Southern Blend – James Spann’s difficult climate
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James Spann’s difficult climate
“’Research has found a human influence on the climate of the past several decades … The IPCC (2013), USGCRP (2017), and USGCRP (2018) indicate that it is extremely likely that human influence has been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-twentieth century.’ (2019)” – The American Meteorological Society
Alright, y’all, I’m gonna’ need y’all to bear with me here. I’m gonna’ bring up a subject that may hurt your feelings about something. I’m going to bring up facts that fly in the face of what many choose to believe. Not only that, but I want to discuss a topic that, frankly, may tick some of y’all off. Judging by the introductory quote, you may think I’m here to preach to you about climate change. No, I’m writing about something even more controversial –
James Spann is wrong about something.
Okay. I know. It’s hard. Just take a breath. Go for a walk. Call your mom. Whatever you need to do.
Let me establish that it’s not my goal to change your mind about climate change. Either your objective, thoughtful research on such an important topic has led to you agreeing with 97% of climate scientists, or it hasn’t.
James Spann, one of the most famous Alabamians today, keeps his cards close to his chest on many things. He maintains a professional demeanor and does not often provide analysis or opinion on things outside of the weather. However, over time he’s received quite a few questions about climate change – which makes sense. For most folks, weather reports are the only science communication people consume on a regular basis. For people within this majority, those who might have questions about climate change are likely to ask their local meteorologists.
In an interview with “Vice,” Spann stated the following:
“They hire me here to forecast the weather. They didn’t hire me as a climatologist to discuss these things…Natural variability in my opinion is still the primary driver — and all of a sudden you become a sinner.”
Interestingly enough, it seems that meteorologists are the largest group of scientists who are skeptics regarding climate change. According to a 2016-2017 survey of 2,000 American Meteorological Society members, it is commonly reported that 38% were skeptical of human causation on climate change. However, there is a very important detail to catch here – this common report is a false representation of the data.
Despite my limited word count, I think it is vital to report the data directly: 29% think the change over the past is largely human-caused, 38% think it’s mostly caused by humans, 14% think it is about equal between human and natural causes, 5% think it’s mostly natural events, 6% report they don’t know, and 1% think it isn’t happening at all. Please look up the information from AMS directly.
A former president of the AMS has weighed in on this issue, as well, with another concern – many surveys regarding climate change ask about human causation of climate change over the past 150 years. This is also misleading, as no one thinks humans were having a major impact on climate change in the late 1800s.
It’s also noteworthy that only 37% of these respondents felt confident that they are experts on climate science.
James Spann’s hesitance on climate change puts him in a much smaller minority than many think. But why is this? Of course, this very well could be his scientific opinion, to which he is entitled. Disagreement and discussion are a cornerstone of the peer review process anyway. However, there is another hypothesis commonly found in researching this topic. Meteorologists depend on public perception for their professional success. Think about it, how many scientists’ social media pages do you follow? Shoot, how many modern-day scientists can you name off the top of your head?
Many meteorologists feel uncomfortable weighing in on controversial issues because having a scientific opinion that doesn’t jibe with their region’s public will hurt their viewership. Or at least, they think so. It’s becoming more and more common for meteorologists to actually host a segment on the air or online informing the public about climate change and how they can have an impact on it. Of course, not around here. But it does happen.
Another impact on Mr. Spann’s willingness or unwillingness to communicate about scientific issues connected to climate change is ABC 33/40s owner, Sinclair Broadcast Group. Sinclair, a media conglomerate that owns numerous local TV stations throughout the country, came under fire for anchors communicating about climate change, directly dictating messages for all of their anchors to state on-air and cozying up to the White House in the midst of a deal that would have led to them owning 70% of local TV stations. I can’t definitively say that this has impacted Mr. Spann’s point of view, but I would be surprised if it hasn’t at least impacted his willingness to talk about it.
James Spann is in a minority of scientists, of whom a minority doubts that climate change is impacted by humans. What we value the most about Mr. Spann, myself included, is that he is a hard worker, a seemingly nice person, and an excellent communicator. I do not mean to imply he is bad at meteorology – though honestly, I don’t know what makes a good meteorologist different from a bad one. It’s kinda’ like how I don’t really recognize the difference between bad Spam and good Spam. Seems the same to me, but I’m not gonna’ take the time to figure out what all is involved.
I tell you what though. If 97% of Spam scientists tell me to get name brand, while 3% tell me to go off-brand…I’m getting the right can.