Climate Fundamentals: NOVA’s ‘Decoding the Weather Machine’

David Morrison

NOVA, PBS, “Decoding the Weather Machine,” broadcast April 18, 2018, two hours. http://www.pbs.org/video/decoding-the-weather-machine-vgqhot/. DVD available from https://shop.pbs.org/nova-decoding-the-weather-machine-dvd/product/NV61803.

Despite nearly unanimous consensus among climate scientists and increasing evidence for disruption of “normal” weather, a substantial minority of Americans do not accept the reality of human-caused climate change. There have been many discussions of how to bridge this gap in public understanding of climate science. Suggestions include emphasizing fact over theory or models, citing current examples of climate impact, and using spokespersons who are perceived as credible by many audiences.

The new two-hour NOVA television documentary “Decoding the Weather Machine” embodies these approaches, starting with a title that focuses on weather, not climate. The opening statement is “Most people sense a change in the weather.” The film defines its subject as “Global investigation of our climate machine and how it determines our weather.” John Holdren (identified only as affiliated with Harvard University, not former Presidential Science Advisor) ties it all together, with lots of scientist interviews and spectacular images of fieldwork, from the Greenland ice-sheet to coral reefs. Most of the scientists are young and at least half are women, rather than the usual cast of graying male climatologists. Katharine Hayhoe, an excellent climate communicator, plays a prominent role.

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