Guest Opinions

Using TV weather reports to educate people on climate change

As events like hurricanes become more common, weathercasters could inform their viewers about the weather-climate relationship and how current extremes are the new normal.
As events like hurricanes become more common, weathercasters could inform their viewers about the weather-climate relationship and how current extremes are the new normal. AP

We are playing football with a nuclear bomb.

Climate change is the major driving force affecting lifestyles, economies, resources, national defenses, wildlife populations, national parks and wilderness areas. We can anticipate a future of extreme weather catastrophes as more hurricanes like Florence and Michael hammer the East, tornadoes the Midwest, and mega-fires the West. With burning of fossil fuels, natural weather has morphed into unnatural, human-exacerbated catastrophes. The cost of these disasters in 2017 was a record $306 billion. Eventually these disasters will likely cost trillions and potentially bankrupt the country.

Climate isn’t the enemy; as Pogo said, “We have met the enemy and he is us.” Our badly fractured society still has potential to unify on this universally devastating issue, but we need help to make connections between increasing extreme weather events, climate change and our personal lives. This requires influential people helping us make those connections. Some of the highest political leaders are ignoring the facts instead of unifying the country toward solutions.

Who among us is still respected and talks to virtually everyone every day? Weathercasters. While I would expect weathercasters to be more comfortable as educators than leaders, some are already helping us understand that extreme weather is a manifestation of climate change. NBC News reported, “Local weathercasters have become one of the primary conduits for news on global warming” (June 18).

We all experience weather 24/7; it is a continuous source of discussion, and is tangible and dramatic. Climate Central, a nonprofit (facebook.com/climate.matters/), teaches weathercasters about climate change. Already, Climate Central has educated 500 of them. They are our closest trustworthy connection to science. Al Roker, on NBC on Oct. 10, said that Hurricane Michael was expected to hit Florida with 145 mph winds and 9-13 foot storm surges with record intensity – the result of climate change. And again, on Oct. 10, he attributed a future of more frequent and larger hurricanes off the Gulf of Mexico due to increasing ocean surface temperatures.

In their broadcasts, weathercasters could talk to viewers about the weather-climate relationship and how current weather extremes are the new normal. One local chief meteorologist, Scott Dorval of KIVI-TV and KNIN, has been very responsive to providing data and insight into climate change for his viewers. Other than Brian Holmes’ (KTVB) excellent reports on climate change, the other weathercasters have not responded. Please write/call those two TV stations asking them to take advantage of their opportunity to potentially make a big difference, as well as thanking Dorval and Holmes for their contributions.

Individually, we can do other things that can also make a difference. But power in numbers suggests joining dedicated groups, such as 350.org and Citizens Climate Lobby (see their websites). Eat less beef, insulate your homes and urge your representatives to support a carbon tax.

David H. Greegor, Ph.D., is a retired ecologist from Boise.

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