Climate scientists agree in vast majority that human-caused global warming is occurring. But most U.S. weather forecasters don’t. Why?
In recent years, the world’s scientists have begun to show that climate change is altering the magnitude and frequency of severe weather, and polls say a majority of Americans now link droughts, floods and other extremes to global warming.
And yet, this country’s TV weather forecasters have increasingly taken to denying evidence that warming is affecting weather—or is even happening at all. Only 19 percent accept the established science that human activity is driving climate change, says a 2011 report by the George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication, making TV meteorologists far more skeptical than the public at large.
That’s a troubling statistic for some climate advocacy groups, which recently launched the “Forecast the Facts” campaign. Those advocates worry that Americans hungry for information on global warming will seek answers from popular and enterprising TV forecasters who reject the climate science consensus—especially as social media use grows.
“Their denial has the potential to have a huge impact on their viewers,” says Daniel Souweine, co-founder of the nonprofit Citizen Engagement Lab and campaign director of Forecast the Facts.
Climate skeptic forecaster James Spann, for instance, a TV meteorologist in Birmingham, Ala., has almost 98,000 Facebook “likes” and 60,000 Twitter followers, more than any local TV talent in the nation, finds one report. A recent tweet has Spann attacking Bill Nye, the TV host and science educator, for connecting hurricanes to climate change. “Somebody needs to tell this stooge the difference between weather and climate.”