By Javier Caletrío
Climate Matters is a group of scientists and data analysts working with journalists to communicate climate change. One of their initiatives has been to build stories about climate change that TV weather forecasters can tell their audiences every time there is an extreme weather event.
I read about this successful initiative shortly after the British Ornithologists’ Union conference on climate change and birds last November and wondered whether the stories that ornithologists are revealing about the ways in which climate change is already affecting birds could also be used in a similar fashion.
Ornithologists could collaborate with TV weather presenters to use extreme climatic events such as droughts, storms, and heat and cold waves as ‘news hooks’ to tell their audiences about the present and future impact of these events on bird populations.
Meteorologists and ornithologists could identify weather events expected to happen in the coming months, and use this list to select stories about birds affected by those events (e.g. Shags affected by extreme winter storms). A two-minute story accompanied by graphics and videos could be elaborated for each species, ready to be aired by weather presenters when each event happens.
Most people still see climate change as a distant problem. The fact that the climate crisis is already affecting us and the scale of future risks if we fail to act decisively now are not yet fully understood. Weather presenters are excellent communicators and have frequent access to the public at relevant times, and stories about birds are a good way to engage wider audiences.
This approach to climate education could also give greater visibility to ornithology research and showcase the value of long-term data about bird populations to wider publics.
This kind of collaboration takes time to develop but may be worth considering by conservation and research organisations.
Photo by Zoltan Tasi.