Advice from the field: Make your producer cover climate change 

Editor’s note: This is part of an occasional series of tips gleaned from the most recent annual conference of the Society of Environmental Journalists.

By Vladislava Sukhanovskaya

Journalists and meteorologists met at this year’s Society of Environmental Journalists conference to explore how to connect extreme weather and climate change.

Here are some tips and useful resources provided by a panel at the organization’s annual conference in Boise, Idaho.

Nelly Carreno, a bilingual chief meteorologist for KUVN Univision Dallas, said that the TV market in Fort Worth, Dallas, “is not very climate-friendly.”

To encourage her producer to report more often about climate change, she created a questionnaire for 500 Spanish-speaking people.

“What I’ve come to learn from Spanish speakers in Dallas is they’re not your regular viewers, because a lot of them work in construction,” Carreno said. “And if it’s 110 degrees, 108 – they pass out. So they care a lot about that.”

Her audience agreed that climate change is happening and that humans are the cause, she said. They wanted to know more about its impact on their everyday life.

The panelists suggested that to better know your audience, use data from Yale Climate Opinion Maps. Here you can see on the county level how people perceive climate change and respond to the messages such as “Global warming will harm animals and plants” and “Require fossil fuel companies to pay a carbon tax.”

Extreme weather has always been around us, but climate change is making it worse, said Chase Cain, climate editor, at NBC LX in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

“We don’t have an attribution study looking at that and (that can) say, ‘Yes, this was amplified by climate change,’ ” he said. “But anyone who understands the science can tell you, ‘Yeah, it was.'”

For every degree Fahrenheit of warming, the atmosphere will hold 4 percent more moisture, he said. When this 4 percent rains down, we get severe flooding like in Fort Lauderdale, he said.

“We know how climate change is shifting the conditions for tornadoes. We know how it’s impacting the weather, which makes wildfires more likely, bigger and longer,” Cain said. “So even if it feels like you’re in this sort of precarious position, you’re actually not – the science is behind you.”

Climate Central, a non-profit organization that researches and reports on climate change, created a map that journalists can use to see how much climate change contributes to local weather changes such as heat waves.  Here are instructions on how to use the Climate Shift Index and a descripti

While covering climate change, avoid doomism, said Lauren Casey, a meteorologist at Climate Central. “Doomism doesn’t do well and yields climate anxiety.”

Find a solution to the problem, she said.

“It’s really important to integrate solutions and tell people what we can do, what is happening in their community, through the groups that are coming together and organizing to implement solutions,” Casey said.

Resources  for reporting on climate and extreme weather:

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