TV meteorologists could play key role in climate change education

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Canadian meteorologists who deliver the evening news are interested in educating Canadians about the increasing impacts of climate change.

A recent study from the University of Waterloo found that television weathercasters are increasingly interested in getting into climate change journalism, as opposed to just forecasting current conditions, but face a number of barriers to taking on the role.


“During the course of the research, it became clear that weathercasters across Canada are feeling a sense of responsibility to connect changes in their local communities, such as extreme weather, to the climate science they believe underlies them,” said Water Institute member Jason Thistlethwaite, an assistant professor in the Faculty of Environment. “But a lack of time and resources to convey the information appropriately to their viewers was often described as a significant challenge.”

In conducting the study, Bronwyn Mcllroy-Young, the study’s lead author and Thistlethwaite conducted a literature review and interviewed a number of TV meteorologists. Collectively, the group interviewed had worked at every major broadcast network in Canada and at locations across the country, most for more than 20 years.

“Many of the participants in the study indicated that although they would be willing to engage in climate change, the short amount of time on air limited their ability to do so,” said Mcllroy-Young. “Many Canadians are watching these weather broadcasts so we may be missing an opportunity to bridge the psychological distance between climate science and their day-to-day lives.” 

Mcllroy-Young and Thistlethwaite’s study appears in the journal Environmental Communication.

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