/2022 1:19 a.m. PST: This article has been revamped and updated. You can review the original here. -ag