Weather alert — smoke blowing in this Kansas Senate race

July 27, 2020 7:00 am
Former WDAF chief meteorologist and current Kansas Sen. Mike Thompson in a video announcing why he has formed a nonprofit called the Academy for Climate and Energy Analysis. (Screenshot)

Former WDAF chief meteorologist and current Kansas Sen. Mike Thompson in a video announcing why he has formed a nonprofit called the Academy for Climate and Energy Analysis. (Screenshot)

Late July is the traditional forecasting season in Kansas: Trying to predict which brand of Republican, conservative or “moderate,” will win the party’s primary on the first Tuesday of August.

The game is less fun since actual moderate Republicans are as threatened as lesser prairie chickens. But this year, a couple of primaries stand out.

One is in the westward-sweeping swath of Johnson County that makes up Kansas Senate District 10, which stars a former weatherman who is also an official climate change skeptic.

Sen. Mike Thompson, who TV watchers will remember from his days as chief meteorologist at WDAF, is running for the first time even though he’s an incumbent. (In a suspiciously timed move, the loopy, extreme conservative Sen. Mary Pilcher-Cook announced her resignation in December and departed on Jan. 16; to serve out her term, Republican precinct committee members voted unanimously to install Thompson.)

Thompson’s contrarian position on climate change came to public attention more than a decade ago, when some scientists were fighting among themselves, sometimes rudely, about whether man-made global warming was a problem. It does not seem to have evolved.

In January, he released a slick video to launch something called the Academy for Climate and Energy Analysis. It’s not the kind of weathercast people will remember from Thompson’s days at Fox4 News.

He’s been watching “a very different type of storm brewing over the last 30 years,” he says. This is the new storm of climate alarmism.

Thompson is a media professional. So when he deploys footage of a distinctly non-white woman warning about “the destruction of our planet” in an ethnic, coastal-sounding accent, that’s purposeful. As are clips from Demon Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Sequel” and other lefty images.

Wanting to know what was truly in Mike Thompson’s heart, I called him. Confessing that I was a climate alarmist, I asked him why he doesn’t think climate change is that big of a problem.

He asked if I had two hours.

“I give lectures on this stuff and go into great detail,” he said. “It’s not a simple sound bite kind of answer,” he said.

He proceeded with some statistics involving carbon dioxide parts per million.

The air around my phone was getting hot.

He summarized: “Climate change happens all the time, has been for thousands and thousands of years and it happens naturally. It has to do with solar cycles, ocean temperatures and things of that nature. So it doesn’t make sense to think that man can really have a huge impact either way, either on the climate or on stopping what nature is going to do.”

His concern, Thompson said, was that “we’re making very bad policy decisions, very expensive policy decisions that are going to affect the future of us, and our kids and our grandkids, for something that there’s nothing we can do to alter.”

“A lot of people think, ‘Oh gosh he’s a climate denier.’ No, no, no, no,” he said. “I’m certainly not advocating for polluting or doing anything to harm the environment, but I think we’re looking at the wrong problem.”

I asked him about another aspect of science: evolution.

“I’m Christian,” he said. “I’m a Catholic. I believe the Catholic belief of creation.”

Not a Catholic myself, I asked for a little more detail.

“I’m not a Darwinist,” he said. “I don’t believe in the apes evolving into man.”

We left things cordially. He’s an avuncular guy with troubling views.

The day before my call with Thompson, in a candidate forum sponsored by the Shawnee Chamber of Commerce, Thompson summed up by saying, “I look at things through the prism of your benefit financially, economically and morally.”

It’s conservatives’ narrow vision of “your benefit” when they’re combining money and morality that always alarms me the most.

Thompson faces a primary challenge from Rep. Tom Cox, who is looking to move up after two terms in the Kansas House.

“I think climate change is a real thing,” Cox told me, “and that’s one of the reasons I’ve been very supportive of pursuing renewable energy sources. Because I think that’s one of the most impactful state policies we can make to address it.”

Climate change isn’t coming up on the campaign trail, Cox said.

That’s understandable, given this summer’s circumstances. But dangerous levels of scientific denial are partly what got us here. I’m no expert, which is why I trust the scientists whose nearly universal agreement suggests Mike Thompson is passing gas over the precincts of Senate District 10.

Choose wisely, Republicans.

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C.J. Janovy
C.J. Janovy

C.J. Janovy is a veteran journalist with deep roots in the Midwest. She was the Opinion Editor for the Kansas Reflector from launch unit l June 2021. Before joining the Reflector, she was an editor and reporter at Kansas City’s NPR affiliate, KCUR. Before that, she edited the city’s alt-weekly newspaper, The Pitch, where Janovy and her writers won numerous local, regional and national awards. Her book “No Place Like Home: Lessons in Activism from LGBT Kansas” was among the Kansas Notable Books of 2019.