Who are the best people to persuade Americans with doubts about climate change that it is, in fact, occurring? The answer may be the men and women who deliver weather reports on local TV stations.

“For many people, we are the only scientist seen on a consistent basis,” wrote Jeff Berardelli, who has spent 22 years as a broadcast meteorologist. “We are a trusted local source of information, with an influence that few, if any, others have.

“Meteorologists are sewn into the unique cultural fabric of our cities and towns. We understand our people. Our people understand us. It’s us and only us, with our background in science, our communication charisma and our trusted local voice that can bridge the gap between science and society.”

How to talk about climate was a hot topic last month in Phoenix at the American Meteorological Society’s (AMS) annual meeting, Bryan Bender reported in POLITICO Magazine. A main takeaway: Avoid the phrase “climate change,” which is loaded with partisan connotations. Stop talking about who or what is most responsible, and focus instead on what is happening and how unusual it is—and what it is costing communities.

The new language taking root, Bender wrote, is meant to instill a sense of urgency about what is happening in ways that everyday citizens can relate to—without directly blaming it on human activity: The spring blossoms keep coming earlier; seasonal allergies are worsening and lasting longer; extreme heat is upending the kids’ summer camp schedule; crops are drying up or washing away at alarming rates.

And wherever possible, climate specialists told Bender, they are trying to explain the more frequent and deadly weather events in purely historical terms: These storms, these droughts, these dramatic fluctuations in temperature have previously taken place—once a century, or even once a millennium. But they keep coming.

“Over and over, we hear some version of: ‘I’ve lived here all my life, and it’s never been like this,’” said Carl Parker of the Weather Channel in Atlanta. “So, I think many are becoming aware, even intuitively, that the weather is getting worse, and that’s where we can connect the dots.”

“As broadcast professionals,” Berardelli asserted, “we know the best communication is a conversation, a two-way street, in which we meet our viewers where they are. Be honest, level with your viewers and stay far from politics. When viewers have questions or objections but are genuinely open to our expertise, engage them. Be respectful and responsive.”

“We are still not getting enough people to talk about it in the ways that matter to human beings in their homes, in their communities, for their family,” said Bernadette Woods Placky, an Emmy award-winning meteorologist who directs the Climate Matters program at Climate Central. “So it is making those connections in ways that really matter to people. It’s a jobs story. It’s an agriculture story. Connect it to the farm bill; boom!”

The strategy is being increasingly employed in more conservative regions of the country, where climate doubt still runs deep—even if there are signs of cracks in the resistance thanks to the pummeling pattern of highly unusual and costly weather events.

The nonprofit Climate Central has been working to encourage broadcast meteorologists to supplement daily forecasts about things like the polar vortex with information about climate change. Some 600 broadcast meteorologists, out of an estimated 2,200 in the United States, are working with Climate Matters to create new ways to tell their viewers about climate change.

AMS conference organizers invited Robert Mark Simpson, a professor of geography at the University of Tennessee at Martin, to talk about his three-year effort to educate farmers about climate change in western Tennessee and eastern Kentucky, where at some dinner tables the term remains a political curse word.

It’s a tall order. So he is also trying another tack to reach the political and religious conservatives whose families have been farming for generations: warning that the family business might be in jeopardy—sooner than they might think. “Will they be able to farm here 30 to 40 years from now?”

Another line of argument Simpson has found successful is an appeal to conservatives’ personal connection to nature. “Many are hunters and fishermen. They are really tied to the environment,” Simpson said. He finds he can reach them by trying to tap into their belief that “we’ve been given stewardship” of the Earth.

As the recent polar vortex plowed into the Midwest and the East, broadcasters such as Rush Limbaugh told listeners that the planet must not be warming after all. Fortunately, many TV meteorologists were explaining why the polar vortex proved no such thing--and very possibly was caused by climate change.

“As the consequences of the climate challenge mount,” Berardelli observed, “we find ourselves presented with this remarkable opportunity, a chance to use our unique skill set of science, communication and trust to be an integral ingredient in the solution to this greatest of human obstacles. We are a credible scientific source that can clear a path through confusion and help our viewers emerge at the clarity of scientific truth.”


Making a living as a fisherman has always been a challenge. With the climate changing, it is rapidly becoming even more challenging.

Fisherman Darius Kasprzak of Kodiak, Alaska, has been fishing commercially since 1983. “I have gone from averaging 100,000 pounds of cod every year at 40 cents a pound, and this year I caught two cod,” he told Robert Lee Hotz of The Wall Street Journal. From his small boat he now catches rockfish, a whitefish that can fetch 6 cents to $1.25 a pound, depending on the variety. “It’s been five years since my last good cod season, and I had to travel 400 miles to get that.”

Hotz’s extensive reporting from Alaska and the East Coast led to a front-page story with the header “The Price of Climate.” Climate’s impact on the global commercial fishing industry has been significant already and is widely expected to increase.

“We are definitely seeing changes in what’s happening out on the ocean,” said Doug L. Christensen, president of Arctic Storm Management Group in Seattle, a company that harvests about 90,000 tons of fish yearly from the Bering Sea. In pursuit of pollock this year, his ships have been traveling 60 or 70 hours out of Dutch Harbor, he told Hotz, instead of 20 hours or so as in years past, adding an extra 5,000 gallons or so of fuel to complete each voyage.

Scientists at the University of British Columbia concluded in 2016 that climate change will cost the global fishing industry $10 billion per year within a few decades. Published in the journal Scientific Reports, the study found that changes in ocean temperature, salinity, oxygen and sea ice levels, and other conditions will significantly drive down the number of various marine creatures in the coming years. In addition to pushing species into new environs, the team said, rising temperatures may also cause many of the fish we rely on to become smaller--further driving down the maximum catch potential.

The recent Fourth National Climate Assessment by 13 federal agencies outlined the economic impacts the nation may experience as a result of unruly weather, changing climate and sea level rise. The report foresees "declines of species that support some of the most valuable and iconic fisheries in the Northeast, including Atlantic cod, Atlantic sea scallops, and American lobster."

Though most people chasing fish are likely to see their income decline, the migration of species in response to rising water temperatures will create some winners, at least for certain periods. The U.S. catch of Illex squid, usually used in calamari, tripled between 2016 and 2017, and fishermen off the coast of Rhode Island are benefitting. Richard Fuka, who builds boats and repairs commercial fishing vessels in Point Judith, says he has seen business thrive as a result. “The huge winner in warming waters,” he told Hotz, “is the squid fisherman of Rhode Island.”

Jimmy Ruhle is catching some of those squid. The bad news is that he has to travel from Virginia to do so. As he explained to Hotz, over the last 25 years, he has seen summer flounder and black sea bass shift their range 600 to 700 miles or so north from where he once caught them as a young man, in response to warming water temperatures and shifts in the Gulf Stream. To stay profitable, Ruhle has shifted northward too, and that means higher fuel costs. As a result, Mr. Ruhle has branched out into harvesting squid off the coast of Rhode Island, which he can unload locally.

“We had to travel 1,300 miles in 11 days to get the catch we were allocated,” he said. “All of the fish we caught this year could easily have been taken off Virginia 25 years ago. It has been that significant a shift in those species.”

Concerned about a decline in the Dungeness crab fishery offshore from California and Oregon, the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations went to court in November. The PCFFA is suing 30 companies, mainly oil producers, charging that the fossil fuel industry must be held accountable for recent warming-related damages to the famed $445 million crab fishery.

Since 2014, the northeast Pacific Ocean has experienced several dramatic marine heatwaves, NPR’s Alastair Bland reported. The higher temperatures have caused blooms of toxic algae that, by producing the neurotoxin domoic acid, can make Dungeness crab and other shellfish unsafe to eat. In the fall of 2015, state officials delayed the opening of crab season by several months, until testing finally showed that domoic acid levels had dipped back to safe levels. Several similar closures have occurred since.

"We're out fishing all the time, and it's obvious the oceans are getting warmer," said John Beardon, who fishes for Dungeness crab out of Crescent City, California, and spoke with David Hasemyer of InsideClimate News. "That's bad for crabs and other fish, and it's bad for those of us who make a living on the water. The last three years have been really hard. Our community came together and held a fish fry to help our crew members. But fish fries and disaster relief are no solution to these closures we're now seeing year after year after year."

Of course, the fishing industry is not alone; virtually every line of business will be affected by climate change. It’s time for Congress to put an honest price on carbon so that we can minimize the damage to our economy.


How much deterioration in human health are Americans willing to accept before telling our elected leaders to do something about climate change?

There’s no dispute about the fact that wildfires, heat waves, floods, hurricanes are becoming more frequent and more intense and that they take a toll on our health. A major report published November 28 in the public-health journal The Lancet provides predictions of how climate change is degrading human health, and how it will alter health-care systems in the future, as The Atlantic’s Vann R. Newkirk II put it.

A supplement to the report examined the likely impacts on Americans and broke them down into three categories, Newkirk wrote:  1) The heat itself and the increased intensity and duration of heat waves will make people sick, exacerbate existing conditions, and reduce the productivity of workers; 2) The rising severity and frequency of extreme weather events will elevate threats to health, as well as threats to health systems; 3) Warmer seasons and warmer water mean the range for illnesses carried by ticks and mosquitoes will expand, putting more Americans in the crosshairs of diseases such as vibrio, Lyme disease, and West Nile.

“One of the central challenges” is to convince people that “climate change is here today and is impacting our health today,” said Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association, which sponsored the U.S.-focused analysis.

The report points to evidence already indicating links between hotter temperatures and mental-health and cognitive issues; increases in kidney diseases, preterm births, and respiratory diseases; heat exhaustion; and the advance of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

It’s worth remembering that every health impact carries a price tag, and we need to crank that figure into any cost-benefit analysis of actions we might take to counter climate change. The Lancet study, which was sponsored by 27 academic institutions, a collection of intergovernmental agencies, and the UN, found that, in 2017, 153 billion hours of labor were lost worldwide because of heat. That’s 64 billion more lost labor hours than in 2000--a 41 percent increase in just 17 years. This is one statistic you can cite if someone tells you it would be too expensive to tax carbon or take other action to fight climate change.

The risk of debilitating, often deadly infectious diseases is moving to new places. That’s because even small changes in temperature and rainfall can have a significant effect on where diseases that are spread by bugs and water can take hold. Habitats for dengue-spreading mosquitoes have expanded significantly, the Lancet study concluded.

The Lancet’s report cites a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that shows that disease cases in the U.S. from mosquitoes, ticks, and fleas more than tripled from just under 30,000 to almost 100,000 a year from 2004 to 2016.

Do you like to eat? If so, you may be concerned by the finding that crop yields are diminishing in 30 countries, reversing a longtime trend of rising agricultural productivity.

We simply should not ignore these disturbing facts. We need to put them to work to persuade lawmakers that the time has come to price carbon.


We’ve all heard the lament from those who oppose government action to stem climate change: Tackling this challenge would devastate the U.S. economy. Anyone who still believes that needs to sit down with the second volume of the fourth National Climate Assessment, issued November 23 by the federal government.

The authors of the new report have begun to put dollar signs next to projected climate damage, specifically within the United States, The Washington Post reported. In a worst-case climate-change scenario, the document finds, labor-related losses by the year 2090 as a result of extreme heat — the sort that makes it difficult to work outdoors or seriously lowers productivity — could amount to an estimated $155 billion annually. Deaths from temperature extremes could take an economic toll of $141 billion per year in the same year, while coastal property damage could total $118 billion yearly, researchers found.

“This report makes it clear that climate change is not some problem in the distant future. It’s happening right now in every part of the country. When people say the wildfires, hurricanes and heat waves they’re experiencing are unlike anything they’ve seen before, there’s a reason for that, and it’s called climate change,” said Brenda Ekwurzel, climate science director at the Union of Concerned Scientists and a report author.

That view was echoed by Susanne Torriente, the chief resilience officer for Miami Beach. “We don’t debate who caused it,” she told The Washington Post. “You go outside, the streets are flooded. What are you going to do about it? It’s our reality nowadays.” Miami Beach is already spending hundreds of millions of dollars to adapt to rising sea levels.

The report warns that the country is particularly unprepared for the upheavals that will come as rising sea levels swamp coastal cities: “The potential need for millions of people and billions of dollars of coastal infrastructure to be relocated in the future creates challenging legal, financial, and equity issues that have not yet been addressed.”

In its response to the document, the White House told the BBC that the report was “largely based on the most extreme scenario, which contradicts long-established trends by assuming that... there would be limited technology and innovation, and a rapidly expanding population.”

The National Climate Assessment is more limited in scope than the October report from the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that explored what it would take for the world to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. But the new report, Umair Irfan wrote in Vox, echoes the same basic themes about climate change:

  1. It’s already happening.

  2. It’s going to get worse.

  3. It’s going to cost us dearly.

  4. We can still do something about it.

As the government report put it, global warming “is transforming where and how we live and presents growing challenges to human health and quality of life, the economy, and the natural systems that support us.” The report, which was based on the work of 300 scientists, concluded that humans must act aggressively to adapt to current impacts and mitigate future catastrophes “to avoid substantial damages to the U.S. economy, environment, and human health and well-being over the coming decades.”

“It’s not that we care about a 1-degree increase in global temperature in the abstract,” said Katharine Hayhoe, an author of the report and an atmospheric scientist at Texas Tech University. “We care about water, we care about food, we care about the economy—and every single one of those things is being affected by climate change today.”

There was sobering news for every region of the country. Across the Southeast, massive wildfires—like those seen now in California—could soon become a regular occurrence, smothering Atlanta and other cities in toxic smog, the report warns. In New England and the mid-Atlantic, it says, oceanfront barrier islands could erode and narrow. And in the Midwest, it forecasts plunging yields of corn, soybeans, wheat, and rice.

The Chicago Tribune’s Tony Briscoe wrote: "Midwest farmers will be increasingly challenged by warmer, wetter and more humid conditions from climate change, which also will lead to greater incidence of crop disease and more pests and will diminish the quality of stored grain."

Concerned commercial fishermen in California and Oregon have headed to court, Scientific American reported, contending that oil and gas companies have hurt the fishing market in the Pacific Ocean by raising temperatures on Earth. The Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations is seeking financial compensation for its losses from 30 companies.

Republican Senator Susan Collins represents Maine, where the lobster industry has been affected by warming seas. She tweeted that the National Climate Assessment "should cause all of us, including the Administration, to take a harder look at the consequences of inaction & use what is known about climate risks to inform policy."

The best policy, in our view, is a national carbon fee, which would fire up the free market to accelerate the nation’s transition away from fossil fuels. Every member of the 116th Congress should read the highlights in the new report and then do his or her part to help our country meet this central challenge.


With Democrats taking control of the House in January, what is the outlook for progress on climate change?

"Being realistic, it may be tough for legislation to be approved by this administration, but there are many acts to building a legislative agenda,” said Congressman Paul Tonko (D-NY), who is likely to become chairman of the Environment Subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

“We'll be looking into an agenda that would advance efficiency, grid modernization, and maybe rolling it into a larger infrastructure bill that addresses both improving resilience for adaptation and investing in our infrastructure with issues like [electric vehicle] charging deployment," he told POLITICO.

We can expect the full Energy and Commerce Committee to tackle this central challenge, too. Congressman Frank Pallone (D-NJ) is probably going to serve as chairman and said, if so, he'll examine the impacts of climate change on communities and the economy.

Come January, the House Science Committee no longer will be run by Congressman Lamar Smith (R-TX), who publicly questioned the integrity of federal climate scientists and routinely questioned whether humans are contributing to climate change. He often spoke of what he considered the benefits of carbon dioxide emissions.  Smith’s likely successor is a rather different Texan, Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson, who released a statement promising to restore “the credibility of the Science Committee as a place where science is respected and recognized as a crucial input to good policymaking.”

On top of those switches, there are expectations that the Select Committee on Global Warming, which the Republicans abolished when they took control of the House in January 2011, will be brought back to life. That panel was not authorized to advance its own bills, but it used dozens of hearings to evaluate advancements in renewable power and the consequences of climate change.

In addition, there will be more oversight of EPA, Interior, and other government agencies, making it more difficult for the Trump administration to undo regulations that were put in place to fight climate change.

The GOP casualties of the midterm election included at least 14 members of the bipartisan House Climate Solutions Caucus. Eight others are retiring, so the 43-Republican roster has been cut in half. The most notable loss was Caucus Co-chairman Carlos Curbelo (R-FL).

Executive Director Mark Reynolds of the Citizens' Climate Lobby, which helped create and promote the caucus, issued a post-election statement insisting that "reports of the death of the Climate Solutions Caucus are greatly exaggerated… We’re confident other Republicans will step up to lead, and the existing and potential members are invested in continuing bipartisan work on climate.”

Florida Congressman Francis Rooney, a caucus member who was reelected, said, "I definitely want to see it continue. The ...caucus has brought some Republicans into the discussion of sea-level rise and climate change. It's healthy to have more people involved in that discussion."

Rooney told The Washington Post that he believes there would be bipartisan support for adaptation to sea-level rise. "There may be debate about long-term climate cycles and manmade CO2 and all that," he said. "But I don't know how you get around the fact that they've measured the change in the level of the seas."

Though the caucus has been criticized for failure to score any significant legislative points and has been mocked by some as primarily a “greenwashing” vehicle, its existence is crucial for depoliticizing the climate issue, according to Bob Inglis. The former Republican congressman from South Carolina now runs republicEn, a group seeking free-market solutions to climate change. "The thing to keep in mind is in order for climate action to be durable it has to be bipartisan," Inglis said in a Post interview.

Last summer Curbelo introduced a carbon tax bill, which was cosponsored by Rooney and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), a caucus member who barely survived a Democratic challenge last week. Rooney wants to reintroduce a version of that bill. "I'd like to see a way to roll it out with a little more fanfare and a little more media support," he told a Washington Post reporter.