An excess of water – floods, rising tides – causes panic in some communities, while the lack of water – extreme drought, depleted wells – threatens others. This is not a biblical tale, but reality for people around the world facing the results of climate change.
In a new editorial series called Exodus, published on Weather.com, the people behind the meteorologists’ data show the sometimes heart-wrenching effects of a global phenomenon. According to the World Bank, more than 143 million people in Latin America, Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia alone. could be forced to relocate within their own countries by 2050 in response to the impacts of climate change.
The effects of climate change reach every corner of the globe, including North America.
“Much as we would cover the immediate impact of a storm, we’re commuting the long term effects, which in many cases are really devastating, of climate change, in what we hope are really human terms,” says Greg Gilderman, global head of news and editor-in-chief of The Weather Channel. The Weather Company, an IBM Business since 2015, publishes the channel of the same name.
So far, Exodus has featured the community of Scituate, Mass., where homes were slammed by four nor’easters last winter. Two of the storms caused more than $1 billion in damage and killed 31 people.
In Ellicott City, Md., devastating floods hit every few years as a warming climate increases the likelihood of heavier rains in the northeast U.S., while across the world, in Jordan, droughts are turning refugees of war into refugees of their environment. Farmers have been forced to move to the city to find work, unable to grow crops in the extreme heat.
Future features will tell the stories of Kurdistan, Sicily, Nigeria, the Bay of Bengal. Kevin Hayes, an executive editor at Weather.com, says they expect to have half domestic and half international stories by the end of the series.
“We’re trying to tell stories that are broader and more diverse and more global, because the problem is worldwide, global, and diverse,” Hayes says.
While the Weather Company addresses climate change as scientific fact, it’s aware that not all readers will acknowledge the truth. In its introduction of Exodus, the Weather Company wrote, “Look, if you’re reading this and you reject the fact that climate change is happening, these pieces probably aren’t going to convince you, because you haven’t been convinced by anything else. But climate disruptions cause human disruptions.”
With just three stories published, Exodus already has reached several millions viewers across all the company’s platforms: web, mobile, social and video.
“I do think there was a demand…for news organizations to not equivocate on many issues, but particular on this issue,” says Gilderman, adding that the series does not put statements by credible scientists against those of a climate change denier. Backed by climate science, Exodus aims to address the “subtle and direct” ways in which climate change is forcing people to migrate.
“For me it feels like a privilege to be able to tell stories to those people,” says Hayes, “and get them to interact with the reality of climate change.”