Weathermen and women are close to the public and they instil a sense of trust. As such, they are perfectly suited to informing citizens about climate change, believes VTM weather forecaster Jill Peeters. That is why she set up 'Climate without Borders', a network of 130 weathermen and women from 110 countries. She tells us her story.
Jill Peeters, weather forecaster at VTM and author of books on climate
Climate without Borders unites 130 weathermen and women from 110 countries
Weathermen and women need to use their potential more effectively to inform the general public about climate change
I have been a weather forecaster with VTM since 2000. It didn't take long before I was intrigued by climate change. That led me to publish my first climate book in 2007. In fact, I noticed that people were starting to ask different questions. It was no longer 'Will we have nice weather tomorrow?', but 'What's the situation with climate change? Can we still take a summer holiday in Spain with the forest fires and droughts?’.
In 2009, former Minister Magnette invited me to take part in a climate summit in Copenhagen. Although the summit ended up being a major disappointment, I realised that the negotiations at the UN level were extremely important. As such, I also attended the climate summit in Paris. Fortunately, a firm agreement was reached.
In Paris – and also at the subsequent summit in Marrakesh – I taught weather forecasters from Africa about climate communication. By doing so, I became known to the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO). And on Whatsapp, I had built up a group of weathermen and women from various countries. It's great to exchange information with like-minded people about how we can communicate about climate change!
Focus on messengers
The consequences of climate change are already visible! Weathermen and women witness it from the front line. They have a scientific background, but at the same time are popular figures who are close to the public. As such, they can act as credible spokespersons who can transmit knowledge through stories. There is a lot of potential, not just on TV, but also in social media. Up until now, the focus has been on the message, but it doesn't work like that. I want to give the floor to the messengers. That way, you can raise awareness among the general public more effectively.
However, I noticed in Paris and Marrakesh that not all weather forecasters fully realise the potential they have. We needed more than a Whatsapp group. Why not create a real organisation which brings together weathermen and women around the world?
Tot nu toe lag de focus op de boodschap, maar zo werkt het niet. Ik wil de boodschappers voor het voetlicht halen. Zo kan je beter het bewustzijn aanwakkeren bij een groot publiek.
Climate without Borders
'Climate without Borders' was launched in Brussels in June 2017, with a core group of 25 weather forecasters from 25 countries. Among others, from Argentina, Brazil, Kenya, South Africa, Burkina-Faso, China, etc. I received support from the WMO, but also from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC), the EU and the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy, a network of 7,000 cities which have resolutely chosen for a sustainable path.
Climate without Borders itself currently unites 130 weathermen and women from 110 countries. We work as a kind of cooperative, under the motto 'sharing is caring'. I see 3 pillars primarily: (1) a weather and climate platform forms the backbone, like the Whatsapp group but better; (2) a portfolio of educational projects, in other words examples of what the various weather forecasters do in terms of climate communication; (3) recruitment by regularly organising webinars and workshops. For example, I was delighted to find out that the Chinese weatherman had published a stamp about climate change, I did exactly the same thing with BPost.
For the time being, I need to get by with mainly moral support, but maybe there will also be financial support, including from the IMEC research centre and Copernicus, an EU programme for satellite observation.
We are starting off again in September. We will draw up our mission statement, and our rules of engagement… Everything needs to be ready before the next climate summit in Bonn in November! I'm looking forward to it.