Weatherwatch: should TV forecasters talk about climate change?

Studies show even climate change deniers may be receptive to such news in bulletins

TV weather forecasters usually steer clear of mentioning climate change, perhaps fearing a backlash for straying on to controversial territory. But a recent experiment in the US suggests a dose of climate change news with the weather forecast is no bad thing.

Seventy per cent of Americans think climate change is a distant risk, and 40% believe it will not have any impact on them. Yet its effects are increasingly being felt close to home, with wildfires in California, a “snow drought” in the Pacific Northwest and the recent spell of extreme winter weather across much of the country. Can TV weather forecasters help undo some of the misconceptions?

To answer this, scientists at George Mason University in Virginia analysed viewers’ reactions to weather forecasters explaining local climate change. More than two-thirds of viewers were interested, and even climate change deniers failed to be irritated or angered by the coverage.

Previous research has shown that people are more receptive to pro-climate policies when they realise climate change is happening to them. Weather forecasters are trusted communicators and could play a powerful role in shifting public opinion.

Contributor

Kate Ravilious

The GuardianTramp

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