Chris Gloninger, a dedicated weatherman, embarked on a bold mission to raise awareness about the climate crisis through his regular TV weather forecasts in Iowa, a conservative heartland.
However, his efforts were met with death threats, forcing him to leave the state. Gloninger, who has been fascinated by weather since childhood, experienced a transformative moment during the coverage of Hurricane Harvey in 2017, which intensified his understanding of climate change. Throughout his career, he faced criticism for his appearance and voice but remained resilient.
Joining KCCI, a CBS affiliate in Des Moines, Iowa, Gloninger aimed to incorporate the reality of global warming into his forecasts. He highlighted the scientific aspects, such as the increased moisture capacity of a warming atmosphere during floods and the rising global temperatures during heatwaves.
However, this approach sparked discontent among some viewers, who demanded he stick strictly to reporting weather. In July of the following year, Gloninger began receiving threatening emails, including one that explicitly expressed a desire to kill him. The emails attacked him for promoting what they considered a “liberal conspiracy theory on the weather” and labeled climate change as a “Biden hoax.”
This period took a toll on Gloninger and his wife, who felt their safety was compromised. Gloninger’s health deteriorated, experiencing stress-induced acid reflux and a chronic cough. The couple lived in constant fear, always on edge when cars passed by their home at night. Despite KCCI providing security measures, Gloninger decided to leave the station due to the threats. The person responsible for the emails was eventually identified and fined, but the damage was already done.
On his final broadcast, Gloninger, wearing a tie depicting warming stripes, tearfully acknowledged the threats he faced and expressed his desire to dedicate himself fully to combating the climate crisis. The station’s management had suggested toning down discussions on climate change, but Gloninger disagreed, appreciating their initial efforts to address the issue.
This incident highlights the existence of a significant portion of the population that views the climate crisis as part of a culture war. Despite increasing public concern over climate change and a growing number of meteorologists incorporating it into their forecasts, there remains a segment resistant to accepting it. Gloninger’s ordeal is part of a broader context of a toxic political environment that suppresses meaningful discourse.
The fear of backlash still persists among meteorologists who discuss climate change, despite its importance. TV networks often overlook the climate crisis in their coverage, leaving meteorologists as the primary source of reliable climate information for millions of Americans. Initiatives like Climate Matters provide resources to TV meteorologists and journalists, helping to increase climate literacy. Although some meteorologists remain hesitant, there is a gradual shift toward discussing climate change in weather forecasts.
Gloninger’s experience hasn’t silenced him. He relocated to Cape Cod, Massachusetts, and continues to speak out about the climate crisis. In his final weeks at KCCI, he openly discussed the “climate crisis” and urged viewers to take notice of the scorching heat.
He received overwhelming support from viewers, demonstrating that even in a conservative state, many individuals are concerned about climate change. Gloninger remains hopeful that this can mark the beginning of a new chapter, where people are more knowledgeable about the issue and prioritize change in future elections, according to The Guardian.