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Trusting the weatherman

TV weathercasters hold some strong opinions on climate change, and don’t mind sharing them.

A recent survey found that only a small minority of TV weathercasters – less than 17% of  respondents – thought it was not appropriate for them to discuss the science of climate change on air, online or at community speaking events. As the majority of TV weathercasters are happy discussing the science of climate change, what did the survey find that they think about it?

  • 80% of the respondents agreed that they should be knowledgeable about the conclusions of the IPCC, but only 45% agreed with the IPCC statement, approved by 113 nations, that “warming of the climate system is unequivocal.”
  • Only 24% agreed with the IPCC conclusion that “most of the warming since 1950 is very likely human-induced”, and
  • 29% of TV meteorologists agreed with John Coleman’s claim that “global warming is a scam”.

All of which places a significant percentage of weathercasters in the skeptic / denialist camp. As the authors indicate, this is very relevant for science communication:

Given their high-profile platform, how weathercasters communicate the science of climate change may have more impact on public discourse than any other means of dissemination, underscoring the importance of trying to improve that communication process.

Another survey, on “Americans’ Global Warming Beliefs and Attitudes”, adds weight to this conclusion. The Yale Project on Climate Change survey found that although scientists command a greater degree of trust than TV weathercasters, both scientists and weathercasters are seen to be somewhat trustworthy by roughly equal percentages – around half – of the respondents.

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The same survey also found that only 57% of respondents thought that global warming was happening. Addressing such a low level of public certainty about a field that commands such high scientific confidence is a challenge, and one in which TV weathercasters can have an important role.

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