NBC Sends Roker to Alaska's ‘Ground Zero for Climate Change’

On Monday and Tuesday, NBC weatherman Al Roker reported live from Utqiagvik, Alaska, the northernmost town in the United States, labeling it “ground zero for climate change.” Throughout the segment, Roker implored the nation to “make a commitment” to abandon fossil fuels and assured viewers: “This is not a theory, this is reality here.”

“We are back with our special series Al in the Arctic. Al’s there exploring an issue that a lot of folks all over the world are concerned about, and rightfully so, climate change,” co-host Craig Melvin announced during the Today show’s 8:00 a.m. ET hour on Monday. “Yeah, he traveled to the epicenter of the issue, way, way up in Alaska,” fellow co-host Hoda Kotb added.

 

 

Roker warned his colleagues:

And here in Utqiagvik, things are heating up, and we don’t mean in a good way. When I arrived here on Saturday morning, we hit a high of 33 degrees, that’s a record for the day, which is 36 degrees above average....it’s actually raising major red flags for scientists about what’s possible when it comes to climate change.

As his taped report began, Roker narrated: “It’s the top of the world, and for scientists, Utqiagvik, Alaska, formerly known as Barrow, is ground zero for climate change.” Talking to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration climate scientist Bryan Thomas, the meteorologist asked: “As a planet, we make a commitment to change something, that you can reverse damage that has been done?” Thomas replied: “We all hope so.”

“Scientists making it clear, what happens in the Arctic, doesn’t stay in the Arctic, as temperatures rise all around the world,” Roker proclaimed.

Following the taped portion of the segment, Kotb wondered: “You’ve been talking about climate change a lot, Al. What is it like being there on the front lines and seeing actually what’s going on?” Roker sounded the alarm:

Well, you know, it’s fascinating. For us, this is something that’s theoretical, at least in point. Although, we are seeing more severe storms. We’re seeing rapid intensification of hurricanes, we’re seeing more heavy rain events. But for the folks who live here, for the first time last year, they actually had storm surge, because the ice had opened up, the ocean was available, and they had water coming into their town. This is not a theory, this is reality here, guys. And it does have an effect, now, on what we see down in the lower 48 and all around the world, because we have open water back there, open oceans, and that provides more moisture, more energy, for stronger storms.

Fellow Today show meteorologist Dylan Dreyer fretted: “Is it at all possible for anything to be reversed? How would they ever go about doing that?” Roker asserted: “...if we do make commitments, we can reverse things.” However, he still worried: “The question becomes, with the greenhouse gases continuing to increase, we’re seeing the increase here with carbon dioxide, with more methane, with more greenhouse gases, can we, if we start to stop that and putting those into the atmosphere, can we reverse it? The jury is still out on that.”

Wrapping up the discussion, Roker feared: “These folks here could be the first refugees due to climate change because of beach erosion, because of land erosion, and because of storm surge.”

He made the same prediction on Friday while promoting the trip, promising: “...next week, we’ll be live from Alaska, bringing you the latest on what researchers say is an environmental disaster that is rolling on with no end in sight.”

Reporting again from Utqiagvik on Tuesday, Roker shifted focus from scientific research to the people living there, hyping: “...these are the front line folks who are already experiencing climate change. And it’s affecting their very heritage and their very way of life.”

 

 

He urgently lectured:

Climate change just doesn’t mean warmer temperatures, it also means thinner ice....They're also dealing with coastal flooding, coastal erosion, storm surge, which is something they’ve never had to deal with. And in fact, the mayor tells me they need help and they need it right now.

“A way of life that dates back thousands of years, now confronting a chilling reality,” Roker ominously noted, before decrying: “Climate change leaving the nearly 5,000 people who live here in Utqiagvik, Alaska, scrambling to adjust, as the ice, a key part of their culture, slowly melts away.”

As Democrats call for radical environmental policies like the Green New Deal, NBC seems eager to help the cause with its doomsday reporting.

Here are excerpts of Roker’s April 1 coverage on the Today show:

8:13 AM ET

CRAIG MELVIN: We are back with our special series Al in the Arctic. Al’s there exploring an issue that a lot of folks all over the world are concerned about, and rightfully so, climate change.

HODA KOTB: Yeah, he traveled to the epicenter of the issue, way, way up in Alaska. That is actually the northernmost community in the United States. Hey, Al.

AL ROKER: Hey, guys, good morning. And here in Utqiagvik, things are heating up, and we don’t mean in a good way. When I arrived here on Saturday morning, we hit a high of 33 degrees, that's a record for the day, which is 36 degrees above average. To put that into perspective with other readings, you would see a high in New York City at this date hitting 91 degrees or Miami reaching 117 degrees on March 30th. And while it might actually help us to feel our fingers and toes, it’s actually raising major red flags for scientists about what’s possible when it comes to climate change.

It’s the top of the world, and for scientists, Utqiagvik, Alaska, formerly known as Barrow, is ground zero for climate change.

(...)

8:18 AM ET

ROKER: As a planet, we make a commitment to change something, that you can reverse damage that has been done?

BRYAN THOMAS [NOAA BARROW OBSERVATORY STATION CHIEF]: We all hope so.

ROKER: Scientists making it clear, what happens in the Arctic, doesn’t stay in the Arctic, as temperatures rise all around the world.

(...)

8:19 AM ET

HODA KOTB: You’ve been talking about climate change a lot, Al. What is it like being there on the front lines and seeing actually what’s going on?

ROKER: Well, you know, it’s fascinating. For us, this is something that’s theoretical, at least in point. Although, we are seeing more severe storms. We’re seeing rapid intensification of hurricanes, we’re seeing more heavy rain events. But for the folks who live here, for the first time last year, they actually had storm surge, because the ice had opened up, the ocean was available, and they had water coming into their town. This is not a theory, this is reality here, guys. And it does have an effect, now, on what we see down in the lower 48 and all around the world, because we have open water back there, open oceans, and that provides more moisture, more energy, for stronger storms.

DYLAN DREYER: Hey, Al, obviously, the people there would be impacted if this change keeps happening. Is it at all possible for anything to be reversed? How would they ever go about doing that?

ROKER: Well, the interesting thing, as we mentioned it in the story, the Ozone Layer, the hole in the Ozone down in the southern poll, has actually started to close up. There’s no deterioration of the Ozone Layer here. And so, if we do make commitments, we can reverse things. The question becomes, with the greenhouse gases continuing to increase, we’re seeing the increase here with carbon dioxide, with more methane, with more greenhouse gases, can we, if we start to stop that and putting those into the atmosphere, can we reverse it? The jury is still out on that.

CARSON DALY: Hey, Al, just quickly tell us more about the people behind you, the town. We just assume everybody there might be working in climate change, what is the community like?

ROKER: The community here, you’ve got a group of people. You’ve got folks who work on research out here, you’ve got native folks here, the Inupiat people who, it’s a way of life. And in fact, tomorrow we’re going to show you the way of life here from folks that go out on seal skin boats, who make these magnificent parkas you see. All different ways of life that are really being affected. These folks here could be the first refugees due to climate change because of beach erosion, because of land erosion, and because of storm surge. A lot of the Inupiat people will have to move from their villages.

DALY: Wow, important information, thankful that they got up this morning.

Here are excerpts of his April 2 coverage:

7:01 AM TEASE ET

HODA KOTB: And Al in the Arctic. How some Americans are already feeling the effects of climate change on a daily basis and what they’re doing to adapt to it.

(...)

7:02 AM ET

HODA KOTB: Al is in Alaska. He’s been working on that big climate change series, right.

WILLIE GEIST: And Al, even in the middle of the night, wherever he is, draws a big crowd. Al, good morning.

AL ROKER: Hey, guys. Here in Utqiagvik were at the Inupiat Heritage Center. And I know it’s colder because these folks told me it’s colder this morning than it was yesterday. It’s minus six. A wind chill of minus 22. We are gonna be checking in, in a little bit. These are the folks – these are the front line folks who are already experiencing climate change. And it’s affecting their very heritage and their very way of life. We’ll tell you about that coming up in the next half hour.

KOTB: Alright, Al. We look forward to that.

(...)

7:36 AM ET

ROKER: It is a chilly morning here. But that’s – they’re actually happy about that because the fact is March was a tough month as far as temperatures. In fact, temperatures going the wrong way. As we show you, we’re here to talk about climate change. Well, the fact is we saw for Utqiagvik, Alaska, warmest March on record, 12 degrees, that was their average high. That’s 18 degrees above normal. They had six days of record highs during the month of March. And in fact, they weren’t alone. You look across Alaska, all these cities either having their warmest March on record or their top five warmest Marches. And – but the good news is, it’s going back to normal, at least for the next few days.

(...)    

7:43 AM ET SEGMENT

HODA KOTB: Welcome back. We’re back with our special series, Al in the Arctic. Al spent the past few days way up north, he’s exploring the effects of climate change.  

WILLIE GEIST: On Monday, he showed us what a group of scientists are doing to learn more about that. He also spoke with folks who live up there to find out how climate change is changing their way of life. Al, good morning again.

ROKER: Hey, good morning, guys. And I’ll tell you, when you look at the stats, this gives you an idea of the problem. This is the first day in ten days that Barrow – that Utqiagvik has been below zero. It’s the first time in a hundred years that the average March temperature was above zero. So this is really unprecedented. Climate change just doesn’t mean warmer temperatures, it also means thinner ice. Which means hunters, the whale hunters, traditional hunters go out there trying to catch their food. They have more danger, more problems.

They're also dealing with coastal flooding, coastal erosion, storm surge, which is something they’ve never had to deal with. And in fact, the mayor tells me they need help and they need it right now.

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Left Out in the Cold?; How Climate Change is Impacting Arctic Residents]

A way of life that dates back thousands of years, now confronting a chilling reality. It’s happening now?

HARRY BROWER [MAYOR, UTQIAGVIK]: It’s happening now.

ROKER: Climate change leaving the nearly 5,000 people who live here in Utqiagvik, Alaska, scrambling to adjust, as the ice, a key part of their culture, slowly melts away.

BROWER: It’s constantly putting yourself at risk.

ROKER: Harry Brower is the mayor of the North Slope Borough, which encompasses Utqiagvik and 95,000 square miles. He’s dealt with the challenges first hand as a whaling captain.     

(...)

ROKER: Reporter: Hunters like Herman Osowat depend on underground ice cellars to keep their meat fresh for the year....But with the Earth’s increasing temperature, that’s threatening to spoil their supply.

This arctic culture already transitioning away from one long-held custom. Geoff, you’re the last musher in Utqiagvik. What’s that like?

GEOFF CARROLL [LAST DOG MUSHER IN UTQIAGVIK]: Remarkable. Sad but true. Most people decide it’s lots easier to keep a snow machine going than a team of dogs.

(...)

ROKER: Are you worried about the traditional way of life up here with the change that’s going on, the climate change that’s happening?

CARROLL: Oh, I am in a way, because everything is changing and everything’s harder.

ROKER: A new normal for a community doing their best to hold on to tradition.

(...)

GEIST: You outlined a bunch of the threats to that community, flooding, erosion, food sources, thin ice. What’s the most urgent problem for them right now?         

ROKER: Well, right now, it’s the ground literally that we’re walking on, we’re standing on. The tundra, the permafrost is actually starting to give way. And so that threatens their infrastructure, from sewage systems to the land that they live on. And there are some communities along this thousand-mile northern coastline, some communities are literally on the edge ready to fall into the ocean. So they’re really at risk right now.

GIEST: Alright, Al. We’ll be checking with you throughout the morning. Thanks so much.

KOTB: We appreciate you, Al.

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