Foreign Policy Blogs

"You Don't Need a Weatherman …

… 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.

*Subterranean Homesick Blues

  • Annie White

    On top of my “to read” Economist pile is the recent issue with the climate science cover story. I never thought that part of being informed on climate change would involve staying on top of climate gossip! From weathermen to journalists to professors to the scientists (??), it’s coming from all directions. I’ll be happy when this open season of speculation is over.

    Also, never heard the NYT referred to as the Old Gray Lady. Fitting! I’m going to start using it up here in Toronto (it’s so expensive on this side of the border, most of us just read the Sunday edition).


Bill Hewitt
Bill Hewitt

Bill Hewitt has been an environmental activist and professional for nearly 25 years. He was deeply involved in the battle to curtail acid rain, and was also a Sierra Club leader in New York City. He spent 11 years in public affairs for the NY State Department of Environmental Conservation, and worked on environmental issues for two NYC mayoral campaigns and a presidential campaign. He is a writer and editor and is the principal of Hewitt Communications. He has an M.S. in international affairs, has taught political science at Pace University, and has graduate and continuing education classes on climate change, sustainability, and energy and the environment at The Center for Global Affairs at NYU. His book, "A Newer World - Politics, Money, Technology, and What’s Really Being Done to Solve the Climate Crisis," will be out from the University Press of New England in December.

Areas of Focus:
the policy, politics, science and economics of environmental protection, sustainability, energy and climate change