For Jeff Berardelli, his climate alarm bells began ringing a few years ago when he noticed extreme heat gripping the Arctic. As an on-air TV meteorologist in Florida with 20 years of experience who was used to seeing weather maps, the large splotches of red in the Arctic just didn’t sit right. Despite those alarm bells sounding louder in his head, it seemed like the public wasn’t hearing them—nor were other members of the media.
To figure out how to help the public tune into the claxon ringing in his head, Berardelli decided to come to Climate and Society (C+S). Climate change influences weather, and that’s why Berardelli saw a unique opportunity in being a TV meteorologist. Not only could he connect the weather to the climate, being a meteorologist on TV everyday made him one of the only scientists most people regularly come in contact with.
“Meteorologists are both scientists and trusted communicators in towns and cities all over the nation,” he said, noting that audience trust is crucial. “It’s very difficult to communicate a topic with someone until you have gained their trust. Local meteorologists are already trusted sources of science information.”
Berardelli’s meteorological background gave him a head start on the climate science portion of C+S. But it’s the social science classes that gave him the keys to really unlock how to communicate that science so it actually influenced people.
“If I wanted to report on climate change for broadcast media, I needed to understand all aspects of how it impacted society and how to communicate in a way that people would be willing to listen,” he said.
As part of the program, he interned for CBS News’ website, and that’s turned into a full-time job. He currently works as meteorologist and climate specialist for CBS, delivering the weather forecast, particularly extreme weather (which has unfortunately been all too common). But what’s most unique about Beradelli’s work is that he puts these extreme events in a climate change context, whether it’s how rising temperatures are making large wildfires more common or how sea level rise is boosting hurricane storm surge. He also produces and reports original climate stories because climate change is about more than weather. Berardelli is doing exactly what he set out to do when he decided to attend C+S. He consistently brings climate change coverage to millions of viewers across the country in an attempt to break down communication barriers. He’s not alone either, with C+S alumni working across media, including independently and at the Washington Post.
“Perhaps one of the best advantages of the program is that the alumni are now some of the most prominent and most well-respected people working in climate change,” he said.
Berardelli along with that growing group of communicators are an important signal to other TV meteorologists and journalists that they can—and should—also find ways to tell their own climate change stories and inform the public. Because the climate alarm bells need to be heard now more than ever.
“I feel it is my responsibility to motivate our industry to step up to the plate and report more thoroughly on what is one of the greatest challenges humans have ever faced,” Beradelli said. “It’s clear that, despite tons of research and proof of climate change consequences, people are not always willing to accept or care about climate change. My job is to figure out how to communicate to reach people who are tough to reach.”
This story was originally published on the Climate and Society website.