“Sometimes it makes your skin crawl”: KCOL's Weinman promoted dubious Martian parallel to global warming

Discussing climate change, Fox News Radio 600 KCOL's Keith Weinman repeated the dubious theory that Martian warming indicates solar activity is the “major” cause of global warming on Earth. But National Geographic has reported that it is “one scientist's controversial theory” and has quoted another scientist as saying that it is “completely at odds with the mainstream scientific opinion.”

On the September 28 Mornings with Keith and Gail! broadcast, Fox News Radio 600 KCOL co-host Keith Weinman promoted the discredited theory that warming on Mars proves that variability in solar radiation is “the major thing that's going on” in global warming on Earth. As Colorado Media Matters and Media Matters for America have noted, according to a February 28 National Geographic article, the idea that warming on Mars somehow belies the reality that climate change on Earth is primarily the result of human activity is “one scientist's controversial theory” that “has not been well received by other climate scientists.”

Weinman recounted to co-host Gail Fallen having overheard a mother explain global warming to her son as “totally human caused” -- which, compared with “the actual reality of it,” according to Weinman, “makes your skin crawl.”

From the September 28 broadcast of Fox News Radio 600 KCOL's Mornings with Keith and Gail!:

WEINMAN: You know, if I had a dollar for every time I've sat somewhere and heard a parent getting into a conversation with a child about global warming, and have been frustrated by the fact -- and it's, I'm not claiming to be a know-it-all here, it's just that we've, in researching the topic for talk radio, you compare what we've learned, what actually exists, the actual reality of it, with what I hear parents tell children. Sometimes it makes your skin crawl.

FALLEN: How so?

WEINMAN: I heard, overheard a conversation, a mother talking to a, she had two kids at the table; there were other family members at the table -- this was just at lunch like somewhere. And it was the table next to us -- or it may have been breakfast -- and it was the table next to us -- “next to us” -- it was me going to, reading the newspapers. And I tuned in on this conversation, this mother telling this what -- grade school child, giving her, giving him the two cents' worth on global warming. And I don't remember the specific language but it was -- there was no question that Mom was telling child that it is totally human caused, that we are in a bad way, and that unless we do something about it with regard to the whole carbon footprint thing, we're gonna destroy the planet. Wildlife is gonna die, the poles are going to melt, the ice caps are going to melt, and we're in deep doo-doo. When in reality -- and politically -- now politically, you might believe that as we sit here this morning, or you might, you might have taken a broader look at all the science that's come in and realized that it is, is, it is very, very probable that it is a normal fluctuation over time in the climate of a planet for something like this to happen. And that it's also probable that, yes, we're having some effect on our climate, but we are not, we're not the controlling factor. We can't control the climate on the planet.

FALLEN: Well, case and point, you have to remember that scientists have actually measured the impact, the effects of global warming on Mars. What, is this the result of Spirit and Opportunity trolling?

WEINMAN: Exactly.

FALLEN: No, I don't think so.

WEINMAN: And the trends on Mars are the same as the trends on the planet Earth. What do Mars and the planet Earth have in common? The sun. That's all. The sun is a burning ball of hydrogen and it varies in the radiation and the heat that it puts off. It's not absolutely totally consistent; it has varied over time. And that's the major, that's the major thing that's going on here. We for political reasons want to assign it to ourselves. Again, for political reasons, and that wasn't part of the conversation between the mother and the son. It could have been; he wasn't that -- he was easily old enough to understand that. To understand the science involved. 866-triple 8-5449 if you have any feelings on this. It was just frustrating to sit there and listen because there's a young mind, and you would love to have the young mind get accurate, unbiased infomation.

However, Media Matters has pointed out that claims about “Martian warming” echoed what National Geographic described as “one scientist's controversial theory” positing that “global warming on Earth is being caused by changes in the sun.” National Geographic reported that Habibullo Abdussamatov, head of St. Petersburg's Pulkovo Astronomical Observatory in Russia, noted that “2005 data from NASA's Mars Global Surveyor and Odyssey” show that “the carbon dioxide 'ice caps' near Mars's south pole had been diminishing for three summers in a row,” and theorized that because warming is occurring naturally on Mars, warming on Earth might also be attributable to natural causes. According to the article, “Abdussamatov believes that changes in the sun's heat output can account for almost all the climate changes we see on both planets.”

But National Geographic went on to report that Abdussamatov's theory has “not been well received by other climate scientists,” and quoted “Colin Wilson, a planetary physicist at England's Oxford University,” as saying that Abdussamatov's views “are completely at odds with the mainstream scientific opinion.” According to Wilson, "[T]hey contradict the extensive evidence presented in the most recent IPCC [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] report." The article added that "[t]he conventional theory is that climate changes on Mars can be explained primarily by small alterations in the planet's orbit and tilt, not by changes in the sun," and that “most scientists think it is pure coincidence that both planets are between ice ages right now.”

Further contradicting the theory that the sun is responsible for increased warming on the Earth, as Colorado Media Matters has noted, the 2007 IPCC report found that "[t]he rapid warming observed since the 1970s has occurred in a period when the increase in greenhouse gases has dominated over all other factors." The report further stated: “The human influence on climate very likely dominates over all other causes of change in global average surface temperature during the past half century.” Specifically addressing the possible contributions of solar activity to warming, the report concluded:

It is extremely unlikely (<5%) that the global pattern of warming during the past half century can be explained without external forcing, and very unlikely that it is due to known natural external causes alone. The warming occurred in both the ocean and the atmosphere and took place at a time when natural external forcing factors would likely have produced cooling.

Greenhouse gas forcing has very likely caused most of the observed global warming over the last 50 years. This conclusion takes into account observational and forcing uncertainty, and the possibility that the response to solar forcing could be underestimated by climate models. It is also robust to the use of different climate models, different methods for estimating the responses to external forcing and variations in the analysis technique. [emphasis in original]