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The Weather Channel has earned its fair share of criticism over the last few years. The cable television mainstay began a slow pivot away from its trademark 24/7 weather coverage in the mid-2000s by airing ratings-grabbing reality shows in place of repetitive but useful weather coverage. The station's decline in quality accelerated rapidly after its purchase by NBC Universal/Bain Capital in 2008.

Despite the controversies surrounding the station as of late (the most recent of which involving a popular meteorologist almost dying in a tornado), The Weather Channel deserves credit where credit is due:

On Tuesday, President Obama rolled out a plan to cap carbon emissions at existing power plants, improve efficiency standards on automobiles, double the amount of electricity produced with renewables, and lead a global movement to address climate change. But the media virtually ignored it.

All of the three major news networks spent mere minutes on the speech — which ran in total 49 minutes.

MSNBC: 41 seconds
FOX News: 4 minutes and 37 seconds
CNN: 8 minutes and 5 seconds
The Weather Channel: 49 minutes

The Weather Channel -- the last cable network you'd expect to embark on a serious journalistic endeavor -- is the only cable network that covered President Obama's climate change speech in its entirety this afternoon. Even C-SPAN couldn't be bothered to show this important speech to its tens and tens of viewers, relegating the 2:00PM speech to its virtually unknown C-SPAN 3.

BuzzFeed even posted a blurb about how shocking this was:

The Weather Channel also aired a what-to-expect segment before President Obama’s speech and provided analysis afterward.

During the speech, MSNBC reported on the day’s Supreme Court rulings, CNN reported on the Trayvon Martin trial and the Paula Deen controversy, and Fox interviewed a climate change skeptic.
For all the guff they receive for their sensationalist and often irresponsible coverage of major weather events, they don't receive the credit they deserve when it comes to educating the public on matters of climate change. For as long as I can remember, The Weather Channel has forcefully maintained that man-made climate change is a real and enduring threat to the planet and its inhabitants. The channel threw away its passive approach and dove head-first into the fake controversy in 2006.

The AMS Seal of Approval
In December of 2006, resident climatologist Dr. Heidi Cullen made a pretty powerful statement on her weather.com blog about television meteorologists denying climate change. In the post titled "Junk Controversy Not Junk Science," she went so far as to say that meteorologists who receive a professional seal of approval from the American Meteorological Association (AMS) deserve to have their certification revoked for publicly denying climate change:
Meteorologists are among the few people trained in the sciences who are permitted regular access to our living rooms. And in that sense, they owe it to their audience to distinguish between solid, peer-reviewed science and junk political controversy. If a meteorologist can't speak to the fundamental science of climate change, then maybe the AMS shouldn't give them a Seal of Approval. Clearly, the AMS doesn't agree that global warming can be blamed on cyclical weather patterns. It's like allowing a meteorologist to go on-air and say that hurricanes rotate clockwise and tsunamis are caused by the weather. It's not a political statement...it's just an incorrect statement.

I agree with every meteorologist who says the topic of global warming has gotten too political. But that's why talking about the science is so important!

Emphasis mine

This statement caused a firestorm of controversy for both Cullen, who now works as interim CEO of Climate Central, and her then-employer The Weather Channel. Fox News was, as one would expect, front and center in generating controversy around Cullen's strong statement against climate change denialism in the meteorological community. The story's author interviewed a pretty famous meteorologist in the southern United States, James Spann of ABC 33/40 out of Birmingham, AL.

But James Spann, chief meteorologist for ABC 33/40 in Alabama, who has been in operational meteorology since 1978, said Cullen is wading into dangerous waters when it comes to judging her colleagues.

"I do not know of a single TV meteorologist who buys into the man-made global warming hype. I know there must be a few out there, but I can’t find them," Spann said on his blog. "I have nothing against 'The Weather Channel,' but they have crossed the line into a political and cultural region where I simply won’t go."

The 7 year old controversy highlights a pretty dramatic rift in the weather community that continues to this day. A not-insignificant number of meteorologists deny climate change, either out of their personal political conservatism (which is rampant among meteorologists for some reason) or because they believe short-term weather models over long-term climate models.

(Side note: A number of vocal meteorologists who deny climate change take this position for two reasons: their reliance on short-term weather models, and the length of accurate weather observations. Some meteorologists I've spoken with over this issue say that short-term weather models show a warming atmosphere creating more cloud cover, which would in turn cool the atmosphere and negate any negative effects of climate change. They also deny climate change because accurate, consistent weather observations only date back a hundred years or so, and they believe that the warming observed is cyclical in nature and perfectly normal. I disagree with both positions.)

Cullen's view that television meteorologists should somehow be punished for publicly denying the existence of climate change is a little harsh, but the increasing number of denialist meteorologists sharing their views with the public is unsettling. I've gone on record numerous times here on DailyKos with my displeasure with some climate change activists for targeting television meteorologists to discuss climate change during on-air weather forecasts or severe weather outbreaks, but my attitude on this is changing pretty quickly as time goes on.

Television meteorologists should talk about climate change in order to combat the junk controversy being thrown at them by certain deniers. Perhaps not while a tornado is on the ground and they need to tell people where it's going, but incorporating climate science into nightly broadcasts is a good way to combat the "Flat Earth Society" view that it's a hoax, and inform the public with solid scientific facts.

The Weather Channel, for all its flaws, is taking a stand and doing just that. Back in November of 2007, The Weather Channel added a page to their website called "The Weather Channel Position Statement on Global Warming." While some of the information is outdated (such as wondering if climate change will affect tropical cyclones), it's a step in the right direction.

A website called "Co.Exist" recently published an article that included quotes from Weather Channel CEO David Kenny, who spoke pretty bluntly about The Weather Channel's position on climate change from here on out:

"We insert climate into every weather story," says David Kenny, CEO of the Weather Company. "We’re scientific journalists. We start with science and try to tell scientifically based stories. It’s not a political point of view."
The article also included a snippet from an on-camera presentation given by TWC Meteorologist Stu Ostro, who said "[...] a reasonable initial conclusion is that global warming--the changing climate--did contribute to the outcome" of Hurricane Sandy, which did billions of dollars in damage to the northeastern United States last September.

The Weather Channel is doing a great thing by making more and more on-air presentations about the science behind climate change, and especially by taking the lead today and airing President Obama's climate speech live in its entirety. If they keep at it, it could redeem their image from another disaster porn channel past its prime to a quality organization that effectively informs without dumbing it down.

2:53 PM PT: CORRECTION: Fox Business and Bloomberg also showed most of the speech. I've updated the title to "major network" to reflect this.


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