What do meteorologists think about climate change?
Philip McAllen, a weather charter, mapping weather conditions for the television forecast in 1955. Some of his contemporary counterparts say climate change will blow over because weather was just as crazy in the '30s, '40s, and '50s.
President Obama is sitting down with eight weather people today—from NBC’s Al Roker to local forecasters—to promote the National Climate Assessment. That’s the new report that shows climate change is affecting all areas of the country and economy.
That makes sense; many Americans trust their local weathermen for all things weather.
Ed Maibach, director of George Mason University’s Center for Climate Change Communication, says Obama is smart to use weather people to promote the National Climate Assessment. “Unlike climate scientists, they already have the eyes and ears of the American people,” he says.
According to his research, many meteorologists are climate skeptics. “While almost all of them understand that the climate is changing,” he says, “they’re not all necessarily convinced that human activity is driving the change.”
And some don’t even go that far. Among the most prominent of the unpersuaded is Joe Bastardi. He spent much of his career at Accuweather and is now chief meteorologist at WeatherBell.com. He goes on shows like Fox’s The O’Reilly Factor often to dispute climate science.
“The weather was far worse in this country in the 30s, 40s, and 50s,” Bastardi says. “In the end, I think this is much ado about nothing. I think it will wind up on the ash heap of history.”
According to Maibach’s research, a full quarter of TV weather people said they don’t believe climate change is happening, in the most recent survey in 2010. About an equal number said they weren’t sure.
Some may be skeptical because they see how often their computer models don’t produce accurate short-term forecasts.
“They translate some of that into having some concerns about using the similar kinds of models to project the climate out for many, many years,” says Keith Seitter, executive director of The American Meteorological Society, which supports the President’s report.
Obama is now trying to get more TV weather people who believe the long-range forecast to spread the word.