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The Weather Channel and climate change ignorance

Posted on Dec 9, 2013

First of all, a couple of disclaimers: the following piece will not be accusing The Weather Channel (TWC) of climate change ignorance, nor is it solely to bash what TWC has become. I grew up an enormous fan of TWC ever since I used to visit my grandfather’s house and watch his cable to enjoy their 24/7 coverage in the early 90s. Once we had cable I was hooked and meteorology pulled me all the way in. I make that distinction because today it does not exist and TWC has become infotainment at best and a mockery of what it once was at worst. Various scripted and reality programming has overwhelmed the station as they continue to hire non-scientists to fill the limited amount of actual live air time. There are some tremendous experts at TWC who should get more time beyond severe weather outbreaks. Bland and dull maps detailing less and less data combined with gimmicks such as naming winter storms help to dilute the actual value of the information they impart. While I may enjoying taking a few playful cheap shots at what they produce now compared to the juggernaut of pure weather and meteorology that was in place only 15 years ago this type of approach is common in much of the mainstream media today.

Greenhouse gases in the atmosphere in the last 2,000 years with the staggering increase at the start of the Industrial Revolution.

Greenhouse gases in the atmosphere in the last 2,000 years with the staggering increase at the start of the Industrial Revolution. Via EPA.

Fortunately and to their credit TWC takes time to address and mention our changing climate without pulling punches as to why it is happening. Even in meteorological circles you will find a lot of denial as weather experts and forecasters are trying to make a living on limited resources to understand and predict the daily, weekly and monthly weather. They do not want to hear about millions of dollars and computer time going to work on climate projects. Again, I give TWC a big pat on the back for even bringing it up. Take a look at this TWC Facebook post which you should be able to see even if you are not a member of Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10152076535250921&set=a.123377330920.127986.118071565920&type=1&theater

That post concerns sea level rise due to climate change and an innovative project designed to help highlight it with scientists showing how much the water will rise during the lives of various people, even their own children. What was astounding to me were the following types of comments made on the post by people who follow TWC which were all extremely popular and “liked” by many.

“The climate has been changing since the dawn of time, leave the liberal politics off your page and stick with weather please.”

“Just weather please, leave the politics to the politicians”

“How can you continue to promote this when the facts, you know, “the truth,” shows the globe ceased warming trends around 1998? In addition, climate data has been admittedly forged. The earth warms, the earth cools. Let it go.”

“It’s like you want people to be scared every day. The world is going to do what it will. We can’t fight it.”

Those four show us some extremely ignorant and frightening opinions that, if believed by all, would assuredly lead us to a path of great destruction. The climate has indeed been changing since the dawn of time and that comment is correct. However, it lacks the understanding that we have proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that we are changing the climate. Over time the Earth warmed, cooled and so forth over many thousands of years. Changes that we have been creating are happening at a much faster pace and one that could outpace the sustainability of much of the life on Earth (and then, you know, most of us). Interestingly a sizable segment of the population seems to now accept that the climate is changing, like the first comment, but believes it is natural and we need not worry. Still others, like the second comment, think it is purely political and I would surmise a fight over resources, pollution and so forth.

The unnatural change as modeled. Via EPA.

The unnatural change as modeled. Via EPA.

The third comment is laughable for anyone who isn’t trying to deliberately lie about the situation as we keep setting new records for the warmest summer, or month, or year in recorded history on a regular basis. The temperature is going up, and up, and up, at an almost unbelievable rate. If you took a few years in a graph maybe you could find a way to make the average temperature “go down”, but the reality is that over any length of appreciable time it is skyrocketing across the Earth and the U.S. The last comment strikes at what is precisely the problem behind all of climate change and disbelief – people do not want to believe it is true because it is absolutely horrifying. The situation is even grimmer when we know even if we stopped all carbon emissions this very moment we would continue to warm and spin out of control for much of if not all of this century. We know there is no way humans will stop this pollution any time soon and the cycle will only get worse until either our technology surpasses what we have done and continue to do or the planet starts delivering even more significant blows to human life.


The increased temperature is not due to the sun or other natural means. This unfathomable jump in such an extremely small fraction of time in Earth’s history is our fault. This does not include the last several years which have had more record-setting global temperatures. Via EPA.

What we can do is to continue to talk to these people, educate them on the science of climate change, provide real life examples of the changes occurring around us right now, and try to ease them into the notion that we can make substantive changes to our existence in order to better it. Reducing greenhouse gas emissions, moving towards renewable energy, working as RTPI does for plant and animal conservation, education and individual advocacy, and responding adequately to everything from bracing for those rising sea levels and catastrophic weather events made more likely because of climate change are all ways we can help. Moving away from fossil fuels helps improve so many other facets of life as well including the health of billions of people. In time I will frequently post climate news as we will inevitably continue to see unfortunate events. 2012 was the hottest year ever recorded in the U.S., but it and more records that reach far beyond the warming temperatures will fall even more rapidly throughout this century. It is terrifying to think of but we are not helpless and only through our collective efforts can we change what is to come.

Scott Kruitbosch
Conservation & Outreach Coordinator