Don't talk about the weather
Jul 20 2018 | 10:09:36
Even trusting your
local weather announcer is political these days.
Take the battle in
Congress over the renewal of a grant to help television meteorologists
incorporate climate change into their weather reporting. Four Republican
senators have called for an investigation, calling it indoctrination.
Democrats last week moved to protect the funding, which is administered
through the National Science Foundation.
to sway individuals of a various group, be they meteorologists or engineers,
to a politically contentious viewpoint is not science — it’s propagandizing,”
the senators wrote to the foundation’s inspector general.
The four Republicans
— James Inhofe and James Lankford of Oklahoma, Ted Cruz of Texas and Rand
Paul of Kentucky — requested an investigation into whether the grants, which
have been in place for almost ten years, violated federal law.
Scientists who work
with meteorologists on climate change dispute the accusations. Edward
Maibach, director of the Center for Climate Change Communication at George
Mason University, whose research center helps distribute the grants, noted
that climate change is established science and that most Americans acknowledge that.
Early studies by Mr.
Maibach’s group found that the public trusts TV weathercasters more than they
trust national news figures. Encouraging forecasters to discuss climate
change, he said, helps show Americans that rising temperatures are not a
distant threat, but affect them today.
The amount of
funding at stake, $4 million, is tiny by government standards. But the
results, according to Mr. Maibach, have been dramatic: In 2012 there were
only 55 on-air mentions of climate change in weather reports across the
country. Last year, there were 879.
Robert Margett, a
spokesman for the National Science Foundation, noted that all awards the
agency approves are evaluated by at least three independent reviewers. A
spokeswoman for the inspector general said the investigation request was
Ultimately, there is
more than a little political posturing. There may not be an investigation at
all. Meanwhile, the resolution offered by 18 Democrats to protect the grants,
which notes that scientists “agree that climate change is real,” is unlikely
to get a vote in the Republican-led Senate.
But one result
climate scientists say they do expect to see is more highly politicized
rancor about their work, despite the facts.
“Climate science is
really well established, like gravity,” said Benjamin Strauss, president of
Climate Central, a nonprofit science and news organization that has received
National Science Foundation funding.