January 23, 2012

American Meteorological Society Delays Vote on Climate Change Statement

New Orleans, LA – On Sunday, January 22, the Council of the American Meteorological Society voted to delay passage of its new statement on climate change, deviating from its plans to release a new statement by Feb. 1, 2012. Daniel Souweine, director of the Forecast the Facts campaign—a new initiative to hold T.V. meteorologists accountable on climate change reporting—said this in response: “The AMS Council is calling this a ‘routine’ delay. But the statement is taking considerably longer than expected, and members of their drafting committee have threatened to resign. Something isn’t adding up.”

Forecast The Facts staff attended the Council meeting, where AMS Council member Peter Lamb explained that the Council had sent the statementback to the drafting committee because of unspecified “concerns.” Councilor Lamb indicated that the drafting committee was frustrated by the process, and that multiple committee members had threatened to resign. On Friday, January 20, the AMS posted an update on their blog about the statement’s release.

The AMS is the leading national organization for meteorologists, with over 14,000 members. Its information statements are “intended to provide a trustworthy, objective and scientifically up-to-date explanation of scientific issues of concern to the public at large.“ According to a national survey, T.V. meteorologists trust information from the AMS more than almost any other source, including climate researchers, making their statement on climate change a closely watched document in the meteorological community.

The current statement, passed in 2007, was originally set to expire on February 1, 2012. The new statement, being drafted by a panel of experts, requires approval by the 21-member AMS Council. The Council’s decision to delay the vote means that the process for drafting will take longer than the AMS’ internal guidelines, which state that: “The period of time from appointment of the drafting committee to approval by the Council must not exceed eight months.”

The issue of climate change denial among television weather reporters has gained increasing attention of late, especially with the release of a national study by George Mason University in March 2010. The study found that 63% of T.V. meteorologists think climate change is due to natural causes, and a full 27% think global warming is a scam.

Recent increases in extreme weather have added further impetus for meteorologists to report on climate change. In 2011, the United States experienced a record twelve “billion-dollar” extreme weather events, including flooding from Hurricane Irene, unprecedented tornadoes in the Midwest, and crippling droughts and wildfires in the Southwest. Most scientists believe that climate change exacerbates extreme weather, a conclusion affirmed by the International Panel on Climate Change’s November 2011 report on the subject.

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