Sunday, December 9, 2012

Denial Amongst TV Weathercasters

I was surprised this past week by an article in Rolling Stone magazine.  The article covered the issue of the denial of human-caused climate change among the nation’s television weathercasters.  It is an issue that has puzzled me given the science and the consensus among climate scientists.  One has to question why so many TV weathercasters seem to know more than climate scientists.  The article highlights a rather vocal group of communicators and can be seen here.

Screen grab of the Rolling Stone website.  Image Credit: Rolling Stone

There is one statement that I disagree with in the article.  It states that “Yet the cause of much of the meteorological mayhem – global warming – was rarely mentioned on air.”  The author implies that Sandy was caused by global warming.  I do not believe that this is accurate.  Sandy and other “meteorological mayhem” was enhanced in it destructiveness by global warming and climate change as I have written previously.

However, the article is an interesting contrast of the broadcast community and is worth reading.  It turns out that the broadcast meteorological community has the highest proportion of climate deniers in the meteorological community.  This is interesting because few of them have done any research, let along any homework, in the subject.

I was very fortunate to team with the Center for Climate Change Communication at George Mason University and Climate Central to develop the program Climate Matters for WLTX-TV in Columbia, SC, a Gannett property.  Naturally I had the backing of my station management.  The program has been successful and there are two forthcoming papers under peer-review that will address what we found over the past three years.  The papers will hopefully be published by next summer and I will write about them once they are available.

But why are so many TV weathercasters denying human-caused climate change when so many climate scientists are in agreement?  The answers to that question are many and likely do not involve the science.

James Powell, a scientist and science writer, recently confirmed the consensus among research climate scientists.  He surveyed the peer-review literature and found an overwhelming consensus among them.  Powell wrote an interesting post on the blog DeSmogBlog which can be seen here.  Below is an image that illustrates his findings.

Image Credit: James Lawrence Powell.

Given the results of his search there is no justification for the denial found amongst TV weathercasters.  If we are the ones responsible for communicating science to the public, then we need substantial justification for going against the science.  There have been numerous accusations, but the evidence has been exceedingly thin or non-existent.

Climate scientists have given us an early warning.  There is still time to mitigate the coming change, but time grows short.  An informed public will help in this effort, but a misinformed public will be frozen like deer in the highlights of an on-rushing car.

An excellent source for weeding through the confusing messages of deniers is the website Skeptical Science.  You can see what the science has to say about climate change vs the opinions of deniers and many of the articles are written for the lay public.  I highly recommend it!