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Why are we telling you climate stories? Recapping 'Crisis in Communication' | Bradon's Barometer

We hope you enjoyed our special, 'Crisis in Communication', on Climate Change. Here's a recap of why the FOX43 Weather team went in depth on the topic.
Credit: WPMT FOX43

Sitting at my desk in between newscasts, I often find my mind wandering. It often leads to a new weather story to tell, focusing on my Center Stage theatre segment or in this instance, a new project that just aired on Nov. 30.

So, my apologies. 

The inception of this latest special was pretty boring: I just thought it up eating my dinner and watching Hulu on my phone during my break. I'm lucky and grateful enough to have a newsroom behind me who puts up with my random ideas and occasionally lets me loose on one or two.

Scientists will tell you that climate change shouldn't be a political issue. And, in a perfect world, they're right. We all are impacted by our respective climate, from the tundra of Canada and Alaska to the Amazon Rain Forest. The climate doesn't care about our opinions or "facts." It's not going to be influenced by someone calling it a "hoax" or even the biggest crisis of our time. But, it can and is being influenced by humans: 99% of climatologists and meteorologists agree.

So, that got me thinking. 

Just when did climate change become this hot button, heated, divisive political issue? 

For my entire career, even in my own family, I've had those who want to argue about climate change. Strong dissidents even take it to a personal level, as if those who believe the climate is changing are personally attacking their very existence as human beings. That's how divisive we have become on a variety of topics, but even of climate change.

But, why is it this way? That's initially what the FOX43 Weather team set out to discover. And of course, it starts with a history lesson.

After watching the link above, I think about one of my favorite quotes in that portion of our special. 

"As scientists, our job is to do research to help understand the world better. We don't necessarily our job to figure out what to do about how to fix problems that our science reveals," Dr. Edward Maibach, George Mason University Professor and Director of Mason’s Center for Climate Change Communication said.

It's so very, very true. But perhaps that's part of the problem. 

Over time, the science was left in the hands of those who either perhaps didn't understand it completely or even still, those whose personal allegiances may be impacted by changing attitudes towards climate, Dr. Maibach noted.

"We're mostly learning to what our elected officials are saying about climate change. Perhaps because they have the biggest microphone," Dr. Maibach said.

That public microphone helps shape our own thought processes. 

Dr. Maibach noted that the best way to convince an audience is through short, clear messages repeated often by a variety of trusted sources. And when trusted sources either have varying levels of knowledge on a subject, or have other allegiances, that science gets turned into another narrative altogether.

"It's a wonderful thing to be the world's richest industry [fossil fuel], because it spins off a lot of extra cash to spend on the health of your industry in the future. One of the ways you can use your extra cash is to buy friends," Dr. Maibach said.

Ironically, that fossil fuel industry knew all the way back to 1978 that climate change was a concern. 

According to testimony from the U.S. House Oversight and Reform Committee, Exxon scientist James Black told company officials of the problem. But even as recently as the 1990s, their CEO was denying the legitimacy of the science.

There lies part of the critical element that began to cause divisiveness in public perception of climate change. And while it's risen and fallen over the years, that's the battle that continues to be fought. It led us to into a variety of stories in both the second and final portions of our 30-minute climate special, all of which you can find here.

But why, you may ask (and a lot of viewers have), are your local meteorologists now delving into reporting on what some would call a political debate? 

The truth is, unless you have a designated climate or environmental reporter, who else could or should? 

Remember what Dr. Maibach said about simple, clear messaging from trusted sources? 

We predict the weather every single day right here at home. And even in my last five years here, we're seeing more and more extreme weather events not just nationally, but at home.

 Whether it's the massive flooding in Lancaster and York counties in 2018 and 2021 or repeated "warmest year on records," we predict it every day. We care about the environment around us, around you--not just now, but for the future.

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So, not only is the FOX43 Weather team constantly delving into the latest research regarding climate change -- from 800,000 year-old Antarctic ice to the highest levels of carbon dioxide recorded in Mauna Loa -- we're forecasting it monthly, weekly and daily. It's not going away. 

That's when weather crosses with climate. That's when climate crosses with history. And that's when history crosses with politics, all of which shape our immediate future.

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For all of us on the FOX43 Weather Team, we hope you watched and enjoyed our recent special Climate Smart: Crisis in Communication. 

You can read and watch the stories online any time. 

If there's a story or area you'd like us to look into, send me an email at blong@fox43.com. 

We're already working on our next project to continue telling stories both about weather and climate. We can't wait to share them with you.

Until next time,

-Chief Meteorologist Bradon Long

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