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OPINION: James Spann on climate change, politics and religion

OPINION:  James Spann on climate change, politics and religion
OPINION: James Spann on climate change, politics and religion
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From James Spann on

Is There Any Common Ground?

If this were part of a WeatherBrains (our weekly podcast about weather) segment, the buzzer would be sounding multiple times. I tend to stay away from polarizing issues on the show, but maybe the time has come to say something. This essay involves climate change, politics and religion. Hang on to your hat.


We live in a society that loves to latch on to a cause, and fight for it. Sounds noble, but fighting becomes very unproductive at times. We move into echo chambers where we hear what we want to hear, and surround us with people who have similar beliefs and world views. Accordingly, we become closed minded, and unable to look at anything with a different filter. So it goes with climate.

And, I don't like it. The minute you say the word "climate", immediately people on both sides of the debate get their back arched and they are ready to attack. It is a word I avoid on WeatherBrains because it brings on hate, anger, and rage. This is so sad because is a very interesting topic that shouldn't be a dirty word.

On one side, we have those that think climate change is primarily caused by man, and is the greatest threat to the planet and society today. Their talking points

97 percent of climate scientists side with them.

All major scientific societies are on board.

"Big oil" is paying off those that disagree; mounting a targeted campaign of disinformation.

The science is "settled".

Anyone that disagrees with them is a "denier".

Others believe climate change is mostly driven by natural variability, man's influence is small, or non-existent, and is beyond our control in any way. They will tell you

The John Cook (an Australian scientist) "97 percent" study is deeply flawed; only 34 percent of the papers Cook examined expressed any opinion about anthropogenic climate change at all.

Major scientific societies are on board simply to protect the financial interests of their members, who in many cases are reaping huge financial rewards from this issue.

There is no such thing as "settled" science.

Government agencies are presenting surface data sets that have been altered to support their position, opening the door for new policy changes that will ultimate take away affordable energy. This in turn will bring human suffering where affordable energy goes away.

Unfortunately the subject of climate has become intensely politicized, which leads to the topic of


Climate is now part of the fight that divides our nation. Left vs right. Democrat vs Republican. Liberal vs conservative.

Generally speaking, liberals are all in on anthropogenic global warming, while conservatives believe it is a government scam. Yes, there are exceptions, but we all know this is the general rule.

I see meteorologists and climate scientists spending time they don't have (if they do their job right they shouldn't have the time) promoting politicians that agree and promote their side of the climate argument. Some of these work for NOAA (but not many, due to obvious reasons); most work in the private sector (broadcast, etc). I will assure you, if you are a broadcast meteorologist that has a good following, you will alienate half of your viewers, readers, and followers going down this path. Sure, in your heart you KNOW you are right, and it is your job to convince the world you are right.

But sassy Twitter and Facebook posts about climate and politics won't change anyone's mind. People are following you to get weather information, not advice on who to vote for. You will drive everyone away from your feed except those that agree with you politically. Back to the echo chamber.

And, after battling back and forth on politics, then the subject leads to a ruckus over


Let me say up front that I am a Christian, and I believe science and Christianity are fully compatible. And, I should mention I don't consider myself "religious" since Christianity is a "relationship". I could care less about some coffee shop's red cups; it is my job to take care of widows, orphans, and people in need.

However, many progressives believe that Christians are "anti science", and are all "deniers" on the climate issue.

Then it leads down the path of topics and words like "the earth is 4,000 years old", "creationism", and "evolution". Ultimately, you will be told by many that Christians are "science deniers" in general. And, anyone that holds the belief that Jesus Christ is God's son, and died for the sins of man should not be allowed to take part in the climate debate because of their ignorance and inability to think. An exception is made for the pope due to his climate stance.

Interesting to note that this comes from those those who promote "tolerance".

And, some Christians tend to believe some scientists are charlatans that deny Biblical truth. Which does indeed lead to some science denial.

Here we go again believers vs non believers. More fighting.


I do believe there is great common ground we need to review among meteorologists and climatologists. Can we agree on these things?

The climate is changing. Always has, and always will. There is no such thing as a "climate denier". What some deny is that manmade greenhouse gases are the primary driver of climate change.

CO2 is a greenhouse gas. Actually, the life blood of the planet. But, too much of a good thing can be bad.

We need to take care of the planet.

Human life is precious.

The debate involves the role of man in climate change. And, we can have healthy debate and conversation without the hate, anger, and rage. The time has come to treat those that disagree with you with propriety and respect. That is my definition of "tolerance".

Most know I am a "skeptic". I have been in operational meteorology for 37 years, looking at maps and studying weather daily. I am waiting on empirical evidence of increased "extreme weather events". Those that disagree with me tend to believe every tornado, flood, heat wave, snow storm, tropical storm, and wildfire is caused by anthropogenic climate change. I don't.

I believe skeptics that are seriously searching for the truth are the real champions of the scientific method. See the work of climatologists Judith Curry (Georgia Tech) and John Christy (Alabama state climatologist at the University of Alabama in Huntsville); they are much more qualified than me to speak on the subject. And, no, they don't get paychecks from "big oil".

But, I love to read and listen to those that disagree with me. Always have, and always will. People like Marshall Shepherd (University of Georgia) and Stu Ostro (The Weather Channel). Brilliant scientists with no financial or political interest in this issue, and no, they aren't getting rich from grant money or paychecks from radical environmental organizations.

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Is there a way to open up a dialogue and not make "climate" a dirty word? I sure hope so. For those of us sincerely looking for truth, I know we can make it happen. I encourage you to get out of your echo chamber and listen to those that might have a different opinion. I am committed to it, and I hope you are too.

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