We only have this one planet Oct 24, 2018
Climate change is the single biggest thing that mankind has ever done on this planet. The one thing that needs to be bigger is our movement to put a stop to it. Therefore, one of the sustainable development goals of the United Nations to transform our world is ‘Climate Action’. With the IPCC Climate Report being just published and the UN Climate Summit of 2019 in sight, we went to Jill Peeters, Belgian weather presenter, founder of Climate Without Borders and member of the Climate Action Leadership Network on United Nations Day.
A HEAD IN THE CLOUDS
“Nobody on this planet is going to be untouched by the impacts of climate change.” – Rajendra K. Pachauri.
Jill has always been fascinated by the weather ever since she was a child. Already when she roamed the playgrounds in primary school she told everyone she encountered that she wanted to become ‘Armand Pien’. Armand Pien was a famous weather presenter in Belgium and one of the first ones to appear on television in Europe. It was the magic of crafting captivating stories around scientific facts that got her hooked as a kid. Yet the road to becoming a weather presenter proved to be one with hurdles.
“I was a first-generation student. So going to college was like diving into the scary unknown. Though my parents always supported me there were, of course, those that doubted me. However, I never accepted ‘no you can’t do that’ for an answer. Unfortunately for me, at the time, there was no option to study meteorology in Belgium and going abroad wasn’t as easy back then as it is now. Our beloved Internet, for example, did not exist yet. So I started my academic journey by studying geography.”
AN UNWAVERING PASSION
It took completing a full bachelor program before Jill got her hands on her first meteorology course. “I remember it as it if were yesterday. I was sitting there, super excited, in my very first class when our professor suddenly started trashing weather presenters. In the end, he asked us if there was actually someone who wanted to become one … I proudly raised my hand. I wouldn’t let my passion for weather be judged or diminished by others.”
After she graduated, Jill obtained a prestigious government grant and became a Ph.D. student. However, after two years, she quit. “I have always admired academics and loved doing research, but it simply wasn’t for me. I also wanted to take action, open my mouth and venture into the world to tell stories. Something I couldn’t do in academia but could as a weather presenter.”
A BIT OF BOTH WORLDS
“There is more science behind weather forecasting then one would think. I start the day by looking at the observations of the weather from the day before in order to verify the forecast of that day. After that, I analyze the weather models, which are huge compiled sets of data. This mainly involves a lot of statistics. We use the European Weather Model, consisting of lines of isobars and zones of rain, as a foundation. I also compare this to the other models originating from around the world as they may also contain valuable information. Then I meet with the meteorologists of the MeteoGroup in order to compare our findings. All of this results in the weather forecast, which people see on their television every day.
“What makes weather presenting so exciting is that you get to translate science into something comprehensible. I set the bar very high for myself when it comes to this. I want to make it understandable but not to the detriment of the science in the message. Both the content as well as delivery matters. It takes the right person at the right moment to convince someone. In order to deliver my message clearly, I went to get some extra education in social sciences. This has helped me a lot, especially when it comes to my climate change communication efforts.”
A HEART FOR OUR PLANET
Jill has been active as a climate change communicator for over a decade now. Witnessing the shocking effects of climate change first-hand on a daily basis prompted her to take action. She has participated in a whole range of activities to put climate change on the map. From dancing and singing to giving lectures and writing books, Jill has done it all. She has become the voice of climate change in our country. Yet despite all of her success she still wished things would move faster.
“It is important to create awareness and induce action. However, it becomes more and more difficult due to the polarization of our society. Science is often seen as an opinion rather than a fact. So we have to fight even harder in an age where politicians claim that we are spreading fake news. We have to increase the professionalism of our communication. In order to achieve this, I founded Climate Without Borders."
"Climate Without Borders is a worldwide network of weather presenters in which we educate one another on how best to convey our message in a way that is scientifically correct and in agreement with social sciences. We have the reach, so we also have a responsibility to use it. We are the first generation to witness the impact of climate change and also the last that are able to do something about it. The time to take action is now. I am ready to take the heat, so you don’t have to later.”
Jill Peeters is a weather presenter at MEDIALAAN. She was awarded best TV weather forecast in 2008 by EMS and the Climate Change Communication Award in 2009. She founded Climate Without Borders and is an invited member for the Climate Action Leadership Network from the UN, a high-level network of leaders driving greater climate change ambition and catalyzing climate action on the ground.