As extreme weather becomes increasingly common, it has received a fair share of coverage during network news broadcasts. Often missing from these reports, however, is any mention of climate change and its connection to extreme weather events. As Peter Hart reported for Extra!, the nightly news covers extreme weather events as unusual and newsworthy, but usually without explanation of climate change as an underlying cause.
A study by Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) found that extreme weather events in 2013 resulted in 450 news segments, of which only sixteen mentioned climate change. As for specific evening news shows, CBS Evening News only used terms like “global warming” and “greenhouse gases” in two of 114 extreme weather reports. ABC World News only mentioned climate change in eight reports out of 200, and NBC Nightly News only mentioned it in six reports out of 136. There was also a CBS report on the unsupported notion that there had been a “pause” in global warming.
There continues to be serious scientific debate on the extent to which current weather events and climate change should be linked. Nonetheless, a majority of American public still makes the connection between climate and weather despite the media’s failure to report on it.
Writing for Tomdispatch, Dahr Jamail reported on the increasingly high stakes of ignoring the scientific evidence for climate change. Jamail reported the perspectives of scientific experts who do not figure in corporate news coverage of our “extreme weather.” Concerns range from the costs of Arctic methane releases to a December 2013 study by eighteen eminent scientists concluding that “continuation of high fossil fuel emissions, given current knowledge of the consequences, would be an act of extraordinary witting intergenerational injustice.”
Although Typhoon Haiyan, which devastated the Philippines in November 2013, received ample corporate news coverage, Jamie Henn reported for YES! Magazine that it should not be thought of as a “natural” disaster but, instead, as a “climate disaster”—driven by coal, oil, and gas companies that “continue to pour billions of tons of carbon dioxide into our atmosphere, disrupting our climate.” Henn reported on the growing fossil fuel divestment campaign that now includes over 500 universities, cities, and religious institutions across Europe, North America, Australia and New Zealand. “It’s time,” Henn wrote, “to tell our public institutions to divest from disaster.”
Though climate engineering is often touted as a technological answer to climate change, German researchers have argued that attempts to artificially engineer the earth’s climate would likely cause worse effects than presently forecasted climate change trends. David Keller and colleagues from the Helmholtz Center for Ocean Research in Kiel, Germany, reported findings based on an earth system model that replicated five different strategies to reduce global warming and help prevent wide-scale climate change. Climate engineering, or reducing the levels of sunlight hitting the planet’s surface through “solar radiation management,” could change rainfall patterns, worsen conditions in arid zones, or cause irreversible harm once the technology’s use ceased. After considering other technological fixes, the study’s authors concluded that any such measures would have limited effectiveness without further cutbacks in carbon-based greenhouse emissions.
Peter Hart, “Weather—Without Climate,” Extra! (Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting), December 2, 2013, http://fair.org/extra-online-articles/weather-without-climate.
Dahr Jamail, “The Climate Change Scorecard,” Tomdispatch, December 17, 2013, http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/175785/tomgram%3A_dahr_jamail,_the_climate_change_scorecard.
Jamie Henn, “In the Wake of Haiyan, We Must Divest from Fossil Fuels,” YES! Magazine, November 12, 2013, http://www.yesmagazine.org/planet/divesting-from-disaster.
Student Researchers: Noah Tenney, Kayla Silva, Cydney Shorkend, and Carla Cardenas (Sonoma State University), and Nicholas DePietro (Florida Atlantic University)
Faculty Evaluators: Peter Phillips, Ervand Peterson, and Andy Lee Roth (Sonoma State University), and James F. Tracy (Florida Atlantic University)