… meanwhile, in another part of the Graun our old friend Adam Corner – he who broke the story of Lew’s Moon Landing paper to an astonished world, and who now psychologises at Climate Outreach – wants weather forecasts to “tell it like it is” and bring climate change into the picture. As he says:
… weather forecasters who guide everything from our clothing choices to our weekend plans seldom – if ever – mention the issue that is increasingly shaping our beloved British weather: climate change.
If I let the weather forecaster on French TV guide my clothing choices I’d be wearing a short little number, décolleté, bright red, designed to show off my curves to advantage in profile. (Well, maybe I am. Who’d know?)
While the weather can’t always straightforwardly be equated with a changing climate, the impacts of climate change are no longer a hypothetical concern, or a discussion for the future. Climate change is with us now, and is manifesting through rising temperatures, more violent and unpredictable storms, and heavier rainfall.
After claiming that “the impacts of climate change are no longer a hypothetical concern, or a discussion for the future” Corner starts linking:
-“Rising Temperatures” links to an article which claims that droughts, heatwaves, bushfires and rising temperatures are driving ecosystems towards collapse – in Australia.
–“Violent and unpredictable storms” links to an article on a cyclone in southern Africa. It starts: “Destructive power of storms likely to increase in future as world warms up.” So it is a discussion for the future, after all.
– And “Heavier rainfall” links to an article on floods and droughts in North America:
…it’s likely that some regions will experience both more drought and more flooding in the future (just not at the same time!)… Observations reveal more intense rainfalls and flooding in some areas. But in other regions there’s more evaporation and drying with increased drought. Some areas experience both.
And some experience neither. Which is more or less what the poor weatherperson is obliged to utter every evening: “Rain here, sunny there, and a bit of both, or possibly neither, elsewhere.”
Corner sounds a note of caution:
The social science of climate communication points to the importance of striking a motivating balance between hope and fear in public messages. In practice, this means not only raising the alarm about the often terrifying consequences of a changing climate, but also providing advice and support on what people can do to save more energy, waste less food, or lobby their MP to prioritise climate change.
“…striking a motivating balance between hope and fear in public messages.”And we thought the job of weathermen, journalists, politicians, scientists and everyone else who has a public message to deliver, was to tell the truth, preferably whole and nothing but.
Clearly, our humble weather forecasters can’t do this all on their own. But the inspiring rise of the school strike movement is proof of the frustration and urgency with which young people view the issue that will define their lives, and suggests the era of side lining climate change as something that environmentalists worry about, while the rest of us get on with our lives, may finally be coming to an end.
So let’s give Adam and the Weathermen a hand. Let’s mention climate change everywhere, all the time, in any circumstances. The Guardian does. And so does Adam Corner’s colleague at Climate Outreach George Marshall. George has written a whole book about the embarrassing silences he’s provoked at dinner parties when he mentions climate change. Almost as embarrassing as the sales figures of the Guardian.
But when it comes to attributing this sudden massive surge in climate-related weather, where do we start? Is it attributable to the rise in global mean temperature of 0.5°C over the past half a century, or to the fall in global mean temperature of 0.5°C over the past two years or so? Or a bit of both? Or neither? Should we ask the scientists? (Oh, I forgot. The Science is Settled, and the scientists are out to lunch.)