Thursday, July 26, 2018

Media Reaction:  the 2018 Summer Heatwaves and Climate Change

Climate change and extreme weather (Credit: EPA)  Click to Enlarge.
Interviewed by CNN, Dr Katharine Hayhoe from Texas Tech University pointed out that the catalogue of extreme weather events recorded over the northern hemisphere in recent weeks shows that climate change is already here “and this is what it looks like”:
“Cold and hot, wet and dry – we experience natural weather conditions all the time – but today, climate change is loading the dice against us, making certain types of extremes, such as heatwaves and heavy rain events, much more frequent and more intense than they used to be.”
Missing link
... not all media outlets made the connection to climate change.

On 5 July, for example, the UK’s Times newspaper reported that “meteorologists attribute the northern hemisphere heatwave to a weather pattern known as El Niño”.  Yet, as Carbon Brief’s US analyst Zeke Hausfather pointed out, the El Niño climate phenomenon has largely been in a “neutral” (or even negative) phase for most of the year – and only a modest positive phase is expected to emerge later in 2018.
This was in stark contrast to the Irish edition of the Times, which wrote in an editorial on 2 July that the increased frequency of extreme weather events “suggests that we are already experiencing the direct impact of global warming”.
In Canada’s Globe and Mail, Dr Blair Feltmate of the University of Waterloo pointed out that suggesting Canada’s heatwave and climate change are not linked “would be like arguing that no particular home run can be attributed to steroids when a baseball player on a hitting streak is caught doping”.

In BusinessGreen, its editor James Murray railed against the media’s tendency to “either exclude climate change from reporting on extreme heat altogether or its insistence on dowsing its coverage in a surfeit of caution about the potential relationship with climate change”.
“The simple fact is the mainstream media does not apply such high standards of precise attribution to any other phenomena that I can think of.”
Writing for Channel NewsAsia, Dr Kumuda Simpson, a lecturer in international relations at La Trobe University in Australia, commented that “climate change is only occasionally mentioned, and often just in passing” in media coverage of weather extremes.  The debate about whether a particular event “was directly and indisputably caused by the warming planet is counterproductive”, she argued:
“Instead, it is imperative that we shift the conversation away from a debate about climate change that all too often becomes politicized either though omission or oversimplification.  We must focus on what these events can teach us about the kinds of climate-related risks we face in the near future, and how unprepared we are for them.”
Read more at Media Reaction:  the 2018 Summer Heatwaves and Climate Change

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