30 January 2012
Is Putting The Heat On Skeptical TV Weathercasters A Good Idea?
Posted by Dan Satterfield
Forecast the Facts is a new campaign with the aim of putting some public heat on climate skeptical TV weathercasters. The issue here isn’t whether or not their statements (if quoted accurately) were opposite to the overwhelming science, because they are without question. Instead, the main question is whether this is the right way to tackle the problem.
I’m uncertain this is the right way to go about educating the skeptical weathercasters, and It may very well make the dividing line even more sharp than it already is. Ed Maibach’s group at George Mason University has done some detailed research into the opinions of TV meteorologists (not all have degrees) on climate change and the results left me dumbfounded. Around half of those doing on air weather are skeptical, in spite of the growing mountain of scientific evidence. Maibach also found that the only predictor on how a TV forecaster will feel about climate change is political affiliation!
Bud Ward, at the Yale Forum on Climate and the Media, has put together several workshops that bring together television forecasters with top climate experts to try to bridge the gap. I’ve been involved with several of these, and they have been stunningly successful. As a member of the AMS Committee for Station Science, I can also attest that the AMS has worked very hard to educate the TV folks on the science. The idea here is simple; if the TV folks get a chance to educate themselves on the science, they will most likely not make the kind of statements that Forecast the Facts has highlighted.
Yes, some on air TV weather folks seem to have trouble separating the scientific facts of climate change from the political issue of how we deal with it. However, this “in your face” campaign is likely to harden opinions even more among those who persist in their beliefs in the face of an ever growing mountain of evidence.
Indeed, Some of the things I’ve heard from fellow TV folks make it clear that they are getting their information from cable news and talk radio, instead of the peer-reviewed science literature. Honestly, some are so outlandish they are (in my opinion) an embarrassment to the AMS. Still, Forecast The Facts is the wrong way to go about solving the problem.
It is important to note that this divide among on air forecasters doesn’t exist in the rest of the scientific community. The IPCC reports are overwhelmingly accepted, and every major scientific body on the planet has endorsed them. There will always be a few weathercasters won’t accept overwhelming evidence. However, the efforts underway to educate those with questions will eventually work with most, and especially those with a significant science background.
That’s the right way to go here.
Note: Others have weighed in on this issue including Jason Samenow at Capital Weather Gang and Bob Ryan at WJLA TV in Washington (past president of the AMS) has also just today published an excellent post on this subject. Daniel Souweine of Forecst the Facts has responded to earlier criticism here.
Glad you are no longer doing weather here, you ignore anything that doesn’t sound like Al Gore in your crusade. Keep on while we get colder in coming years and stop being do dense. (daily mail link deleted by Dan)
Getting you science from the Daily Mail (UK version of the Nat. Enq. and owned by Rupert Murdoch) is not a good idea.
We’re not getting colder, though. Whoever told you that has no idea what they’re talking about.
I find it amazing that so many seem totally convinced of it. A good explanation of how some people can so delude themselves in the face of overwhelming evidence is to be found by reading about the research of Psychologist Bob Altemeyer here: http://members.shaw.ca/jeanaltemeyer/drbob/TheAuthoritarians.pdf
Some of us are skeptical of man made global warming. However, science is science and fact is fact. You could convince me. I would love to see someone like you lay out the facts, confront the arguments head on, and present the case for climate change generated by humans. Some of us aren’t looking for an argument, we’re just skeptical, but skeptics who are not afraid to become believers.
Dan, the Washington State university link http://researchnews.wsu.edu/arts/195.html has used computer simulations to model the Mesa Verde abandonment. They determined that not one event but a cascade of events led to the decline of the culture at Mesa Verde. Drought led to loss of the maise crop. This led to famine. Famine caused migration of other people into Mesa Verde that produced to overpopulation. Overpopulation caused conflict for scarse resources and resulted in the eventual abandonment of the site. Drought caused by climate change seems to be at the root. These are the kinds of vignettes that our educational television channels should be teaching us.
J….there is a wealth of information on-line that you can use to educate yourself. Skepticism based on lack of knowledge isn’t really skepticism. To learn, you can start with Spencer Weart’s work, The Discovery of Global Warming, which outlines the background science and history (how we know what we know)
Also at skepticalscience.com there are two big blue icons at the top of the column. One says Newcomers, Start Here, and the second says The Big Picture. If you want the bare facts laid out for you, check The Big Picture.
Another way to educate yourself is to check each ‘skeptical’ talking point on skepticalscience.com to see how often ‘skeptical’ talking points are based on quote mining, misrepresentation, and how often the pseudoskeptics claim scientist A supports me, but in reality, scientist A says the exact opposite and has gone on record objecting to being misrepresented (exactly like how creationists get things wrong regarding evolution).
You can also look up University of Chicago’s Open Climate 101 lectures free online from Dr. David Archer. forecast.uchicago.edu/moodle/
This is an introductory first year course that students pay to attend….and we can do it for free.
There are multiple opportunities to learn the science directly from the scientists who are doing the research themselves; and many of them will take the time to answer questions (Realclimate.org, for example). They do, however, expect you to put in some effort to learn the basics.
If you’re truly serious about learning, there’s nothing stopping you.
I agree Daniel. Spencer Weart’s book is superb. So is David Archer’s book. Unfortunately most of the skeptics I have come across are quite secure in their view that every major science body on Earth is wrong, having never taken a course in atmospheric physics. I hold little hope of convincing Sophie’s folks. I still get emails claiming the world is getting colder! They deeply believe it.
I appreciate your view on “Forecast the Facts”. While I think it’s fine to believe what they want, this sort of witch hunt is not the right way to go about changing opinions. And I’m glad you say that.
However, I’m a little put off by your view of skeptics. I’m a meteorology student at FSU in Tallahassee so I like to imagine I know a little about weather, in fact, I’m taking Atmospheric Physics II and Atm. Dynamics II this semester! But I’m not totally convinced of man-made global warming. I wouldn’t deny that the Earth is warming, but is it really going to end the Earth soon if we don’t do anything about it? I don’t think that’s the case. But that’s besides the point, I guess.
My real question is how you would approach someone like Fritz Vahrenholt? In your article you say “The IPCC reports are overwhelmingly accepted…” But one of the reasons Vahrenholt became skeptical is due to the fact that he was asked to review IPCC reports, found errors, and those errors were ignored by IPCC officials. So how does a major environmentalist go from arguing for man-made global warming to writing a book called “The Cold Sun”? It can’t be that he’s just uneducated in the field.
I do enjoy your blog, though. I came across it at 8am this morning and I’ve been reading up on weather phenomena ever since. So in that sense, you’re blog has incited learning for me and that’s always a good thing. I also look forward to getting Weart’s book and I also want to get my hands on “Die Kalte Sonne” as soon as they can translate it into “The Cold Sun”.
There will always be a small minority of scientists who disagree with an overwhelmingly accepted opinion. You can find MD’s who insist that the HIV virus does not cause aids and even a few who think the MMR leads to autism. This in spite of the fact that there is no published peer reviewed science showing otherwise.
What these skeptics like Varhenolt do not seem to do is to publish there view in the peer reviewed literature. Anyone can claim to have found problems, but publishing it means SHOWING your work, and showing where others like Dr. Judith Lean at the USNO are wrong.
Almost every claim I have seen from the weathercasters mentioned is straight off of talk radio or right wing web sites. Claims like the planet is cooling, or CO2 levels are so low they cannot possibly have an effect are just patently ridiculous. There is nothing in the journals that support this. Those are the statements that deserve to be criticized.
Thanks for your comment, and take Dynamics one day at a time, you will get through it! It’s what separates the amateurs from the professionals!
The ones of us who remain doubtful about all the claims of human activity causing climate change have already been there and done that back in the 1970’s. TIME and NEWSWEEK magazines, as well as most news outlets were constantly warning of the coming ICE AGE! Aerosols were then the culprit reflecting heat back into space. Most of these particles were said to be the result of the overload of human activity. Now scientists have said that back then there were many more papers on climate research claiming the earth was in fact getting warmer. So, which is it? Were they making up data back then too? On the “Forecast the Facts” website you reference they ask the question, “Do you believe there is solid evidence the earth is warming?” Who the heck knows? That’s not the point. (You) and they seem to want to punish the experts who don’t agree with you.
I usually do not allow commenters here to spread myths, but this one has been so persistent and spread by some of those listed on Forecast the Facts, that I will make an exception.
First of all TIME and NEWSWEEK are not peer reviewed journals. The overwhelming opinion 40 years ago was that the planet would begin warming as CO 2 levels increased. The Bulletin of the AMS (which is peer reviewed) has a paper that refutes this myth completely. It’s free to read here: http://scienceblogs.com/stoat/Myth-1970-Global-Cooling-BAMS-2008.pdf.
To weathercasters who want to spread this myth, I have two questions. 1. What science journal did you read it in ( or was this something you saw on a website with unflattering pics of Al Gore, written by someone with no science training? 2. If you think Peterson et. al. are wrong, why don’t you submit it to BAMS yourself. That’s the great thing about science, it does not depend on here-say, and “everybody said an ice age was coming in the 1970’s” is just that.
Last but not least, every major science body on the planet has endorsed the IPCC conclusions. The number of scientists with a background in the field who disagree are about 2.5%. This is at a level far lower than those who think the Moon landing was a hoax.