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LIZ ROLL/FEMA.ORG

What Superstorm Sandy left behind.

San Antonio Meteorologists talk climate change

Given climate change, what's in Texas' future that concerns you?
I think it's a combo package here. The droughts are becoming more long lasting and more severe. I also think that the rising seas are going to be a major issue. A sea level rise of even an inch or two spread out over the entire world oceans is a lot of water. That will flood a lot of coastal communities when storms hit, even in areas that aren't used to flooding. We're talking about a weather component to climate change that's not just an inconvenience. It's going to be an entire lifestyle change that future generations are going to have to consider. The issue isn't where there's global warming. I think you'd have to be a fool to say there's not. The issue is what's causing it. If we have to argue about what's causing it, then maybe what we need to do in the meantime is just acknowledge it, take that as a first step, and say be careful where you live, be careful what you do with your resources. And let's have a civilized conversation about how it got there and what we do about it going forward.

Should meteorologists connect what climatologists are saying to the immediate effects, the real world weather on the ground?

In a perfect world we'd all be one big happy family of weather forecasters. But meteorology and climatology are two very different animals. Meteorologists are focused on the short term. Let's get out there and try to get the next seven days right. Climatologists are trying to get the next seventy years right. I think in many ways, meteorologists are held more accountable because you can see the immediate results of our forecasts. But a climatologist could be wrong and there's nobody in this generation that would know that.

In covering extreme weather, for instance, is there any context in which it would be appropriate to mention or to address what the science says about climate change?
I do get emails on this. I do get people saying, “When this storm hits, how come you never attribute it to climate change?” It's because I kind of shy away from getting into the debate. I'm not sure many in the meteorology community feel comfortable saying that just yet. There's a loud argument on this other side that says it (climate change) might not necessarily be true. And you're just adding fuel to the fire of an already polarizing topic.
The minute I go there, I've already taken sides. I've taken sides, and the science doesn't matter. It becomes personal for people. If there was a way for me to tell people, “these storms are getting bigger, we're going to see them more often, they're more dangerous, sea levels are rising.” If I could say all this stuff during my weathercast without people further trying to split hairs on the issue, if I could say it without people making it personal, I would feel more comfortable about people doing just that. But unfortunately, as soon as you mention the C word, climate, or the G word, global, right away people tune out the science you're trying to present and they like you or they don't like you. And it's not really my job as a broadcast meteorologist to conquer and divide. It's to give people tomorrow's weather.

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