Meteorologist Chris Gloninger left an Iowa TV station to escape viewers’ harassment for linking climate change with local weather events. And for other meteorologists who do the same the harassment is increasing.
Gloninger, formerly with KCCI-TV in Des Moines, Iowa, started receiving outraged emails as he did more reporting on climate change during his weather report, and one man who sent him threatening emails was charged with third-degree harassment, according to an Associated Press report.
“I started just connecting the dots between extreme weather and climate change, and then the volume of pushback started to increase quite dramatically,” he told the AP.
And in an interview with The Guardian, Gloninger said, “The management of the station wanted me to avoid the term climate change, maybe talk about changing climate or a warming world, to give people less of a stick to beat them with, which I get but also I don’t agree with.”
Another former TV meteorologist, Sean Sublette, now the chief meteorologist for the Richmond Times-Dispatch, told the AP viewer abuse is not necessarily new to the profession, but harassment has intensified in recent years. “More than once, I’ve had people call me names or tell me I’m stupid or these kinds of harassing type things simply for sharing information that they didn’t want to hear,” he said.
Meteorologists in Spain, France, Australia and the U.K. also have been subjected to complaints and harassment, Jennie King, the London-based head of climate research and policy at the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, told the AP.
Gloninger, however, said the harassment was specific to a vocal minority. “This incident is not representative of what Iowans are and what they believe,” Gloninger told the AP. “At the end of the day, the people have been incredibly supportive — not just of me, but of the efforts that my station has made in covering climate.”
Other meteorologists reporting in the nation’s primarily conservative heartland said public interest in the climate emergency has grown as extreme weather events have ravaged farmland. Matt Serwe, a meteorologist who used to work in Nebraska, said farmers there respect the link between climate and weather because their livelihoods depend on it.
A 2020 report found that “climate reporting by TV weathercasters…may be increasing the climate literacy of the American people.”