… to know which way the wind blows.”*
There’s a pretty compelling story in the Old Gray Lady today: Among Weathercasters, Doubt on Warming. TV weather people, it turns out, seem to be having a hard time with the science of climate change. The article cites a study just out from George Mason University’s Center for Climate Change Communication. Only half of the 571 television weathercasters polled thought that warming was occurring and only a third thought that it is manmade. Go figure.
Dr. Heidi Cullen, the former Weather Channel climate expert, explains some of what’s going on. She says that meteorologists, wrongly, often don’t trust the models that climate scientists use. Cullen has pushed for a proper understanding of climate science among meteorologists and has asked the American Meteorological Society to withhold its certification from those who “…can’t speak to the fundamental science…” Cullen is the Director of Science Communications at Climate Central, a nonprofit that works to educate the public. The AMS itself fully recognizes the reality of direct anthropogenic interference with the climate system and the urgency of the situation.
We’ve been looking at the Denialists/Skeptics in my classes recently. There is, by the way, a new report out from Greenpeace on this, as reported here by the excellent SolveClimate. But the corruption by special interests and conservative activists in play with most of the disinformation campaign doesn’t really explain the ignorance of these TV folks. There seems to be an interesting psychosocial element: “Resentment may also play a role in the divide. Climatologists are almost always affiliated with universities or research institutions where a doctoral degree is required. Most meteorologists, however, can get jobs as weather forecasters with a college degree.” Bob Henson, a science writer for the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research, says there is “a little bit of elitist-versus-populist” antipathy at work.
The real problem lies, of course, in that so many people rely on television news and, if they are getting what they think they know about climate change from weathercasters who don’t understand or accept the basic science, then they’re going to be misinformed. That’s bad news.