May 7th, 2014
11:17 AM ET
3 months ago

On climate change forecast, White House opts for meteorologists

Washington (CNN) - When it came to spreading the word about the government's alarming new report on climate change, senior advisers to President Obama thought who better to talk about extreme weather forecasts than meteorologists.

A senior administration official said the decision to bring in well-known weather forecasters from both national broadcast networks and local television stations for a series of interviews in the White House Rose Garden with the President was designed to avoid a debate over whether climate change is actually happening. Instead, the intended focus was to help communities prepare for the National Climate Assessment's predictions of droughts, heat waves, and severe storms that are on the way.

Meteorologists and their loyal viewers, the official said, were the perfect audience for that message.

"This isn’t something in the distant future. Climate change is already affecting us now. If you live along a coast, you’re more likely to face flooding. If you live in the West, you’re more likely to face drought because of climate change," Obama told South Carolina meteorologist Jim Gandy.

The senior administration official pointed to Gandy as an example of a meteorologist who now does regular reports on climate change for WLTX-TV, the CBS affiliate in the South Carolina capital of Columbia.

Last March, the Columbia Journalism Review featured a story on Gandy, describing the weather man as willing to take on the subject of global warming in a red state where there are plenty of climate change skeptics.

“I do accept the science that increasing [carbon dioxide] significantly leads to a warming of the earth,” he told CJR. “We know that the increase in CO2 is largely the result of burning fossil fuels, which is a human activity. I am not afraid to say that it is happening because the science is crystal clear on this point.”

The "Weather from the White House" interviews, as the interviews were dubbed on the President's schedule, represent the latest example of senior administration officials opting to bypass the traditional press corps covering Obama to deliver its message. White House officials have repeatedly defended the approach as part of a strategy to reach Americans "where they live."

In March, Obama sat down for a mock interview with comedian Zach Galifianakis for a discussion aimed at generating interest among young Americans in the Affordable Care Act.

The "Between Two Ferns" segment on the web site, "Funny or Die," was deemed an instant success by the White House after it resulted in droves of new visitors to HealthCare.gov.

But the White House’s preference for meteorologists to drive a news cycle on climate change is not new.

As a senior administration official who served in the Clinton administration pointed out, dozens of meteorologists participated in an event on global warming at the White House in 1997.

The official said it was a good model. So why not use it again, Obama's advisers thought.


Filed under: climate change • President Obama • White House
soundoff (77 Responses)
  1. otlset

    What are the climatic goals of any legislation intended to reduce 'greenhouse gas' emissions? What global temperature constant should we be striving for? How will we be able to trace the effects of such legislation, whether it has any effect at all?

    Anybody?

    May 7, 2014 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
  2. SOUTHERN SNOTTIE

    I am looking out the window can predict with 100% accuracy that it is sunny and not raining. Ten years from now I can predict with 100% accuracy it will be sunny and not raining plus or minus 100%. That is what a meteorologist is, a fortune teller masquerading as a scientist.

    May 7, 2014 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
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