Behind The Weather Channel’s Inventive Climate Change Campaign Aimed At Conservatives

CREDIT: Shutterstock

The Weather Channel has gone hawkish on climate change. It has started web- and broad-casting short but blunt messages from “25 influential voices on climate change, security, energy and peace.”

The “Climate 25” features former Bush Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson, who warns that failure to take strong action on climate is “radical risk taking” for our economy. Unilever CEO Paul Polman talks about the $300 million in annual climate disruption costs hitting his company. New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, who explained why the Syrian civil war was “the revolution fueled by climate change.” I am one of the 25, as is climatologist Heidi Cullen, and White House science advisor John Holdren.

But the Weather Channel has focused on one particular target audience — conservatives. The Climate 25 include four retired generals or admirals, a former senior Pentagon official, and former CIA director James Woolsey. It includes former GOP Congressman Bob Inglis, former VP of the Heartland Institute (!) Eli Lehrer, and two GOP EPA chiefs — William K. Reilly and Christine Todd Whitman, who directly tells Republicans, “it’s our issue.”


CREDIT: Weather Channel

Why so many voices aimed at Republicans and conservatives? “We are not policy experts; we are scientists.” Weather Channel president David Clark told Slate. “We felt that we needed to give a stage to some of the more courageous voices on the right.”

Here’s an overview with clips from some of the 25.

The key frame for the Weather Channel is “surprise.” Woolsey has a “surprising take” on climate change, and Reilly has a “surprising view.” The news release begins “What does the military think about climate change? How about the leaders of Fortune 100 companies or conservative politicians and thought leaders? The answers may surprise you.”

Of course the answers will surprise only those who reject basic science, a group that appears to be disproportionately composed of senior conservative politicians. But the Weather Channel is dismissive of those deniers: “While some politicians continue to debate the existence of climate change, forward thinking leaders are acting now to deal with it.”

The series was executive produced by Solly Granatstein, who previously shared the Primetime Emmy for “Outstanding Nonfiction Series” for his work on “Years of Living Dangerously,” the Showtime docu-series that Cullen and I were chief science advisors on. Besides appearing on and, you can see the videos during “a special week of 5 mini-episodes on-air on The Weather Channel.”

Slate says “the series is one of the best-produced summaries of climate risk I’ve ever seen.” See for yourself.