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France’s top weatherman says he was placed 'on leave' for stance on climate change

© AFP / Bertrand Guay | Weatherman Philippe Verdier poses on March 21, 2013, during a photo call as part of the Forum de la Meteo in Paris, on the eve of the 10th International Weather and Climate Forum

Text by Sam BALL

Latest update : 2015-10-15

One of France’s most prominent weathermen said Wednesday that he was told by his state broadcaster employer not to return to work after publishing a book in which he accused scientists of misleading the world over the threat of climate change.

Philippe Verdier, head of the weather service at state broadcaster France Télévisions, has not appeared on screen since Monday amid a growing furore over his book “Climate Investigation”, published earlier this month.

His employer has said Verdier was “on leave” without divulging further information. But the weatherman has disputed this, saying France Télévisions sent him a letter “asking me not to come in”.

"This has to do with my book,” he told France’s RTL radio station. "It is France Télévisions’ decision; I'm not on leave.”

“I am being punished for exercising my freedom of expression,” he added.

In his book, Verdier – a household name in France for his daily weather reports on the France 2 channel – accuses state-funded climate change scientists of having been “manipulated” and “politicised”, even accusing the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) of publishing deliberately misleading data.

He also argues that there are “a great many positive consequences to global warming”, such as lower consumption of fuel used for heating and fewer cold-related deaths in winter.

Climate change ‘a global scandal’

“Every night I address five million French people to talk to you about the wind, the clouds and the sun,” Verdier, who denies being a climate change sceptic, said in a promotional video for the book.

“And yet there is something important, very important, that I haven’t been able to tell you, because it’s neither the time nor the place to do so," he said.

“We are being held hostage to a global scandal over climate change – a war machine whose aim is to keep us in fear."

Though Verdier concedes that global warming is a real phenomenon, he questions claims by climate scientists that temperatures will continue to rise if no action is taken.

“We are undoubtedly on a plateau in terms of warming and the cyclical variability of the climate doesn’t allow us to foresee if the natural rhythm will tomorrow lead us towards a fall, a stagnation or a rise (in temperature),” he writes in his book.

The controversy around Verdier’s claims has likely been heightened by their timing, coming just weeks before the start of a much-anticipated UN climate change summit, known as COP21, to be held in Paris at the end of November.

"I put myself in the path of COP21, which is a bulldozer, and this is the result,” Verdier told RTL.

He said he was inspired to write the book after France’s Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius met with TV meteorologists and asked them to highlight climate change issues in their broadcasts.

“I was horrified by this speech,” Verdier told French magazine Les Inrockuptibles earlier this month.

“It was at that moment that I realised that the walls between the media, scientists and politicians had broken down.”

Verdier said he did not know how long the suspension from France Télévisions would last, adding that he was “shocked” and “hurt” by the decision and was considering legal action.

Date created : 2015-10-15

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