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Viewer Trust Requires Forecasting the Facts

Why do people watch the local weather report, anyway? That was the question floating just below the surface of last week’s 40th annual broadcast meteorology conference in Boston. Just like their print counterparts, local news stations are being buffeted by the winds of online innovation, and weather is particularly vulnerable. Today, detailed forecasts are just a few clicks away. So why would anyone bother to tune in at 6 or 11? Nearly every meteorologist we heard from came back to the same answer: trust. As D.C.-area meteorologist Joe Witte noted, local TV news consistently remains the most trusted source of …

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In New Legal Initiative Against Cheese Maker, FDA Seeks Oversight Over Entirely Local Operation

At first glance, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's two-year legal assault on Estrella Family Creamery in Washington state appears entirely vindictive. The FDA seems intent on using its enormous enforcement powers to cruelly stomp on and obliterate a tiny business that serves as the livelihood of the Estrella family, and a source of eating pleasure and important nutrition for a community of hundreds of devoted customers. As a prime example, the agency's latest legal action in federal district court in Washington state rejects efforts by the Estrellas to negotiate a compromise that would allow the agency to continue monitoring …

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Heroic weatherman talks climate in a red state — and viewers thank him for it

Jim Gandy connects climate and weather for WLTX.

Weathercaster Jim Gandy, one of the nation’s most effective climate change communicators, broadcasts in South Carolina, one of the most conservative states in the nation, providing a powerful example for weathercasters across the country.

Forecast the Facts staff caught up with Gandy at the American Meteorological Society’s 40th annual Broadcast Meteorology Conference, in Boston, Mass. With a black cowboy hat and light southern drawl, Gandy told us he started investigating climate science in 2005 after geology professors at a nearby university asked him, “What do you think about this climate change thing?” Gandy took the question seriously, familiarizing himself with the peer-reviewed literature, and learning about how human activities are changing the weather and climate.

In 2011, Gandy partnered with George Mason’s Center for Climate Change Communication and the nonprofit Climate Central to develop a program called Climate Matters, a segment that places his weathercasts in the context of climate change. Gandy also blogs regularly about climate. Broadcasting in South Carolina, Gandy was well aware of the risks. “I’m not from a red state, I’m from a dark red state,” he told us. Like his friend and peer Dan Satterfield, a weathercaster based until recently in Huntsville, Ala., Gandy began speaking out about climate change fully prepared to face backlash from his politically conservative audience.

But a funny thing happened: The backlash never came.

Read more: Climate & Energy

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Should Walmart Write America’s Energy Plan?

Recent campaign stops by Mitt Romney and President Obama could not provide a more stark contrast of energy policies. Romney promises coal miners that he’s in favor of energy from “below the ground”, albeit preferring domestic sources of all fossil fuels. The President has repeatedly focused on “above the ground” solutions, such as wind and solar power, along with a money-saving emphasis on energy efficiency, but both men fail to put their energy plans for America in the context of one key ingredient - - a goal. Is there any country that gets it right? Well, Walmart may not be …

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Hey, weather man: Where’s the climate coverage?

This week in Boston, Mass., the nation's broadcast meteorologists will meet in their yearly conference sponsored by the American Meteorological Society (AMS). You probably don't have it marked on your calendar, but from the point of view of the planet, it's the most important meeting of weather reporters in history. Because the burning question in Beantown is whether weathercasters will embrace their responsibility to communicate how climate change is creating a new normal of dangerous, extreme weather.

Given the climate change-fueled storms, heat waves, droughts, and wildfires that have dominated the past year, global warming will undoubtedly be a "hot" topic at this year's conference. But, amazingly, many broadcast meteorologists remain lukewarm to the subject: The majority of weathercasters, including many with AMS certification, don't believe that humans are causing climate change, let alone that it's dramatically shifting our weather patterns. These meteorologists are missing the opportunity to be journalistic heroes who can inform the nation about our increasingly poisoned weather.

For those weathercasters who want education on the subject, the conference will have plenty to provide, with panels like "Applying Climate Change to Google Earth," "Climate Change and Ocean Stories," and "Hot Topics for the Station Scientist." But the source of the climate communication deficit is mostly not educational, it's about politics. The ideological bent of some forecasters, and the pressures to avoid "controversial" subjects that might affect ratings, are leading some meteorologists to ignore science when airtime arrives. That's why the staff of Forecast the Facts will be attending the conference, carrying a message from thousands of our members: that reporting on global warming is a professional and moral responsibility.

Read more: Climate & Energy

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Life-Saving Cross-State Air Pollution Protections in Jeopardy After Court Ruling

Today, the D.C. Circuit Court ruled against the Environmental Protection Agency's Cross-State Air Pollution protection (PDF), which sought to protect Americans from dangerous air pollution from coal-fired power plants. The protection would have reduced life-threatening soot and smog pollution from power plants in 28 states and helped curb poor air quality days and respiratory illnesses that affect millions of Americans. We are all disappointed with the court's decision today. Americans have been waiting for the clean air they deserve for decades, and the court's ruling today further delays the Clean Air Act's promise of safe, breathable air for our children. …

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Phase-Out of the Federal Wind Tax Credit a Good Thing?

Energy and Environment News has a very long story on a new angle for the federal wind tax credit debate: a phaseout. This article raises several issues, apart from that policy strategy, that are worth a quick discussion. 1. Why Would Wind Compete with Natural Gas? The article waxes long about the trials of the wind industry in the face of low natural gas prices, implying that utilities choose new natural gas power plants over wind power on the basis of price. I’m a bit skeptical. Wind power is inflexible, meaning utilities have to take the power whenever the wind …

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Our Challenge to TVA: Will You Live Up to Your Values and Save Money and Lives with Energy Efficiency?

This week, the Sierra Club presented a new report to the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) board of directors that charts a course for TVA to a clean energy future. The report, prepared by Synapse Energy Economics and commissioned by the Sierra Club, reveals that TVA can lower ratepayer bills every month for decades and clean up the air across the eastern US by investing in energy efficiency, rather than in retrofits for their most polluting coal plants. I grew up in the Tennessee Valley, and I know that this will come as welcome news to the millions of residents in …

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Offshore Wind Development Picking Up Pace

By J. Matthew Roney Wind power is the world’s leading source of renewable electricity, excluding hydropower, with 238,000 megawatts of capacity installed at the start of 2012.  Thus far, almost all of this wind power has been tapped on land; worldwide just 4,600 megawatts of offshore wind farms were operating as of mid-2012. Offshore wind capacity is growing quickly, however, expanding nearly six-fold since 2006. Twelve countries now have wind turbines spinning offshore, and more will be joining them to take advantage of the powerful winds blowing over the oceans. More than 90 percent of offshore wind installations are in …

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Could Minneapolis Get Cleaner Energy With a Utility Takeover?

As we spoke to legislators and activists roaming the halls of the State Capitol this past legislative session, it became increasingly clear that Xcel Energy and other utilities are calling the shots for our energy future. They decide which bills will be heard and, ultimately, which will be passed into law. Not coincidentally, a champion of clean, local energy was denied a seat on the Public Utilities Commission by the Legislature. Minnesota spends more than $20 billion a year on energy -- primarily importing polluting fossil fuels -- and the state's utilities typically lobby against decreasing our dependency. This hampers …

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