Energy

US Taxpayer Dollars Fueled A 1,200 Percent Increase In TV Global Warming Reporting

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Michael Bastasch Energy Editor
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There’s been a 1,200 percent increase in on-air global warming reporting by TV weathermen in the past four years and the effort is being fueled by U.S. taxpayer dollars, according to soon-to-be-released data.

George Mason University professor Ed Maibach and the non-profit Climate Central work with about one-quarter of U.S. weathercasters to get more global warming mentioned more often on TV.

Maibach told Axios’s Amy Harder on-air global warming reporting increased more than 1,200 percent from 2013 to 2016 as part of the Climate Matters to “aid TV weathercasters in presenting science-rooted climate information in clear, concise and relevant ways,” according to Climate Central’s website.

Taxpayer funding has fueled Climate Matters and Maibach’s work with TV weathermen.

The National Science Foundation (NSF) gave Maibach and other researchers a nearly $3 million grant in 2014 to “expand the implementation of a currently active and proven climate education method delivered by TV weathercasters around the country.”

Maibach and others would then “improve the rate of use and effectiveness of Climate Matters materials by weathercasters over time and to study the effect on learning about climate by the public.” NSF gave Maibach and company a nearly $1.8 million grant in June 2017.

Maibach told Axios that regular TV segments on global warming “tend to have more influence on people’s mindsets hardwired to think a certain way,” rather than only speaking about global warming when extreme weather events, like Hurricane Harvey occur.

“It isn’t good to overreach,” Maibach said. “We don’t need to overreach to help people understand what climate change means to them. It’s actually quite good to focus on the mundane ways it’s changing our lives.”

Hurricane Harvey made landfall as a Category 4 storm in late August, breaking a 12-year streak of no major hurricanes making U.S. landfall.

Harvey idled over southeastern Texas and dumped about 50 inches of rain over the greater Houston area, which caused mass flooding and forced refineries and oil rigs to shut in.

Some scientists said that while global warming did not “cause” Harvey to form, the effects of the storm were made worse by two aspects of global warming: sea level rise and increased atmospheric moisture.

But University of Washington climate scientist Cliff Mass looked at the data and found global warming played an “inconsequential” role in Hurricane Harvey.

“The bottom line in this analysis is that both observations of the past decades and models looking forward to the future do not suggest that one can explain the heavy rains of Harvey by global warming, and folks that are suggesting it are poorly informing the public and decision makers,” Mass wrote on his blog on Friday.

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