How ABC News chief meteorologist Ginger Zee explains climate change to her kids

Zee shares how she talks about saving the Earth with her two sons.

April 23, 2024, 4:03 AM

ABC News is taking a look at solutions for issues related to climate change and the environment with the series, "The Power of Us: People, The Climate, and Our Future."

On air, ABC News chief meteorologist Ginger Zee travels the country forecasting and reporting on the nation's weather and the latest issues in the climate crisis.

At home, Zee is a mom of two who, like parents everywhere, has the task of explaining topics as big as global warming and the climate crisis to her two young sons.

In a conversation that aired during Earth Week, Zee spoke with two fellow moms, Andie Mitchell and Sabrina Kohlberg, co-hosts of the ABC Audio podcast "Pop Culture Moms," about the approach she takes as both a meteorologist and a mom.

Zee told Mitchell and Kohlberg that she starts by letting her sons know that neither she nor anyone has all the answers about the Earth and its changing climate.

"The first thing is saying, 'We know a lot. We don't know everything,'" Zee said. "Lay that out there, because that's what science is. That's what all science is."

Then, Zee said she explains what scientists know about climate change using the blanket analogy because kids and adults alike can understand that the thicker a blanket on your lap, the warmer you get.

"We know, and figured out a long time ago, almost 200 years now, ... that when we burn things like oil or gas, fossil fuels, that gas goes into the atmosphere and acts like a blanket," Zee said. "That way, the heat that's coming into our atmosphere from the sun has a blanket on now, so we added a blanket."

She continued, "We always had different layers, and we always had different things, but all we did was put one more on, like we do all the time in the winter, on our bed. We didn't need to do that, and we are warming faster than we naturally would have. Because we have always warmed and cooled. That's what the Earth does over cycles and cycles and eons and eons. But we have added a blanket in the last 150 years, and we haven't stopped making that blanket thicker."

PHOTO: Show coverage of "Good Morning America" Monday, June 19, 2023 on ABC.
Show coverage of "Good Morning America" Monday, June 19, 2023 on ABC.
Paula Lobo/ABC via Getty Images

Zee and other experts have emphasized how climate change can make natural disasters like extreme storms and extreme heat even worse for people.

Zee said the blanket analogy helps explain the science-based explanation for climate change, that when humans put gases into the environment, those gases trap heat, causing the environment to warm.

As a fierce advocate for sustainability, Zee has shared publicly the different ways she tries to make her own life more sustainable, from reducing single-use plastic consumption in her home to taking part in the "No New Clothes Pledge for nearly two years and committing to buying no new things.

Zee said when it comes to incorporating her sons into those efforts, she said she takes an approach of moderation along with education.

Even for birthdays, Zee said she tries to think outside of the box. When one of her sons wanted GI Joe figurines for his birthday, she said she turned to a resale website and was able to not only find the figurines but also for a cheaper price than if she had purchased them new.

"I'm not saying don't ever buy anything -- there are many things we do need, -- but maybe taking that pause to think about, who made it? How did it get here?," she said. "And those are the steps that I want them to go through as they become adults."

In another instance, Zee said her kindergarten-age son wanted to go to a store to buy a specific type of action figure that other kids in his class had.

Instead, she said she spent time with him sewing doll clothes and creating a hat to transform an action figure he already had into the one he wanted to purchase.

"He was very proud of that because then he made it," Zee recalled. "And I will tell you, do you know which action figure is standing proudly on right now on his desk? That one."

CHECK OUT THE PODCAST! They've been best friends for 20 years, and pop culture aficionados for even longer. Now, as moms of toddlers, Andie Mitchell and Sabrina Kohlberg are taking their obsession with TV and movies to the next level by talking to celebrities, writers and fellow "scholars" of pop culture about what they can learn from the fictional moms they love most. New from "Good Morning America" and ABC Audio, the first season of "Pop Culture Moms" posts weekly through May. Listen on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Amazon Music or your favorite podcast app.