On Wednesday, July 11, four days after the Live Earth concert and the night that the Union of Concerned Scientists released a report stating the Northeast region was at dire risk of global warming-related disaster, former TV weatherman Art Horn told the 12 people assembled in the community room of Granby's police department that man-made global warming is a myth.
With his rumpled shirt, and TV-friendly delivery, Horn's demeanor matched a junior high school science teacher. It was a very effective presentation. Horn's assertions — mainly that the earth was going through a natural warming period and that the data linking industrial carbon emissions and climate change is incorrect — were presented in colloquial, easily understandable language.
The crowd appeared to watch Horn's slide show intently. They rolled along when Horn mocked global warming advocate groups. They laughed at his jokes, nodding over his insinuations about the pocket-lining motives behind Al Gore's film An Inconvenient Truth. Gore's company, Generation Investment Management, Horn noted, deals in carbon offsets, directing investor money towards businesses involved with non-carbon emitting energy production.
"Global warming is a business. It's an industry," Horn said near the presentation's end, adding: "If you don't believe in global warming, you're almost like a heretic or a heathen."
An audience member asked if Horn had read Michael Crichton's environmentalist-vilifying novel The State of Fear. Horn hadn't and regretted it. After more questions, Horn turned to the prospect of carbon taxes.
"If global warming is a myth, we'd be taxing ourselves for nothing," Horn said.
Horn has been giving the presentation Global Warming: Fact or Fiction, since last fall, at libraries and other public meeting places throughout Connecticut, Massachusetts and Florida. He conducts the presentation, and other weather-related one-man shows with titles like The Wonders of Weather, through his company the Art of Weather. In addition, he produced the 2006 Emmy-nominated public television documentary Hurricane: Direct Hit.
He started the speaking company in 2004, while he worked at the local NBC affiliate WVIT. A year later, he was informed his services were no longer required by WVIT, and he focused his energy on his independent business. He's been a full-time speaker since, bringing his self-described infotainment presentations to venues ranging from assisted living facilities to cruise ships. He's also provided expert testimony on weather-related court cases; think someone slipping on ice and suing the owner of the property where the slip occurred.
A self-described political moderate, Horn said he first conceived of the global warming presentation to engage with the popular topic of climate change, and he started from the premise that global warming didn't exist.
"There's such confusion in the general public about it because there's been such a drumbeat from the advocates of global warming," Horn said. "It's not a two-sided discussion. All you hear is that global warming is real, that it's man-made and it's going to kill you all."
And while the presentation and information about global warming appears to lean politically to the right — his site links to the right wing Web site World Net Daily and he has given global warming testimony on local conservative radio host Brad Davis' show — Horn maintains the presentation is not political.
"I'm not on a crusade. As part of business and what I do, this is right up my alley. It's something I have some experience with and feel reasonably qualified to talk about," Horn said.
Unlike many TV weathermen who don't have meteorological training, Horn has a Bachelor of Science in meteorology.
"There's no licensing for meteorologists. If you know a little weather speak, almost anyone can call themselves a meteorologist," Horn said.
Put simply, the theory behind global warming is that the rise of man-made carbon dioxide gases in the atmosphere is causing the earth's temperature to rise. Carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, including water vapor and ozone, warm the planet by absorbing the sun's radiation. Normally, that heat is cooled by the earth's oceans and land masses. The increase in carbon dioxide in the industrial age has offset that balance, causing heat to rise worldwide.
Horn believes the danger presented by man-made carbon emissions has been overstated. In his presentation, Horn notes that carbon dioxide accounts for about three percent of green house gases and water vapor makes up almost all of the rest.
In addition, Horn says, only about three percent of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is man-made. The amount of man-made carbon in the atmosphere, Horn says, composes less than a tenth of the total atmosphere. According to Horn, such a small percentage couldn't possibly have an effect on global climate.
Why have temperatures gone up and why are the icebergs melting, then? Horn ascribes rising temperatures to a natural warming and cooling cycle the earth has always gone through. In his presentation, he shows slides of paintings from the 1400s, when he says a little ice age occurred, and says concerns over warming are silly since he believes the world could be in store for another little ice age.
"The things that control climate are complex. A lot of it has to do with the sun ... and the changes that occur to it," Horn said. "The oceans play a huge role. They go through fluctuations. The Pacific Ocean warms up."
The global warming myth, Horn believes, has been drummed up by a media "that never saw a gloom and doom story they didn't like" so that media-savvy, politically connected businessmen like Al Gore can make money through carbon offset enterprises.
Horn said that he wasn't alone in his beliefs about global warming, citing Web sites such as icecap.us and climatescience.org.
"I'm not alone. There are many world respected meteorologists that feel the same way," Horn said.
Members of the scientific community who support the existence of man-made global warming say that while many of Horn's assertions about the atmosphere are correct, his conclusions are not.
"Quite often in these arguments that are put forward by what I call science skeptics, they do something called Ignoratio elenchi, or logical fallacies. The first statement is correct, and there is no logical connection to other," said Bill Chameides, the chief scientist at nonprofit environmental advocacy and research group Environmental Defense.
While water vapor is far more present in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide, Chameides said Horn misstates the symbiotic relationship between water vapor and other greenhouse gasses.
"We add carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, and that makes the atmosphere warmer, which causes there to be more water vapor in the atmosphere, which causes it to be warmer still. The fundamental cause of global warming is the rise of carbon dioxide," Chameides said.
The balance of greenhouse gasses is delicate, and even a relatively small increase could nudge temperatures upwards.
Brenda Ekwurzel, a climate scientist with the Union of Concerned Scientists, said that Horn's suppositions miss out on critical nuances of climate science.
"He's looking at cold numbers about how much water vapor there is, and how much carbon dioxide there is and drawing very simplified conclusions that sound scientific but are missing a lot of the key points about climate," Ekwurzel said.
Horn's assertion that the earth's temperature fluctuates through hot and cold periods is common and correct, Ekwurzel said, but even with the low periods taken into account, the world's temperature has risen considerably more in the industrial age. Chameides said Horn's conclusions about natural temperature fluctuations are indicative of Horn's general logical missteps.
"The first statement is that the earth goes through warming and cooling cycles. That's true. The next statement is therefore the current warming is due to the same cycles," Chameides said. "There's no logical connection between the two statements. ... Physics tells us that greenhouse gasses cause global warming."
Ekwurzel or Chameides both discounted Horn's claim that only three percent of carbon emmisions are man-made.
"The claims are common if you haven't been trained in climate science," said Ekwurzel. "He's looking at the composition of the atmosphere and drawing conclusions without understanding all the various properties of water vapor versus carbon dioxide and so on."
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