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They Talk About The Weather On TV, But Still Not Much About Climate Change

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"They Talk About The Weather On TV, But Still Not Much About Climate Change"

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by Steve Valk

Superstorm Sandy was a huge wake-up call on climate change for America. Many of our nation’s TV meteorologists, however, missed that call, and with it the opportunity to educate the public about the impact global warming has on our weather.

For some unfathomable reason, the majority of folks who deliver weather forecasts to millions of Americans do not accept the science of climate change and won’t bring it up on their telecasts. It isn’t that most meteorologists are climate change skeptics, as Inside Climate News reported earlier this year; just the ones who are on television. They comprise about 10 percent of the membership of the American Meteorological Society, which recently revised its official statement supporting of the scientific consensus on climate change.

What does the AMS say about Sandy and global warming?

While the organization hasn’t released an official statement, AMS Senior Policy Fellow Bob Corell co-authored a piece in Politico this week, saying that “we should consider Sandy — and other recent extreme weather events – an early taste of a climate-changed world, and a grim preview of the even worse to come, particularly if we continue to pump more carbon pollution from smokestacks and tailpipes up into the atmosphere.”

Pretty strong and unequivocal. But it falls on deaf ears where many TV meteorologists are concerned. In Atlanta, here’s how 30-year weatherman Glenn Burns at WSB-TV responded to a viewer’s email when asked about the AMS statement on climate change:

“Thanks for your concern on climate change. We are also in the middle of an extreme sunspot cycle which correlates perfectly with the extreme heat this summer. Not only that, the NWS [National Weather Service] temperature sensors at the airport are not accurate. NASA even called me personally and told me they were 5-6 degrees warmer than surrounding areas. We need to learn how to deal with climate change. Our climate has been changing since the beginning of time. Only the civilizations that adapted to it have survived. That should be our goal.”

Wow.

Sadly, Burns’ response is not atypical. Over at Channel 5 in Atlanta, another weatherman with over three decades on the air, Ken Cook, talked to a volunteer from Citizens Climate Lobby. Among other things, he discounted the findings of the International Panel on Climate Change, calling it a “highly politicized group.” As the conversation moved to clean energy, he said that $500 million was wasted on Solyndra, a favorite talking point among Republicans this year. The implication from Cook was that global warming is some hoax perpetrated to make money for the renewable energy industry.

The good news, however, is that there are some TV forecasters who did connect the dots, as evidenced in this report from KXAN in Austin, Texas:

And a report from ABC News10 in San Diego included an interview with IPCC author Dr. Richard Somerville, who told viewers there is only one way to slow the warming process: “Reduce the world’s dependency on coal and oil and natural gas. This is quite doable.”

While these stations have taken a responsible approach on climate change, many more fail to bring it up, even in the face of major catastrophes.

It’s time to demand that people who report the weather let their audiences know where the bombs are coming from whenever there is a “Pearl Harbor moment” on climate change like Sandy.

If your TV station was remiss in connecting the dots on Superstorm Sandy, Forecast The Facts has a tool to help you connect with your local meteorologist and express your concerns.

If that proves fruitless, try asking them to connect those dots with a letter to the editor in your local newspaper.

Nothing gets someone’s attention like seeing their name in the paper.

Steve Valk is Communications Director and Regional Manager for the Citizens Climate Lobby.

Steve Valk

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On TV, They Talk About the Weather, but Not Climate Change

Posted: 11/07/2012 12:13 pm

Superstorm Sandy was a huge wake-up call on climate change for America. Many of our nation’s TV meteorologists, however, missed that call, and with it the opportunity to educate the public about the impact global warming has on our weather.

For some unfathomable reason, the majority of folks who deliver weather forecasts to millions of Americans do not accept the science of climate change and won’t bring it up on their telecasts. It isn’t that most meteorologists are climate change skeptics, as Inside Climate News reported earlier this year; just the ones who are on television. They comprise about 10 percent of the membership of the American Meteorological Society, which recently revised its official statement supporting of the scientific consensus on climate change.

What does the AMS say about Sandy and global warming?

While the organization hasn’t released an official statement, AMS Senior Policy Fellow Bob Corell co-authored a piece in Politico this week, saying that “we should consider Sandy — and other recent extreme weather events – an early taste of a climate-changed world, and a grim preview of the even worse to come, particularly if we continue to pump more carbon pollution from smokestacks and tailpipes up into the atmosphere.”

Pretty strong and unequivocal. But it falls on deaf ears where many TV meteorologists are concerned. In Atlanta, here’s how 30-year weatherman Glenn Burns at WSB-TV responded to a viewer’s email when asked about the AMS statement on climate change:

“Thanks for your concern on climate change. We are also in the middle of an extreme sunspot cycle which correlates perfectly with the extreme heat this summer. Not only that, the NWS [National Weather Service] temperature sensors at the airport are not accurate. NASA even called me personally and told me they were 5-6 degrees warmer than surrounding areas. We need to learn how to deal with climate change. Our climate has been changing since the beginning of time. Only the civilizations that adapted to it have survived. That should be our goal.”

Wow.

Sadly, Burns’ response is not atypical. Over at Channel 5 in Atlanta, another weatherman with over three decades on the air, Ken Cook, talked to a volunteer from Citizens Climate Lobby. Among other things, he discounted the findings of the International Panel on Climate Change, calling it a “highly politicized group.” As the conversation moved to clean energy, he said that $500 million was wasted on Solyndra, a favorite talking point among Republicans this year. The implication from Cook was that global warming is some hoax perpetrated to make money for the renewable energy industry.

The good news, however, is that there are some TV forecasters who did connect the dots, as evidenced in this report from KXAN in Austin, Texas:

And a report from ABC News10 in San Diego included an interview with IPCC author Dr. Richard Somerville, who told viewers there is only one way to slow the warming process: “Reduce the world’s dependency on coal and oil and natural gas. This is quite doable.”

While these stations have taken a responsible approach on climate change, many more fail to bring it up, even in the face of major catastrophes.

It’s time to demand that people who report the weather let their audiences know where the bombs are coming from whenever there is a “Pearl Harbor moment” on climate change like Sandy.

If your TV station was remiss in connecting the dots on Superstorm Sandy, Forecast The Facts has a tool to help you connect with your local meteorologist and express your concerns.

If that proves fruitless, try asking them to connect those dots with a letter to the editor in your local newspaper.

Nothing gets someone’s attention like seeing their name in the paper.

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6 Responses to They Talk About The Weather On TV, But Still Not Much About Climate Change

  1. Merrelyn Emery says:

    Yes, it is an extreme solar max – extremely low, ME

  2. Mike Roddy says:

    TV weathermen are just like anchors and now even beat reporters- they are the “talent”, hired for their charm. Someone who reports uncomfortable facts doesn’t last long in the business.

    This, more than anything else, explains our predicament. Americans who don’t watch Jon Stewart and Bill Maher and never go to legitimate climate blogs have no idea what is actually going on.

    Burns sounds like a Comedy Central skit himself. Unfortunately, most of his audience must have believed him, or he wouldn’t be saying it.

  3. “For some unfathomable reason, the majority of folks who deliver weather forecasts to millions of Americans do not accept the science of climate change and won’t bring it up on their telecasts.”

    Dear Mr. Valk,

    How could someone in your position say something so naive?

    There is nothing unfathomable about what’s happening.
    These guys are where they are for a reason — the big corporations that run most of the media are heavily invested in the status quo. Meteorologists are their yes men.

    Sure, the TV meteorologists themselves probably believe their own nonsense. They represent 10-20 percent of the the profession, the 10-20 percent that are chosen for the job.

    Given the corporate grip on the MSN, it’s amazing that the average American ever heard of climate change, nevertheless knows anything about it.

    • Mulga Mumblebrain says:

      As Upton Sinclair observed, ‘It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his job depends on not understanding it’.

  4. Ira McIntosh says:

    Those denialist stooges are really disappointing. There are realistic and sensible weather reporters out there as well. some HAVE lasted in that business.

    Please search the web for Dan Satterfield and his wild wild science journal. Dan is a well-respscted meteorologist with a TV station in the Delmarva peninsula and has also been been Chief meteorologist for a TV station in Alabama.

    If more weather reporters would report the clear scientific consensus as Dan does, our society would improve it’s chances of survival in the world.

  5. Dr.A.Jagadeesh says:

    Environment issues like Global Warming,Climate Change should be taught to students right from Elementary level especially in developing countries to create awareness on these issues.

    Dr.A.Jagadeesh Nellore(AP),India
    E-mail: anumakonda.jagadeesh@gmail.com