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Providing climate information via trusted communicators in local media is an effective approach to increasing understanding and acceptance of, concern about, and engagement with climate change across the political ideology spectrum.

Abstract

A rapidly growing number of TV weathercasters are reporting on the local implications of climate change, although little is known about the effectiveness of such communication. To test the impact of localized climate reporting, we conducted an internet-based randomized controlled experiment in which local TV news viewers (n=1,200) from two American cities (Chicago and Miami) watched either three localized climate reports or three standard weather reports featuring a prominent TV weathercaster from their city; each of the videos was between 1 and 2 minutes in duration. Participants’ understanding of climate change as real, human-caused, and locally relevant was assessed with a battery of questions after watching the set of three videos. Compared to participants who watched weather reports, participants who watched climate reports became significantly more likely to: (1) Understand that climate change is happening, is human-caused, and is causing harm in their community; (2) Feel that climate change is personally relevant and express greater concern about it; and (3) Feel that they understand how climate change works and express greater interest in learning more about it. In short, our findings demonstrate that watching even a brief amount of localized climate reporting (less than 6 minutes) delivered by TV weathercasters helps viewers develop a more accurate understanding of global climate change as a locally and personally relevant problem, and offer strong support for this promising approach to promoting enhanced public understanding of climate change through public media.

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