Weathercaster Jim Gandy is well educated on climate change and takes responsibility for informing his audience how it connects to weather. Given he reports in the conservative-heavy South Carolina, Gandy was initially concerned his climate reports would receive criticism, but, instead the public praised the reports. The Center for Climate Communication researched why Gandy’s climate communication is so successful and two elements stood out: he educates his viewers and relates to their daily lives. Viewers trust their weathercasters, and perceive them as being experts they can learn from. Gandy took advantage of this learning environment and the public responded positively.
Heroic weatherman talks climate in a red state — and viewers thank him for it
Forecast the Facts staff caught up with Gandy at the American Meteorological Society’s 40th annual Broadcast Meteorology Conference, in Boston, Mass. With a black cowboy hat and light southern drawl, Gandy told us he started investigating climate science in 2005 after geology professors at a nearby university asked him, “What do you think about this climate change thing?” Gandy took the question seriously, familiarizing himself with the peer-reviewed literature, and learning about how human activities are changing the weather and climate.
In 2011, Gandy partnered with George Mason’s Center for Climate Change Communication and the nonprofit Climate Central to develop a program called Climate Matters, a segment that places his weathercasts in the context of climate change. Gandy also blogs regularly about climate. Broadcasting in South Carolina, Gandy was well aware of the risks. “I’m not from a red state, I’m from a dark red state,” he told us. Like his friend and peer Dan Satterfield, a weathercaster based until recently in Huntsville, Ala., Gandy began speaking out about climate change fully prepared to face backlash from his politically conservative audience.
But a funny thing happened: The backlash never came. Rather than facing an onslaught of angry phone calls, Gandy found that many viewers were fascinated by his reports connecting climate change with their daily lives. His report on climate change’s impact on poison ivy, for instance, received praise from viewers who stopped him on the street to thank him.
Unfortunately, Gandy is an outlier among weathercasters, who are some of the America’s most trusted public messengers on climate change [PDF]. Even among weathercasters who are convinced about the science of climate change, 39 percent report [PDF] that a perceived “lack of viewer support” prevents them from including climate information in their nightly broadcasts. But if numerous public surveys [PDF] and the urging of thousands of Forecast the Facts members aren’t enough to persuade the more cautious in the profession, Gandy’s experience should be.
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