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Whether or Not You Believe in Climate Change, 'Decoding the Weather Machine' is Important TV Worth Watching
April 18, 2018  | By David Hinckley  | 2 comments

Many years before LOL and OMG and LMK and the rest of today’s social media shorthand, I was introduced to a newspaper business acronym: BBI.
It stands for Boring But Important, and it’s not as derogatory as it sounds. It usually refers to things like government or corporate reports that are technical and, maybe, complicated, but contain information readers ought to know. In the olden days, it was mostly an acknowledgment that some significant part of the print media was reserved for articles that weren’t sexy or exotic. Just, well, important.

Wednesday’s PBS Nova special, Decoding the Weather Machine at 8 p.m. ET (check local listings), is BBI.
These days, let’s be honest, you can be a media junkie and never encounter a BBI story. Part of the sea change in media since my youth is the emergence of news sites whose criterion for every story is that it be sexy, exotic or fascinating.
That being the current lay of the land, it’s all the more critical that some outlets still do tackle BBI.
Count PBS and Nova in that group, and viewers who skip or tape Empire to watch Decoding the Weather Machine will come away better informed about a crisis that really does threaten the world and everyone in it: climate change.

The two-hour program starts from the premise that climate change is happening. The producers also argue strongly that human activity lies behind much of that change, largely because of the carbon dioxide we have been pumping into the air with fossil fuels for the last 200 years.

Whatever the cause, the numbers are hard to ignore. Carbon dioxide levels are the highest they have been in recorded history, which warms things up, which intensifies existing weather. Storms get more violent, for starters. Warming also raises sea levels, which threatens coastlines, and alters regional climates, which can drastically affect plant and animal life.

As the title suggests, the program focuses on the weather and moves from there into explanations of why extreme weather, or changing weather, can have such far-reaching impact.
Even if you question the notion of climate change or its causes, the purely meteorological data here is compelling.

For starters, Decoding methodically breaks down the components of the Earth’s air. It also traces our air back tens of thousands of years, through laboratories that study the air trapped in glacial air bubbles for millennia. That’s how we can confirm the dramatic rise in carbon dioxide levels.
Nova breaks the Earth down into the four major components of air, water, ice, and land, explaining the impact of each on the others. It breaks down the difference between oxygen and hydrogen molecules. It creates charts and graphs that illustrate the correlation between carbon dioxide levels and temperature. 

The producers liven all this up as much as possible with background music and a series of experts who break the science down into civilian terms.

But at the end of the day, there’s no way around it: This is a college lecture, a crash intro course that’s designed to warn us there’s rough weather ahead and doesn’t dismiss the class until it has told us why. 

If we’re going to have an intelligent discussion on climate change, this information is essential. It could also be persuasively argued that we should all want to have that discussion, or at least understand its basic tenets.

Watching Decoding the Weather Machineis, frankly, a commitment. It requires more engagement than most television shows. It also offers a higher reward.
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Ugh! That should have read, "Watching Decoding the Weather Machineis, frankly, *is* a commitment." "
Apr 18, 2018   |  Reply
Linda Donovan
Thanks, Angela. It was there but decided to tag onto "Machine." Fixed. Always appreciate the info!
Apr 19, 2018
To the climate change deniers there is one question I would like an answer to and that is, doesn't it make sense to act as if there's climate change just in case it really is a thing?

ps: There's an error in the sentence. I believe an, "is" is missing as in, "is frankly, a commitment."
Apr 18, 2018   |  Reply
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