This is a Moms Clean Air Force exclusive interview with meteorologist, Eric Sorensen. He has chased hurricanes and tornadoes, received awards, and just got his third Emmy nomination for his weather reporting. Eric has been vocal about air issues and climate change.
Meteorologists have a daily audience. Should meteorologists report on climate change? Do you think the average American understands the difference between weather and climate?
It is our duty as on-air meteorologists to report on climate change. I am discouraged when I see my colleagues shy away from the subject because of possible ramifications. It is my belief that Americans understand the basics when it comes to weather and science. However, I have seen first-hand many people relying on old science and push away new discoveries because they believe there is a political motive.
The U.S. lags behind other countries in its level of science literacy and interest. Is climate change denial part of the problem?
Certainly, the U.S. needs help when it comes to S.T.E.M. (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) in our schools. I don’t believe this is necessarily tied to climate change belief, but is definitely an educational concern. We need to get away from climate change being a partisan issue.
Are meteorologists being pressured to avoid discussing climate change due to outside influences?
I really think it’s the meteorologists who choose not to discuss climate change. However, I have friends who work in conservative TV markets who report on the science of climate change on a daily basis. We need those who crave the information to encourage their favorite meteorologists and weathercasters to report on climate change.
You stated that “extreme weather happens more frequently in a warming climate.” Do you think that Americans who see the reports of droughts causing sweeping fires or superstorms flooding homes have become more connected to the issue?
Connecting local events to the bigger picture of climate change is the best way to inform the public. Certainly, without a doubt, extreme droughts, record floods, long term heat waves, (and in some locations cold snaps), happen more frequently with a warming climate. In my market, six of the top ten Mississippi River floods have occurred since the “Great Flood of 1993.” Many people are stunned when they hear that statistic, especially when I tell them “we should expect more of them, more often.”
How do you help people understand climate science and become more mindful in their daily lives – by the choices they make?
It’s all about continuing with the correct information. People have the ability to change their minds, but some will continue to resist. It’s important as a meteorologist and someone who leads the dialogue to not get caught up on those who refuse new information. We can’t delay the train because one person on the platform refuses to get on.
Can individual cities and states create their own independent paths toward concrete actions, despite the U.S. withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement?
I believe a lot of this will occur in private industry, especially as new, clean technology becomes cheaper. And I believe the momentum is still there, even though the U.S. removed itself from the pact to clean our environment. That momentum will continue with the inauguration of the next administration.
You recently were a speaker at a “youth climate march.” Do you think that the upcoming generation gets it?
It will take a repeated stream of accurate climate information. Keep in mind, many youngsters are also not getting enough science in their curriculum. They may be taught by people who believe there’s a political party driving the climate change debate, instead of the science community. We need to encourage more of our youngsters that their voices are just as loud as any adult.
You have referenced the need to leave an environmentally sound legacy for children. What is your advice to parents and grandparents on how to be a part of the solution?
I am not currently a father. But I really want my future children to be able to say, ‘Dad, I’m proud you did what you could when you were a meteorologist on TV.’
Early in my career, I was a skeptic of climate science because I didn’t learn about it in my college education. However, after my due diligence, I was able to change my mind because it wasn’t closed. That’s the key! We need to be open-minded to change, especially when it comes to things we know little about.
Photo: Courtesy of WQAD