Stealth advocacy: a survey of weathercasters’ views on climate change

For a decade, the weathercaster and broadcast meteorology communities have been the subject of a focused campaign to force them to cover global warming in a manner acceptable to the American Meteorological Society, the American Geophysical Union, and other advocacy groups.

How well is their strategy working?

The American Meteorological Society (AMS) is in the process of publishing the latest weathercaster survey from 2014-16 in its Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, a peer-reviewed scientific journal.

The title of the article by Maibach et al. is:

TV weathercasters’ views of climate change appear to be rapidly evolving

Survey Background

The Maibach et al. (2017) paper begins:

For more than a decade, academic researchers and members of the broadcast meteorology community have been studying TV weathercasters’ views about human-caused climate change. The primary motivation behind this research has been to determine the degree to which these TV news professionals – who, in most cases, are the only scientist in their newsroom – are up to speed on the science of climate change, so they can report on it.

The paper then says (lightly edited for clarity):

Surveys in 2010 and 2011 by Maibach and colleagues found somewhat higher rates of weathercasters convinced of climate change. The 2010 study – an attempted census of AMS and National Weather Association (NWA) broadcast members (response rate=52%) – found that over half (54%) indicated global warming is happening, while a quarter (25%) indicated it isn’t, and 21% responded they didn’t know. The 2011 study – another attempted census of AMS and NWA broadcast members (response rate=33%) – found that over half (54%) of weathercasters indicated that climate change “caused mostly by human activity” (19%) or “caused more-or-less equally by human activity and natural events” (35%) is happening; 29% indicated that climate change “caused mostly by natural events” is happening. Fewer than 1 in 10 felt climate change was not happening (9%), or they didn’t know (8%).

The earlier survey (‘2010-11 survey‘) was of television meteorologists. The 2010-11 survey found that 54% indicated ‘global warming is happening.’ It also found that 54% is believed global warming is ‘caused mostly by human activity.

However, the new poll is not a survey solely of meteorologists. The exact breakdown of the respondents’ scientific background as explained in the 2017 paper is not completely clear. Here are the paper’s words:

Most hold a BS (59%) or MS (8%) in meteorology/atmospheric science, or a BS or BA (8%) or MS or MA (2%) in broadcast meteorology. Other commonly reported degrees are a certificate in meteorology/broadcast meteorology (19%), a BA in journalism/mass communication (17%), and a BA or BS in other disciplines (13%).

Stated another way: 19% + 17% + 13% = 49% have no degree in atmospheric science. However, the study’s author says 59% hold a BS in meteorology/atmospheric science and then mentions other scientific degrees. The numbers add to far more than 100%. Based on working with broadcast meteorologists for the past 46 years, it is infrequent for someone to attain a degree in journalism and then to get a degree in meteorology or vice versa. So, we will use the number 100% – 59% = 41% to estimate the number of respondents without formal degrees in meteorology or atmospheric science.

Because they do not have an extensive science background to fall back on, the weathercasters may be more subject to being influenced by media reports and peer pressure (most newsrooms are populated by liberal-leaning journalists as numerous studies have shown). Why? The Stenhouse, Maibach et al. (2014) survey included this statement in a global warming survey of the Society’s entire membership:

In a survey of AMS members, perceived scientific consensus was the strongest predictor of views on global warming, followed by political ideology, climate science expertise and perceived organizational conflict.

So, according to the statement above, if one eliminates ’climate science expertise‘ — which would be the case for weathercasters without scientific degrees — the only things remaining are opinion and ideology. By adding non-scientists to the 2014-16 survey, the results may be skewed by broadcasters more likely influenced by ’consensus‘ rather than their own independent evaluations of the science.

Read rest at Climate Etc.

Comments (3)

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    A “focused campaign” to “force” them to report Global Warming ? ? ?

    FUNNY, I have seen bogus “study” after bogus “study” in the right Wing Pro Killer Coal
    News Opinion Sites….which state that there is a vast majority of Meteorologists, Weathermen, and Media Weather Forecasters were VERY DOUBTFUL of GLOBAL WARMING.
    ….now we find the vast majority for years running are concerned about CLIMATE CHANGE caused by Global Warming.

    “…American Meteorological Society
    21 June 2017
    Rick Perry, Secretary
    Department of Energy
    1000 Independence Ave, SW
    Washington, DC 20585
    Dear Secretary Perry,
    In a recent CNBC interview, you stated that you do not agree that carbon dioxide is the primary driver of the global warming that is evident in the temperature records over recent decades. While you acknowledged that the climate is changing and that humans are having an impact on it, it is critically important that you understand that emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases are the primary cause.

    This is a conclusion based on the comprehensive assessment of scientific evidence. It is based on multiple independent lines of evidence that have been affirmed by thousands of independent scientists and numerous scientific in
    stitutions around the world. We are not familiar with any scientific institution with relevant subject matter expertise that has reached a different conclusion.

    These indisputable findings have shaped our current AMS Statement on Climate Change, which states 1:
    It is clear from extensive scientific evidence that the dominant cause of the rapid change in climate of the past half century is human-induced increases in the amount of atmospheric greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide (CO2), chlorofluorocarbons, methane, and nitrous oxide. The most important of these over the long term is CO2, whose concentration in the atmosphere is rising principally as a result of fossil-fuel combustion and deforestation.

    Without this fundamental understanding of the science, it is impossible to discuss potential policy changes in meaningful ways. DOE programs have a major role to play in developing and informing the solutions for our nation’s future energy needs, so it is especially important that the best possible science and understanding is applied to policy issues with respect to DOE programs.
    In the interview you also mentioned that it should be quite acceptable to be a skeptic about aspects of the science.

    We agree, and would add that skepticism and debate are always welcome and are critically important to the advancement of science. As noted in a different AMS Statement 2:
    Because of the skeptical nature of scientists, new ideas are accepted very sl
    owly and only after a great deal of scrutiny. In fact, what authority science achieves is based on the openness by which scientific results are presented for review, evaluation, and additional testing.

    In climate science unresolved questions remain—issues that currently lack conclusive evidence. However, there are also very solid conclusions that are based on decades of research and multiple lines of evidence. Skepticism that fails to account for evidence is no virtue. As noted above, the role of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases as the primary driver for the warming the Earth has experienced over the past several decades is extremely well established.

    The American Meteorological Society and its members have been studying these issues for many years. We stand ready to work with you or your staff to explore how the science can be used effectively to address policy issues related to energy and climate for the benefit of the nation and the world.”

    The planet continues to accumulate heat.

    So we see a direct line of evidence that we’re causing global warming. Human CO2 emissions far outstrip the rise in CO2 levels.
    The enhanced greenhouse effect is confirmed by satellites and many surface measurements.
    The planet’s energy imbalance is confirmed by summations of the planet’s total heat content and ocean heat measurements….”

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    Answer this Komrad : Why the urgency to act NOW? I’ll tell you why…Elections. There’s always an election around the corner. The “GULLIBLE” vote counts.

  • Avatar



    Science does not need a lobbying group. It never will. Science stands on its own merit based on sound scientific methodology – politics and money corrupt science.

    Why do meteorologist/broadcasters need to be lobbied if the science should be clear? Again, the answer is POLITICS and the promotion of propaganda – not science.

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