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Imagine the cultural shift that would occur if TV meteorologists across the country were discussing climate change as an objective fact.


Description

Summary

At some point, every TV meteorologist in America will be talking about climate change. The dramatic changes in our weather will demand it. However, we need meteorologists to be out front on this issue. While even the most environmentally conscience American might struggle to name a climatologist, nearly everyone has a TV meteorologist they grew up. This is why we at 50yearforecast.org are working on a project that aims to allow Americans to easily contact TV meteorologists and encourage them to take a more active stance on climate change.

The American Meteorological Society has stated unequivocally that the recent and even violent changes in weather we have seen over the past few years are directly connected to human-induced climate change. Yet, for a variety of reasons, meteorologists across the country are hesitant or unwilling to address the issue.

50yearforecast.org is designed to allow individuals to easily locate and contact TV meteorologists from their local media market. We have built a nationwide database of over 1300 meteorologists that can be quickly and easily sorted, first by city, and then by specific meteorologist. Users can then encourage their meteorologists to educate their viewers on the ways in which climate change will impact their communities. A sample letter is provided to help users politely and effectively connect with their meteorologist. A resource page is also devoted to helping meteorologists who decide that they want to address climate change but don’t know where to begin. 

TV meteorologists are uniquely positioned to impact the way we think and talk about climate change and it is time that they speak out on this critical issue.


Category of the action

Changing public perceptions on climate change


What actions do you propose?

The website is structured around the idea that environmentalists can easily identify TV meteorologists in their community from our drop down menu, send them a letter encouraging them to connect the dots between climate change and extreme weather and then encourage friends to do the same. The website and its ability to create lasting change would depend on more than arbitrary use though. The project must use environmental networks and partnerships to press the agenda forward.  We would also rely on users to report back on their interaction with meteorologists and provide feedback on positive responses.

However, there are certainly a number of real obstacles standing in the way of TV meteorologists effectively communicating information on climate change.  

An uphill struggle:
-Many TV meteorologists do not understand the science behind climate change. 
-About half of TV meteorologists are journalists who were simply assigned the weather beat.
-"Only a small minority (18%)of weathercasters recognize that there is widespread agreement among the world’s climate scientists that human-caused global warming is occurring" according to the George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication.
-Many TV meteorologists may feel it is easier to stay quiet on this issue and not risk alienating potential viewers or advertisers.

What helps build momentum:
-The American Meteorological Society is on the right side of this issue.
-The Weather Channelhas shown real leadership on climate change information.
-Unfortunately, the weather itself will make it increasingly difficult to ignore or deny climate change.
-Among TV meteorologists who do believe that climate change is caused by humans,84% are eager to help educate their viewers on the subject.

Where we fit in:
-TV stations need to feel that if they ignore this subject they risk losing credibility with their audience.  
-TV meteorologists who want to speak out but are hesitant to do so need support and encouragement to make the leap.
-Our resource pagewill provide meteorologists with positive examples of their colleagues addressing this issue head on. This page will also provide authoritative reports and resources on the link between climate change and extreme weather that meteorologists can draw from.


Who will take these actions?

A team of committed staff would work to coordinate with environmental groups across the country to encourage their members to reach out to their meteorologists and report back the results. We are also eager to generate media coverage for this effort in the hope that there will be a tipping point where meteorologists will feel out of step not talking about climate change.

However, we know that even as climate change and our weather become increasingly intertwined, TV meteorologists still face pressure to remain silent on what is perceived to be a politically sensitive topic. Thus, 50yearforecast.org must be actively promoting interaction between meteorologists themselves. We aim to have a page on the website devoted to highlighting and congratulating weathercasters who have taken up the gauntlet. We also aim to create and facilitate lasting partnerships between meteorologists that are particularly devoted to the cause, and those wishing to start speaking out.  

 


Where will these actions be taken?

We hope to effectively promote participation (information sharing) through active relationship development via social media, email, phone calls and collaboration with environmental groups across the country.

However, funding (or volunteers in other cities) would allow our organization to network and travel more extensively. Thus the coordinator or representatives may have job assignments that would send him/her to conferences, college campuses and headquarters of environmental organizations with which50yearforecast.orgseek partnerships. This travelling component may be incredibly value to the efficacy of the project. 


How much will emissions be reduced or sequestered vs. business as usual levels?


What are other key benefits?

When meteorologists appear on television and openly discuss climate change, three very positive things will happen:

-Their viewers will sit up and take notice and it will be that much harder for them to maintain the assumption that climate change is not a settled scientific reality;
-Americans who do not access the internet regularly (either as a result of income level or age) but do watch the nightly local news will receive a clear explanation of what climate change entails (perhaps for the first time?) ;
-Unfortunately, the planet is likely to continue to experience a dramatic increase in serious weather disasters.  Forecasters whose audiences have solid information and calm but clear  perspectives on emergencies may have an advantage in their markets. 


What are the proposal’s costs?

Up to this point, our two-person team has conducted the project in our spare time with the assistance of friends with web design or media expertise chipping in here and there. Certainly additional offers from committed volunteers will be enthusiastically accepted.

However, in order for the effort to be truly successful  we need an experienced website manager and a network coordinator, who would  work on site upkeep and public interaction, respectively.  These would be part-time or contracted positions. We believe $9,000 could secure professional support for the effort that would dramatically increase the site’s effectiveness.

Groups across the country must be made aware of the website’s functionality and be encouraged to spread the word to their own affiliates.  A more consistent and aggressive social media campaign is needed.  The database of meteorologists must be maintained. Environmental conferences and campus visits—in twin effort to form relationships and garner support—could also be the key to the longevity of the project.

Employing staff members would give the site the type of consistent presence and professional feel that would help establish credibility for the site both among the environmental community and among meteorologists. 


Time line

The website is already up and running but has been limited in scope.  We hope that by the spring of 2014 the site will have expanded dramatically and be well known to meteorologists, environmental reporters and environmental groups across the country.


Related proposals


References

Climate Change: An Information Statement of the American Meteorological Society. American Meteorological Society. Aug. 2012.

Climate Science is Core to Science Education.  American Meteorological Society. May 2013

Maibach, Edward. A National Survey of Television Meteorologists About Climate Change Education George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication. June, 2011.

Casey, Tina. The Weather Company Confronts Climate Change Denial Head On. Triple Pundit, People, Planet, Profit July 15, 2013