Why Don't TV Meteorologists Believe in Climate Change?
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For many Americans, their TV weatherperson is the only climate-related authority they encounter each day.
"Most Americans are never going to know who the world's major climate scientists are, but they know who their weatherperson is," Souweine says. According to a survey by Maibach and colleagues, more than three-quarters of TV meteorologists say they have discussed the topic of global warming either on or off air.
The Yale Project on Climate Change Communication has hosted workshops across the country that connect TV weathercasters with climate scientists. During the day-long event, climate scientists discuss the link between climate change and weather, address the latest science and help meteorologists understand how global warming will affect their regions. "We go into this realistically," says Ward, the editor of the forum and workshop organizer. "We know we are not always going to change people's opinions, so that is not our goal. We just want to provide them with accurate information and give them avenues to ask questions."
But some, like D'Aleo, who is no longer on the air but runs a website called ICECAP, which promotes views of climate skeptics, say global warming should be off limits to forecasters.
"It is not our role," he says. "And in fact, many station managers have told forecasters not to do it, because if you take one side or another it will alienate a percentage of your audience and you might lose them." In 2010, D'Aleo did an on-air segment with Coleman in San Diego, in which he accuses climate scientists of manipulating temperature data on global warming.
Souweine of Forecast the Facts says that silence isn't an option. "Viewers do care about this ... They feel it is the job of the news to tell them what is going on, and [climate change] is the biggest weather story of the 21st century.
"When they don't mention climate change while reporting on another set of record high temperatures or unprecedented severe weather," Souweine continues, "it is like a news reporter talking about a string of murders and not mentioning there is a suspect in custody."
InsideClimate News intern Kathryn Doyle contributed reporting to this story.
Republished with permission of InsideClimate News, a non-profit, non-partisan news organization that covers energy and climate change—plus the territory in between where law, policy and public opinion are shaped.