Heroic Weatherman Talks Climate Change
Unfortunately, Gandy is an outlier among weathercasters, who are some of the America’s most trusted public messengers on climate change [PDF]. Even among weathercasters who are convinced about the science of climate change, 39 percent report [PDF] that a perceived “lack of viewer support” prevents them from including climate information in their nightly broadcasts. But if numerous public surveys [PDF] and the urging of thousands of Forecast the Facts members aren’t enough to persuade the more cautious in the profession, Gandy’s experience should be.
Later in the day, we learned from Ed Maibach, director of the Center for Climate Change Communication (4C), that the positive impact of Gandy’s reports is not just anecdotal. Maibach’s team surveyed the Columbia, S.C., media market before and after Gandy launched “Climate Matters,” asking questions about climate change to viewers of Gandy’s station, and comparing them with responses from viewers who tuned in to other stations. 4C’s hypotheses heading in to the experiment were borne out. Viewers of Gandy’s station learned more about climate change than viewers of other local newscasts. Furthermore, the more viewers watched Gandy’s program, the more informed they were about climate change and the science behind it. So, to review: More effective climate communication leads to greater public understanding, with some personal gratitude heaped on top. In Columbia, S.C.
Maibach told the audience of over 200 of the nation’s top weathercasters that they are second only to scientists in the public’s eye as trusted messengers on climate change. Unlike scientists, however, TV meteorologists are professional communicators with incredible access to the public. “You are the Bruce Springsteen of television,” Maibach said. “You are the reason many people turn on the television each day. You are the only ones who can fill the stadium.”
As we spoke to TV meteorologists throughout the day, we continued to hear from many that climate change feels untouchable, that the public won’t be receptive, that it’s too “political” or “controversial” to talk about. But the experiences of Gandy, Satterfield, and other brave “climatecasters” proves otherwise. Presenting established science to viewers and broadening the context of weather reporting isn’t just doable — it’s welcome, and sorely needed.