.

  • Written by David Holmes, Director, Climate Change Communication Research Hub, Monash University
Melbourne's ABC weather presenter Paul Higgins discussing a trend towards warmer April days. ABC/MCCCRH

One of the great paradoxes of climate change communication in Australia is that politicians command the most attention on the issue, yet are among the least trusted sources of climate information.

Research has shown that domestic politics has the strongest influence on Australian media coverage of climate change. In contrast, in India and Germany media attention is driven by factors such as international climate meetings and the activities of environmental advocacy groups.


Read more: There's a good reason we're moderating climate change deniers: uninformed comments undermine expertise


In Australia, the four most trusted information sources on climate change are climate scientists, farmers, firefighters, and weather presenters, according to Monash University research.

This suggests people want to hear more from scientists about climate change - if only they had greater visibility. Farmers and firefighters may have won the public’s trust because they work at the frontline of climate change, in figuring out how to grow our food with diminishing rainfall or put out fires in an ever-expanding fire season.

Then-Treasurer Scott Morrison hands then-Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce a lump of coal during Question Time in Parliament in 2017. Research shows that politicians are not a trusted source of information on climate change. Mick Tsikas/AAP

Of this exclusive group, only weather presenters have the distinction of being both trusted and skilled communicators, and having access to large audiences. As such, they can play a very important role in delivering factual, apolitical information to millions of Australians.

Our research at Monash shows that even Australians concerned about climate change have surprisingly low levels of climate literacy, relative to the immense scale of the problem. This is not to say that simply giving people more facts will improve their knowledge - the assumption that underpins the “deficit model” of science communication. Facts, in themselves, will not necessarily influence people. But when they are delivered by trusted sources they can be very powerful.

People still love the nightly news

In the age of ubiquitous media coverage, it is remarkable that television remains the single largest source of news in Australia. People enjoy the ritual of news delivered at a dependable time that marks the end of the working day.

Veteran news anchors and weather presenters can fill the same place in a viewer’s day for decades, providing a sense of constancy. Weather presenters in particular deal with variations of the same serialised story, and many find that incorporating climate information improves the bulletin.

Channel Seven’s Melbourne weather presenter Jane Bunn, presenting a graphic charting the city’s dry February days. Seven News/MCCCRH

Monash University’s Climate Change Communication Research Hub has engaged weather presenters to present climate information in more than one-third of Australia’s media markets across three major networks.

Similarly in the US, the Climate Matters project, established in 2008, has engaged more than 500 weather presenters to present climate information, aided by research from the Center for Climate Change Communication.


Read more: 'This situation brings me to despair': two reef scientists share their climate grief


Just as these broadcasters present the day’s observed temperatures, they also present observed climate trends over a longer time scale.

The research hub offers graphics and information that weather presenters may use. Channel Seven weather presenter Jane Bunn and the ABC’s Paul Higgins, both of whom are broadcast in Melbourne, were the first to sign up to the Australian pilot program. See video below.

In an article in The Age newspaper in February this year, Bunn said she wanted to communicate only “the facts, quietly put through in a straightforward way that people can understand”.

A reel of Australian weather presenters improving their broadcasts with climate information.

This point touches on another finding of our research - that the public is most receptive to information that is “non-persuasive” or does not attempt to advocate one way or another.

Bunn told The Age that viewers were “generally fascinated with weather trends anyway and this is just giving them more of what they want”.

Weather presenters get it

When surveyed, 91% of Australia’s 75 weather presenters were interested in presenting local historical climate information.

Those participating in the Australian program generally present observed climate trends over 30-50 years: more than 30 years, because that is what the science says is needed for a strong climate signal, but less than 50 years because most people don’t care about the time scale beyond that.

The Monash project examines long-term climate trends in each month of the year, such as how many March days in Sydney have been hotter than 25℃, or the coldest September night Melbourne has experienced.

Chris Mitchell removes flood-damaged items in Townsville, February 2019, after days of torrential rain. Dan Peled/AAP

Notably, the project presents only local trends in climate relating to cities, towns and regions in Australia. Our research consistently shows that audiences connect with local information much more than national and global data, because the local information is seen to be far more relevant.

Audiences may also link the information to stories about local extreme weather events associated with climate change, such as floods and more violent storms.

Audiences hungry for more in weather reports

The appetite of Australians for information about climate trends is also very high. A 2017 survey of Australian television audiences found that about 88% of respondents were interested in learning about the impacts of climate change in a weather bulletin. Almost 85% would continue watching their main news program if it started presenting climate information.

More importantly, 57% of respondents said they would switch from their regular news program that wasn’t presenting on climate change to a rival channel that did.


Read more: Climate explained: Why are climate change skeptics often right-wing conservatives?


The communication of climate information to audiences can help overcome a little-understood phenomenon known as “pluralistic ignorance”, sometimes also referred to as “perception gap”. It refers to the fact that while more than 75% of Australians say they are concerned about climate change, just 50% believe others have the same level of concern.

A farmer surveys a cracked riverbed on his drought-stricken property near Cunnamulla, Queensland. Dave Hunt/AAP

This phenomenon is more common in nations such as Australia and the US where there is a strong denialist lobby, or merchants of doubt - groups that may be small but can strongly influence a person’s confidence to discuss climate change in their everyday life. The point is that if others are perceived to be unconcerned, it leads to strong self-silencing among the vast majority of Australians.

So if trusted sources such as weather presenters can show leadership in the public conversation by normalising climate information, this will help bridge the perception gap - and hopefully prompt more discussion of how to respond to the climate crisis.

David Holmes receives funding from the Victorian Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, the Queensland Department of Environment and Science and the Lord Mayor's Charitable Foundation.

Stephanie Hall receives funding from the Victorian Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, the Queensland Department of Environment and Science and the Lord Mayor's Charitable Foundation.

Authors: David Holmes, Director, Climate Change Communication Research Hub, Monash University

Read more http://theconversation.com/we-want-to-learn-about-climate-change-from-weather-presenters-not-politicians-123761

Is your horse normal? Now there’s an app for that

Vet: are you happy? Horse: neigh. evilgurl/Flickr, CC BY-NC-SASince ancient times, horse behaviour, and the bond between horses and humans, has been a source of intrigue and fascination. The horse-l...

Paul McGreevy, Professor of Animal Behaviour and Animal Welfare Science, University of Sydney - avatar Paul McGreevy, Professor of Animal Behaviour and Animal Welfare Science, University of Sydney

Small histories: a road trip reveals local museums stuck in a rut

Berry, and other tourist towns, are out of step with modern museum curation which is trying to include Aboriginal communities and their stories. ShutterstockAboriginal and Torres Strait Islander read...

Jen Saunders, Phd candidate, University of Wollongong - avatar Jen Saunders, Phd candidate, University of Wollongong

Curious Kids: how are stars made?

Stars come into existence because of a powerful force of nature called gravity. ESA/Hubble & NASA, Acknowledgement: Judy SchmidtIf you have a question you’d like an expert to answer, send it...

Orsola De Marco, Astrophysicist , Macquarie University - avatar Orsola De Marco, Astrophysicist , Macquarie University

What is perimenopause and how does it affect women's health in midlife?

Perimenopause lasts months for some women, and years for others. from www.shutterstock.comAll women know to expect the time in life when their periods finish and they reach menopause. Many might even...

Gita Mishra, Professor of Life Course Epidemiology, Faculty of Medicine, The University of Queensland - avatar Gita Mishra, Professor of Life Course Epidemiology, Faculty of Medicine, The University of Queensland

Vital signs. Our compulsory super system is broken. We ought to axe it, or completely reform it

We're taking money from people, letting it fall through the cracks, and spending no less than we were on pensions. ShutterstockThe just-announced inquiry into Australia’s retirement income syste...

Richard Holden, Professor of Economics, UNSW - avatar Richard Holden, Professor of Economics, UNSW

Might consciousness and free will be the aces up our sleeves when it comes to competing with robots?

Our advantage lies in incommensurables, and it'll grow in importance. Franck V. on UnsplashThe rise of artificial intelligence has led to widespread concern about the role of humans in the workplaces ...

Allan McCay, Law Lecturer, University of Sydney - avatar Allan McCay, Law Lecturer, University of Sydney

Should I stay or should I go: how 'city girls' can learn to feel at home in the country

Shutterstock/The ConversationA move to the country is often presented in popular culture as an idyllic life, a place where you can escape the pressures of the city. It’s in television shows su...

Rachael Wallis, Lecturer and Honorary Research Fellow, University of Southern Queensland - avatar Rachael Wallis, Lecturer and Honorary Research Fellow, University of Southern Queensland

Grattan on Friday: Storm clouds avoid the bush, darken over the economy

National Farmers' Federation president Fiona Simson says she doesn't think the government has a drought policy. ShutterstockGovernment sources insist shock jock Alan Jones didn’t drive Thursday&...

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra - avatar Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

Julianne Schultz appointed chair of The Conversation

Professor Julianne Schultz AM FAMA has been appointed chair of The Conversation Media Group, following the retirement of Harrison Young. Since becoming chairman in April 2017, Harrison has improved ...

Misha Ketchell, Editor & Executive Director, The Conversation - avatar Misha Ketchell, Editor & Executive Director, The Conversation

Cats are not scared off by dingoes. We must find another way to protect native animals

New research suggests feral cats can probably outsmart dingoes. Wikimedia/AAPFeral cats are wreaking havoc on our native wildlife, eating more than a billion animals across Australia every year. But ...

Bronwyn Fancourt, Adjunct Research Fellow, University of New England - avatar Bronwyn Fancourt, Adjunct Research Fellow, University of New England

Curious Kids: does chewing gum stay inside you for years?

Swallowing a lot of gum can cause it to stick together or stick to food in your gut. www.shuttershock.com, CC BYIf you have a question you’d like an expert to answer, send it to curiouskids@th...

Jerry Zhou, Lecturer, School of Medicine, Western Sydney University - avatar Jerry Zhou, Lecturer, School of Medicine, Western Sydney University

Don't believe your ears: 'enhancing' forensic audio can mislead juries in criminal trials

Audio used as evidence in criminal trials can often be unreliable.  Many criminal trials feature forensic evidence in the form of audio recordings, typically from bugging houses or cars, or intercep...

Helen Fraser, Adjunct Associate Professor, University of New England - avatar Helen Fraser, Adjunct Associate Professor, University of New England

The case for 'inclusion riders' in creative industries: what Australian discrimination law says about quotas

In March last year, Frances McDormand won the Academy Award for Best Actress. In her acceptance speech, she drew attention to the female nominees in the room and left them with two final words: &ldq...

Liam Elphick, Adjunct Research Fellow, Law School, University of Western Australia - avatar Liam Elphick, Adjunct Research Fellow, Law School, University of Western Australia

The Portal review: can meditation change the world?

The Portal uses individual stories of meditative transformation to suggest a bigger change is possible. SuppliedThe Portal follows six individuals who undergo a personal transformation from trauma an...

Peggy Kern, Associate professor, University of Melbourne - avatar Peggy Kern, Associate professor, University of Melbourne

Why white married women are more likely to vote for conservative parties

Women’s perceptions of 'gender linked fate' were contingent on two dimensions: their race and their marital status. ShutterstockThe polls were wrong in the last US and Australian federal electi...

Leah Ruppanner, Associate Professor in Sociology and Co-Director of The Policy Lab, University of Melbourne - avatar Leah Ruppanner, Associate Professor in Sociology and Co-Director of The Policy Lab, University of Melbourne

Thoughts and prayers: miracles, Christianity and praying for rain

In a speech in Albury last month, Prime Minister Scott Morrison told his audience that he was praying for rain in drought-affected areas. “I pray for that rain everywhere else around the count...

Philip C. Almond, Emeritus Professor in the History of Religious Thought, The University of Queensland - avatar Philip C. Almond, Emeritus Professor in the History of Religious Thought, The University of Queensland

Prime Minister's science prizes awarded for algebra expertise, anti-cancer research and excellence in science teaching

Cheryl Praeger was awarded the 2019 Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science. She has spent more than four decades inspiring a love for maths in others, and has created a vast body of academic work i...

Michael Hopkin, Science + Technology Editor, The Conversation - avatar Michael Hopkin, Science + Technology Editor, The Conversation

Curious Kids: is it OK to listen to music while studying?

Does music usually put you in a better mood? That might help you try a little bit harder and stick with challenging tasks. Shutterstock I am in year 11 and I like to listen to music when I am studyin...

Timothy Byron, Lecturer in Psychology, University of Wollongong - avatar Timothy Byron, Lecturer in Psychology, University of Wollongong

A requiem for Reformasi as Joko Widodo unravels Indonesia's democratic legacy

It’s deeply ironic that Indonesia’s third president, BJ Habibie, died on September 11 – less than a week before the national legislature passed a law that gutted the highly-regarded ...

Tim Lindsey, Malcolm Smith Professor of Asian Law and Director of the Centre for Indonesian Law, Islam and Society, University of Melbourne - avatar Tim Lindsey, Malcolm Smith Professor of Asian Law and Director of the Centre for Indonesian Law, Islam and Society, University of Melbourne

Sick and Tired of Your Dead End Job? Try Teaching!

Tired of the same old grind at the office? Want an opportunity to impact lives both in your community and around the world? Do you love to travel and have new experiences? Teaching English is the perfect job for you! All you need is a willingness to ...

News Company - avatar News Company

The Impact of an Aging Population in Australia

There’s an issue on the horizon that Australia needs to prepare for. The portion of elderly citizens that make up the country’s overall population is increasing, and we might not have the infrastructure in place to support this. Australians h...

News Company - avatar News Company

LifeStyle

Questions to ask yourself before buying your watch

There are more and more watches on the market. And more and more brands are trying to seduce consu...

How to Thoroughly Prepare Children for a Professional Photoshoot at a Studio

Children are only young for a moment, which is why, for a lot of parents, it's essential to take a...

What to Expect at the University of Florida Tour

The University of Florida is a dream college for most aspiring students. Not only because of its p...

7 Professions that Will Be Huge in the Next Decade

In order to embark on a career path that requires a lot of training and experience, you might ne...