New York — The Weather Channel is looking beyond cold fronts and summer showers with a project featuring the voices of 25 prominent people talking about the need to take action on climate change.
The network says its “The Climate 25” series is about science, not politics. But its message is unmistakable, and is consciously designed to reach people who may be doubters about the causes of global warming.
U.S. Army Gen. Charles Jacoby, Unilever CEO Paul Polman, former Environmental Protection Agency administrator Christine Todd Whitman and former Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson are among the participants. The 25 are filmed in black-and-white speaking directly to the camera about their perspectives on climate change.
Polman, for example, talks about his company losing business because of hurricanes, and drought in Africa hurting production at its tea plantations. Jacoby discusses military rescue efforts following extreme storms and how climate change could become a national security issue with nations fighting over resources. Paulson said that doing nothing about climate change is a radical risk.
The project, which started last week, is focused on The Weather Channel’s website with occasional features on the television network. Some of the planned TV airings were delayed because of storm coverage from Texas, and the network is considering doing more, said Neil Katz, vice president of digital content.
He said the issue has been a priority for the company for several years. The network issued a statement last year saying “the more the planet warms, the fewer winners and the more losers there will be as the result of the changes in climate.”
“We felt there was a climate conversation to be had and with us as a trusted source of weather news, this was a good place to do it,” Katz said.
Several conservatives were intentionally chosen to be participants “because we wanted everyone to be part of the conversation,” he said.
That’s an important strategic move, said Anthony Leiserowitz, director of the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication. People skeptical or less knowledgeable about climate change might be turned off by messages from Greenpeace or Al Gore, but be more attentive to business or military leaders they respect, he said.
The “Climate 25” series is an important educational effort because discussion of the issue is limited in the media and the physical evidence of the problem is not very visible on a day-to-day basis, Leiserowitz said.
“Just getting climate change as an issue in front of people is more than half of the problem right now,” he said.
John Coleman, a former TV meteorologist and a co-founder of The Weather Channel, is a widely quoted climate change skeptic and claimed there are others like him who work now at the network who are afraid to speak up because it would cost them their jobs.
“They certainly have the right to have an editorial perspective,” Coleman said. “I feel it’s stupid, scientifically wrong and it’s a great disservice. But there is freedom of speech.”
Katz noted that while Coleman played an important role in The Weather Channel’s start, he’s had nothing to do with the station in several decades.
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