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Listen to This Weatherman When He Says Trouble Is Coming

A deadly tornado ripped through Tupelo, Mississippi on April 28,. The damage is shown here the next day. Photographer: Joe Raedle/Getty Images
A deadly tornado ripped through Tupelo, Mississippi on April 28,. The damage is shown here the next day. Photographer: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

When a tornado ripped through Tupelo, Mississippi, this week, local weatherman Matt Laubhan suddenly realized the studio where he works might take a direct hit. On live TV.

"You’ve got to be in your tornado safe place,” Laubhan warns on a live WTVA broadcast. “This is a tornado ripping through the city of Tupelo as we speak, and this could be deadly." You can watch the tape here .

As the tornado gets closer, the video begins to break up and freezes for around eight seconds. When the connection resumes, Laubhan is all business.

“Basement, now. Basement, now,” he orders, flashing hand signals to his crew like an air traffic controller. “Let’s go. Now.” Laubhan and others in the newsroom take cover as the cameras continue to roll.

Laubhan embodies model behavior for tornado response. He’s calm, but responds with urgency. Most of all, he’s clear and authoritative. Anyone watching in Tupelo -- rich or poor, young or old, Republican or Democrat -- is going to take his message seriously.

If only we had the equivalent in climate change.

The closest thing to a Matt Laubhan for climate is the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The international body of thousands of scientists has buy-in from 120 countries. You may not have read their most recent report, which summarizes the findings of 10,000 scientific studies on how to address climate change. It landed with a thud this month, because it basically said the same thing the body has been saying for two decades: Climate change is happening and we’re not doing enough to prevent or prepare for it.

Right now, the world is still loafing around watching TV and ignoring what the planetary weatherman is telling us.

Part of the problem is that this climate emergency is happening in slow motion, taking place over decades rather than wrapped up into a seconds-long funnel of destruction. But the effects may be no less damaging. It would probably help if TV meteorologists talked more about climate change. (Fortunately, they’re starting to .)

The IPCC has been on the record saying that humans are driving climate change since about 1996, and about 97 percent of climate scientists agree. The question that remains is what we’re going to do about it.

The message from scientists couldn’t be more blunt: "Let’s go. Now."

More from Tom Randall:

Follow @tsrandall on Twitter for more on planetary weathermen

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