Original article published on The Hour by Dino Grandoni available here
First it was CNN. Then MSNBC. Now even the Weather Channel wants to ask presidential candidates about climate change.
The weather news network – better known for tracking hurricanes than following political campaigns – is set to air an hour-long prime-time special of interviews with nine 2020 White House hopefuls focused on how to tackle the causes and effects of global warming.
The special, planned for Nov. 7, is yet another sign that the issue of global warming is getting more media attention than in past presidential election cycles. And it’s a win for climate activists — though they say it is still not getting coverage commensurate with the threat it poses to the world.
Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Bernie Sanders of Vermont, two of the top-polling candidates in the Democratic field, will participate. So will other Democrats, including South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke and Sens. Kamala D. Harris of California and Cory Booker of New Jersey.. And three long-shot contenders for the GOP nomination against President Trump – former Illinois Rep. Joe Walsh, ex-South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford and and former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld – also will be interviewed.
The biggest name not included in the Weather Channel special is Joe Biden. The former vice president won’t participate because of scheduling issues with the network, according to a Biden campaign official.
Biden did appear at the CNN town hall on climate change last month, where he was pointedly questioned by an activist about a fundraiser co-hosted by a businessman who helped start a natural gas company. Biden declined to participate in the following climate forum, on MSNBC, as did Warren and three other major Democratic candidates.
Unlike last month’s CNN and MSNBC climate forums, which aired live interviews with the candidates, the Weather Channel special will show pretaped interviews of the candidates. And it has meteorologists – not just journalists – grilling the politicians about their climate plans. Among those experts is Rick Knabb, former director of the National Hurricane Center and the network’s on-air hurricane expert.
Polling over the past decade shows that meteorologists are increasingly convinced that man-made global warming is happening, with some even talking about climate change on air. That shift came even as John Coleman, a weather forecaster who helped launch the Weather Channel in 1982, became better known in later years for championing skepticism about human-caused climate change.
Nora Zimmett, the Weather Channel’s chief content officer and executive vice president, says her station takes the threat of climate change seriously. “As the nation’s only 24-hour science-based news network, we are proud to expand our original programming and address the serious conversations about climate change,” she said in a statement.
While the big news networks have carved out television time for forums on the issue, that hasn’t always translated into coverage during marquee event. CNN’s climate town hall, for example, was a whopping seven hours long, with candidates sitting for back-to-back interviews. But when it came time to host an actual debate between the candidates last week, CNN anchors did not ask a single climate-related question.