While meant to be funny, the video is part of a serious campaign called Climate Name Change that seeks to help expose the names of climate deniers in elected offices. The effort includes a petition drive to get the World Meteorological Organization to approve naming hurricanes after these skeptics, whom 350 Action outs on its website. For nearly 60 years, the WMO, a United Nations agency, has been naming tropical storms in the Atlantic Ocean with generic names in alphabetical order.
So far, more than 75,000 people from across the world have signed the petition.
Clare Nullis, a WMO spokesperson, said the "video is making the rounds" at her agency. She said that while she's sympathetic with 350 Action's request, it's not likely to be granted because storm names have to be simple, short and country-agnostic—meaning, people all over have to be able to relate them.
Further, names can't be political.
Nullis also questioned the video's suggestion that climate change is to blame for hurricanes. The link, she said, "is not all that clear."
That point has been noted many times on social sites and on blogs from people who oppose the video.
Andrew Revkin, a journalist who writes the Dot Earth blog for the New York Times, said the video was off the mark because the scientific evidence linking hurricanes and global warming may be weakening, at least according to a leaked draft of the next big report of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. In the document, the panel of scientists says they have "low confidence" in the claim that man-made climate change is causing more frequent hurricanes, though it does say warming will make storms stronger, largely because rising seas will exacerbate storm surge.
Revkin said 350 Action Fund should leave the unsettled science out of its activism.
"Is [the video] accomplishing anything other than energizing partisans (right and left) and further alienating disengaged citizens who might otherwise be allies (and providing big checks to the public-relations hot shots who made it)?" Revkin said in a blog post. "I doubt it."
Jamie Henn, co-founder and communications director of 350.org, disagreed.
"We based our language in the video on the current consensus that global warming is contributing to more frequent and devastating storms—language that everyone from top climate scientists to the EPA is using to help educate people about the threat of climate change," he said. "In the end, our goal is to see more debate about the threats climate change poses to our nation."
Kessler conceded that the science on climate change and hurricane frequency "is not settled."
Scientific models that can link greenhouse gas emissions to individual weather phenomena like hurricanes and deliver more precise climate projections are evolving.
In a July study contradicted by much other research, Kerry Emanuel, an MIT professor of meteorology and leading hurricane scientist, said he expects climate change to make hurricanes more frequent, as well as more intense. The changes will be most prominent in the North Pacific Ocean, Emanuel found, though the North Atlantic Ocean will experience these effects, too.
Campaigns Mount Against Skeptics
The video comes at a time when President Obama appears to have lost his patience for climate science skepticism as he tries to achieve actions to reduce greenhouse gas pollution.
"I don't have patience for anyone who denies that this challenge is real. We don't have time for a meeting of the flat earth society," Obama said during a June speech announcing his second-term climate action plan.
Earlier this year, Organizing for Action, a political group created to promote Obama's agenda, launched a campaign to call out climate deniers in Congress.
Kessler said the only way to stop the skepticism is to out climate deniers over time.
"We are never going to have a home-run moment to break climate deniers, said Kessler. "But efforts like this video help raise awareness, and this is a good stepping stone."