When Entertainment Studios chief Byron Allen purchased The Weather Channel for $300 million in 2017, he made headlines and became the first African American to own a general market cable network.
But beyond the significance of his business acquisition, Allen says he hopes his high profile investment will generate another important conversation.
“As an African American man hopefully I’m bringing more attention to climate and environment,” Allen told theGrio in an exclusive interview in Los Angeles.
“Because so many African-American neighborhoods are in bad environmental places, where it’s causing us to get sick and die earlier than most.”
Experts have long predicted that climate change will disproportionately impact low-income communities, leaving African Americans and other communities of color on the front lines, as seen during Hurricane Katrina.
Activists have highlighted polluted water in Flint, Mich., (which is still replacing water service lines) and “Cancer Alley” in Louisiana, as other examples of the ways environmental injustice creates numerous casualties in Black communities. One report even found that African Americans in Los Angeles are nearly twice as likely to die as other residents during heat waves.
Allen says despite climate change deniers, scientists at The Weather Channel are clear on one thing.
“We have close to 400 people who work for us at The Weather Channel, a lot of very smart scientists,” Allen told theGrio.
“I asked them in a room, probably about 20 of them, ‘Climate change- is this something that’s going to be a big problem for us to the point where we’re losing lives? And without exception they all raised their hands and said climate change is real, it’s a big problem, and we have to address it.”
On November 7, The Weather Channel will televise a 2020 Presidential candidate special about climate change, including Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ), Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA), Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Senator Bernie Sanders (D-VT), Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Beto O’Rourke, Joe Walsh, and journalists such as Mother Jones reporter Jamilah King, who has covered climate change. According to the Associated Press, The Weather Channel declined to partner with other TV networks as seen in previous political town halls.
“We didn’t want to have a food fight about whose plan is better,” said Nora Zimmett, the network’s senior vice president for content and programming.
The TV special aims to make the stakes of climate change clear and tangible, showing candidates such as Senator Kamala Harris near the Mississippi River and Senator Bernie Sanders appearing near land scorched by California Wildfires.
President Donald Trump will not appear in the special per The Associated Press.
The Weather Channel’s “2020: Race to Save the Planet” on Thursday, November 7 at 8:00 p.m. ET and viewers can join the conversation following the hashtag #RaceToSaveThePlanet.
Stay tuned for more of Byron Allen’s full exclusive interview with theGrio.com by subscribing to our YouTube channel.
Natasha S. Alford is a digital host and Deputy Editor of theGrio. Follow her at @natashasalford on Instagram and Twitter under the hashtag #ThePeoplesJournalist to get the latest in news, politics, and entertainment.
Editor’s Note: theGrio is owned by Entertainment Studios, which is also the parent-company of The Weather Channel.