Climate Doesn’t Have To Be A Dirty Word

James Spann
4 min readJul 20, 2021

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As a meteorologist with a very large social media footprint, I can tell you that mentioning the word “climate” will bring out much weeping and gnashing of teeth. Any post with the word evokes hate, anger, and rage, and the comment section becomes a place of keyboard brawls and toxicity. And, in some cases, weapons grade ignorance.

This is sad since climate, like weather, is an important and very interesting topic. I have been criticized (and attacked) because I don’t mention it enough, but my core role in life is to mitigate loss of life during tornadoes and severe thunderstorms, and the climate issue has become a huge red herring. A distraction that takes away from my mission. I need to be able to reach everyone across the political spectrum, all ages, all demographics. Say anything about climate and you lose half your audience. Which, is very sad. But it is the truth.

The politicization of climate is unfortunate. It has caused many scientists and the general population to go a self-censorship mode. The act of censoring or classifying one’s own discourse because of fear of being the target of mobs of intolerant political activists that don’t hold the same opinion.

It seems as though the political extremists have the loudest voices these days. This is what I see.

Those on the far left, in many cases, believe…

  • Anthropogenic climate change is an ELE (extinction level event) that will bring an end to life as we know it within 13 years.
  • Weather doesn’t exist; every flood, tornado, hurricane, wildfire, heat wave, and winter storm is caused, or enhanced, by man-made climate change.

And, over on the far right… the belief is…

  • The climate doesn’t change.
  • There is no anthropogenic element to climate change, and CO2 emissions have no influence.

These extremists are generally the ones you see fighting and trolling on the social platforms. Their allegiance is to politicians, political parties, and radical ideologies that have nothing to do with the truth.

I have said this many times before, and I will say it again here. I can’t stand politics. I have seen it tear the country apart, and I don’t like either party. I am a “no winger”. Of course, I vote. But that is it. I don’t think about politics 24/7 like some, and do my best to avoid the subject.

And, believe it or not, there are large numbers of us. We believe in the skill of critical thinking, something that used to be taught in schools at various levels. It is sad to see so many in this country that have no ability to think for themselves.

Here are some truths about climate that I hope we can all agree on.

  • The climate is changing.
  • Weather does exist. Extreme weather has always, and will always happen. A flood along Patton Creek in Vestavia on a summer evening is not caused by climate change.
  • Variations in the sun, volcanic eruptions, and changes in the orbit of the Earth around the sun exert an external control on climate variability.
  • There is an anthropogenic element to climate change.
  • CO2 is the lifeblood of the planet, but at the same time it is a greenhouse gas.
  • Too much of a good thing, like CO2 can be bad.

So much of the fight involves what makes the climate change. What is the “control knob”? Natural variability , or manmade increases in greenhouse gases. I will leave this fight to climate scientists; I am a practitioner that does weather.

Much like the guy that has been working on cars for 42 years, my hands have been in the atmosphere every day for 42 years professionally. But after all this time doing daily forecasting and analysis, it gives me some ability to comment on the subject.

The truth is that both natural variability and anthropogenic forcing are in play here.

I need to mention here that science is never “settled”. In the words of Charlotte Kahn… “Science evolves in response to new technologies, methodologies, data, and hypotheses. Isaac Newton’s theory of gravity informed our understanding of physics from 1687 to 1915. It was supplanted by Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity, which was then challenged by quantum physics. And so it goes.”

I hope we are all working for the same goal. Taking care of people, and taking care of the planet. I don’t like “big oil”, and I plan on getting an electric car soon. CO2 reduction has to occur, but not in a way that causes human suffering. Taking away affordable energy isn’t what needs to happen here; we need to make clean energy affordable so we don’t have a humanitarian crisis. We got man to the moon in the 1960s; we can do this.

When it comes to climate scientists, I fall in the Roger Pielke, Jr, Judith Curry, Cliff Mass, John Christy line of thinking when it comes to climate. They have been all demonized and called “deniers”, but none of them deny anthropogenic forcing in any way.

But, at the same time, I am a huge fan of those like Marshall Shepherd and Kerry Emanuel, who are more aggressive with their opinion on man made climate change and urgency needed to tackle it. Their voices are important and need to be heard.

I am posting this on Medium in an effort to keep toxic comments to a minimum. Will we ever be able to discuss climate again in a civil way? I sure hope so. Please be kind, and listen to those that have a different view of the subject. And, stay away from the usual loud mouth right wing and left wing politicians; most of them have absolutely no idea how the atmosphere actually works. They are just spewing the party line.

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James Spann

AMS certified meteorologist in the media. Host of WeatherBrains.