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Climate Without Borders: Meet a Meteorologist Who Dares to Say “Climate Change” in Weather Reports

Web ExclusiveNovember 17, 2017
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As Democracy Now! broadcasts from the U.N. climate summit in Bonn, we look at how climate-related hurricanes have devastated parts of the United States, but weather presenters still rarely utter the words “climate change.” We speak with Jill Peeters, a weather presenter in Belgium who is also the founder of Climate Without Borders.

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Transcript
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman. We’re broadcasting live from the U.N. climate summit here in Bonn, Germany.

Well, this year, climate-related hurricanes have devastated parts of the United States, from Houston to Florida to Puerto Rico. You’ve got the wildfires in California. But even as there’s been wall-to-wall coverage of the flooding, the storms, the fires, weather presenters, TV meteorologists in the United States still rarely utter the words—they say “severe weather.” They say “extreme weather.” But what about another two words—”climate change”?

Meanwhile, right-wing news outlets like Breitbart Media are actively trying to spread propaganda about how the Earth is not warming, but cooling. Let’s turn to a clip of Weather Channel meteorologist Kait Parker slamming Breitbart for featuring one of her videos alongside an article filled with misinformation about climate change.

KAIT PARKER: So, last week, Breitbart.com published an article claiming that global warming was nothing but a scare, and global temperatures were actually falling. Problem is, they used a completely unrelated video about La Niña, with my face in it, to attempt to back their point. Now, what’s worse is that the U.S. Committee on Space, Science and Technology actually tweeted it out. Here’s the thing: Science doesn’t care about your opinion. Cherry-picking and twisting the facts will not change the future nor the fact—note fact, not opinion—that the Earth is warming.

AMY GOODMAN: “The Earth is warming,” says Weather Channel meteorologist Kait Parker.

Well, we’re joined now by another weather presenter, who never hesitates to use the word “climate change.” Jill Peeters is a weather presenter in Belgium. She’s the founder also of a group called Climate Without Borders, a group that educates weather presenters worldwide about how to report on both the weather and climate change.

Welcome to Democracy Now!

JILL PEETERS: Thank you. Hi, Amy.

AMY GOODMAN: So, it’s great to have you with us, Jill. I mean, in the United States, it is so rare to hear from the meteorologists on television the words “climate change,” no matter if they’re doing 24-hour-a-day coverage of the hurricanes, of the fires, of the very severe weather events that we’re experiencing.

JILL PEETERS: Well, it’s not only in the U.S.A. that it is challenging to get climate change in the weather reports. There are a lot of countries who are still struggling to get climate change in their weather reports. But you see more and more tendency to—that weather presenters do try to link extreme weather events to the changing climate. And we now have this new science—it’s the attribution science—which support us.

But one of the main things Climate Without Borders is working on is that weather presenters all over the world are not only looking pretty and being popular, they also are the bridge between the science, and they have an enormous reach towards the citizens. And they are trusted by the citizens. And that trust, they can use it on other platforms, like on Twitter, on Instagram. Some of my colleagues—for example, in Nepal, he talks about climate on radio. My colleague from Ghana, she made a calendar, which she distributed in Ghana. That’s another way to communicate on climate.

AMY GOODMAN: Did you always talk about climate change?

JILL PEETERS: No. Well, I started talking about climate change, I think, about 10 years ago. But—even more. But before that, I wasn’t aware, really, about the changing climate. Me, as a meteorologist, I can explain every thunderstorm in a meteorological way. But you have to zoom out in time, you have to zoom out in space, to understand the whole picture. And that’s something we’re bringing with Climate Without Borders to our meteorologists, that they don’t have to explain each meteorological event in a meteorological way. They have to learn to zoom out. And once they get this, they start commenting about climate change.

AMY GOODMAN: I mean, you see the meteorologists in every outfit possible, whether they’re covering the fires, or they’re standing with their boots in the rain.

JILL PEETERS: Yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: And it’s miserable, you know, freezing, it’s boiling, whatever. I see it as like standing at an intersection where there’s no traffic light. And they stand there, and every few hours they describe a horrible car crash and the people who died or the people who got sick. And then they wait there. And then the networks go to them when there’s another car crash a few hours later. But they never once say, “Why don’t they get a traffic light? That might solve this problem.” And that’s beginning the explanation of climate change.

JILL PEETERS: Yeah. Well, we should. We should all integrate at that moment, like, “Look, this is happening, here, right now, and everybody is affected,” especially the less stronger people in society. They are hit much harder than other people. For example, the hurricane in Puerto Rico, when it hit Puerto Rico—even before it hit Puerto Rico, the highest-educated people left the island. After the hurricane hit Puerto Rico, the middle class could leave the island. But the people who weren’t able to leave the island are still stuck there. So, there you see the difference in education, in the social context where you live in. And the weather presenters are—you’re so right. They are at the barricades of the changing climate, and they should really, yeah, talk more about the changing climate.

AMY GOODMAN: So, talk about Climate Without Borders, this group you started.

JILL PEETERS: Well, it started after the Paris Agreement. I was very inspired by the Paris Agreement. And there is this Article 12, which states that all parties—all parties—shall invest in climate awareness and good climate education. And especially in these times of fake news and alternative facts, it’s very important to have a trusted source. And most of the people worldwide trust their weather presenter. And weather presenters have the knowledge to communicate about uncertainties. We are used to doing that. So, it’s not a huge step to integrate climate communication. And Climate Without Borders now has a network of almost 140 weather presenters of 110 countries. And we exchange information on extreme weather, new climate studies, best practices. And we inspire each other, and we support each other. And we’re all—we became one big family, global family. And we’re all—

AMY GOODMAN: Article 12 says you must educate people about climate change?

JILL PEETERS: Yes, yes, yes. Article 12 of the Paris Agreement explicitly states that all parties shall invest in climate education.

AMY GOODMAN: One of your members is from Dominica?

JILL PEETERS: Yes, she is.

AMY GOODMAN: They dealt with a severe hurricane. Can you describe what happened?

JILL PEETERS: Yeah. Before the hurricane hit Dominica, our colleague Farrah—she is called—she kept us on top of this information all of the time, so we all knew exactly what could happen there. And the last message she sent into our group was a satellite picture of—no, a radar picture of this hurricane almost hitting her island. And then she said, “Pray for us,” with the praying hands. And then, for about a week, we did not hear anything. And can you imagine a community of 140—almost 140 friends? Everybody was so worried about her, because that was the last message we had. And then, seven days later, we got a message: “I am still alive.” I still get goosebumps. Look. “I am still alive.” And we communicated with the whole community so much about this event. And she’s still trying to recover. We invited her here at the COP. But just when she wanted to step on the airplane, she was obliged—she could not come, because of the government wanted all people working on meteorological to stay at their island.

AMY GOODMAN: Do you have American weather presenters, meteorologists—

JILL PEETERS: Yes.

AMY GOODMAN: —as part of your team? You said there’s a woman from Puerto Rico in your team.

JILL PEETERS: There is, yeah. Ada Monzon from Puerto Rico is on our network. But we also have some people from Florida, Miami. We have from New York. We have—

AMY GOODMAN: Do they talk about the difficulty, why it is—we’re not talking Fox here. We’re not talking Breitbart. We’re talking CNN and MSNBC. Almost never does a meteorologist say those words, “climate change.” Do they talk about why that is? What are the pressures?

JILL PEETERS: Yeah, well, you do have Climate Central in the U.S.A. And Climate Central produces very good graphics, very good content, to support weather presenters who do want to communicate on the climate. And in January, this coming January, there will be the AMS, the American Meteorological Society, gathering with all weather presenters and all weather and science scientists. And we will organize a session over there with Climate Without Borders, but especially with Climate Central, to get these American weather presenters engaged in climate communication. But there’s a long way. They have to learn how to zoom out of their own weather and their own channel. They have to learn how to zoom out. And we can support them in this.

AMY GOODMAN: President Trump says he’s pulling the U.S. out of the climate accord, the Paris climate accord. What does that mean to you?

JILL PEETERS: Well, in fact, the day he was elected last year, I was also at a COP, in Marrakech. Ever since, I have never been communicating about the Paris Agreement as much as I did before, because now, because of his election and of his pulling out—wanting to pull out, I had the opportunity to talk to each and everyone to say, “Look, this is the Paris Agreement stands for.” It’s the first time in history that I have been frequently talking about this Paris Agreement. Before, I couldn’t, because people thought, “OK, this boring agreement and bla bla bla.” And people were—felt offended in my country, like “You have this president who doesn’t even believe in climate change? But he has a responsibility.” I say, “OK, if you think that your president has a responsibility, that means that human people impact the climate, so you agree on that.” Then they say, “Yes, of course.” So it’s the first time, in my country and a lot of European countries, that people spoke out and spoke up and said, “Yeah, you’re right. Presidents and prime ministers, everybody should care and take action.”

AMY GOODMAN: So, Jill Peeters, you’ve danced for climate change. You’ve sang for climate. Can you talk about what you’ve done?

JILL PEETERS: Sorry?

AMY GOODMAN: You’ve danced, you sang for climate change?

JILL PEETERS: Yeah. Hoh, what have I done? I danced for climate. I sang for the climate.

AMY GOODMAN: On the show? On your TV broadcast?

JILL PEETERS: No, it was—we danced for the climate with about 10,000 people on the beach in Belgium. We also had the climate song, great climate song—google it, climate song. It’s lovely. It’s a protest song. We should all know that song. I even posed naked on the cover of a magazine, covered with paint, because I wanted to attract attention on climate. And they were like, “OK, Jill Peeters, she’s always very serious, and now she’s naked, covered with paint, of course.” They were like, “OK, why? OK, is it that serious?” I also made a child program. I wrote books.

AMY GOODMAN: And finally, as a model for U.S. meteorologists, TV presenters, can you say how you incorporate climate change into just a weather report? What do you say?

JILL PEETERS: Oh, it’s very easy. One of the things I usually do, on an almost daily basis, is show—showing the wind energy and the solar energy from my region. Like, after a sunny day, I show them the solar energy, and I say, “Look, about 500,000 families could profit from solar energy today.” It’s very simple, because it’s a positive story. We do have the solutions. But we only have to take action. It’s getting pretty urgent.

AMY GOODMAN: In fact, you say, “Bring a meteorologist next time to the U.N. climate summit.”

JILL PEETERS: All parties should. Yeah, they shall. I hope they bring their weather presenter, yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: Jill Peeters, weather presenter in Belgium, founder of Climate Without Borders. About 140 meteorologists on television and radio are part of this organization.

The original content of this program is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License. Please attribute legal copies of this work to democracynow.org. Some of the work(s) that this program incorporates, however, may be separately licensed. For further information or additional permissions, contact us.

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