This is frightening on so many levels. From Bloomberg:
Still, public skepticism about climate change is a reality faced by television forecasters, who need to have the broadest appeal possible. Denialism is “an American phenomenon,” says veteran Miami weatherman John Morales, who is now at NBC 6. “This is not something you see around the world.”
This American reluctance to embrace scientific evidence hasn’t often been counteracted by broadcast meteorologists—who are, in fact, no more likely than the average citizen to agree that climate change is caused by humans. There are plenty of possible explanations for this outcome, including a shortage of climatology education within meteorological training programs.
Part of meteorologists’ reluctance to talk about the climate stems from the treacherous tools of their trade. Meteorologists learn very quickly that weather models are messy. Some no doubt sour on finicky climate models because of this experience. If short-term weather models make mistakes, it may seem reasonable to assume that a model projecting into the next century is ridiculous.
“Meteorologists are used to looking at models and being burned,” says Paul Douglas, a former TV weatherman-turned-serial entrepreneur, who recently published a book on climate change and faith.
Sullins, 34, knows there’s tension in telling her viewers about conditions in the 22nd century when she is reluctant to commit to a two-week forecast. “I can’t tell you what the high temperature is going to be on July 4 of this year, today,” Sullins says. “I can’t possibly tell you that. But I can tell you, based on climate, that in July, here in Phoenix, it’s going to be over 100 degrees. That’s easy.”
Her point is that weather and climate are “two entirely different beasts.” It’s like the difference between someone’s mood and disposition, Sullins says. She wants viewers of the nightly news to spend more time thinking about the planet’s disposition.
There are about 500 broadcasters like Sullins and Morales, who each receive regular data dumps and ready-to-use graphics from Climate Matters, an organization whose mission is to turn TV meteorologists into local climate educators.
The program was founded in 2010 by Climate Central, a research-and-journalism nonprofit, with help from George Mason University, the American Meteorological Society, and others.
Newscasters who participate are sent possible topics for climate-related segments every week, with TV-ready data and graphics pegged to large-scale meteorological events, such as unusually high heat or precipitation, local trends, or seasonal themes.
“Well, Santa’s elves are dealing with a little bit of a heat wave now at the North Pole,” Sullins told viewers on Dec. 22, following an outline provided by Climate Matters. “It’s 50 degrees above average up there.” She showed an on-screen graphic with cartoons showing Santa Claus in increasing states of thermal distress.
At the bottom of the graphics appear a Climate Central logo and the source of the scientific data—in this case, temperature records and projections from NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and a European atmospheric-science consortium.
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