Many of us trying to connect the dots between current weather calamities (heatwave, wildfires) and Climate Change are probably beating a dead horse. There are so many reasons why the public cannot or won’t get the message that we are in a planetary heat-up that it’s not even funny. (Though Climate Change champion, author, and activist Bill McKibben actually tried humor this week: Bill McKibben on the Global Warming Hoax)
Hey, we’re desperate. Nothing seems to work. Even though this week’s news is full of stories on the heatwave, only a few media are connecting the dots.
· Just go to Google news and type in ‘heatwave’ you’ll get a zillion hits--but only a few connections with warming
What’s even more extraordinary is that despite the heat rise the presidential candidates aren’t talking about either the heatwave or Climate Change and the media isn’t making them. The candidates want to play it safe and cool while their constituents bake and their property goes up in smoke:
Advisers: Neither Presidential Candidate Likely to Take Big Risks The presidential race is stuck in a virtual tie that probably won't move decisively toward one candidate until the last moment, if at all, strategists for both major parties say. Neither candidate is likely to take big risks to shake up the campaign any time soon, the strategists add, arguing that both President Obama and Republican candidate Mitt Romney tend to be careful politicians who are confident in their current game plans and have no intention of changing course. (July 5, 2012) US News & World Report
“Well,” as the former comedian and now the hot Jazz artist Steve Martin used to say, “EXCUSE ME!” Excuse me, Mr. Obama and Mr. Romney, and all your advisors and all those SuperPACs funding your election campaigns, and all those media outlets that are backed by the fossil fuel industry, and all those who think what’s going on politically in the USA is a heck of a lot more important than what we are actually experiencing, it’s getting very hot down here. While both Obama and Romney are up in some kind of loony political planet where it doesn’t warm up when more greenhouse gases are added, some of us down here in reality land are wondering how they will lead our country on Climate Change if they can’t even say it during an election year.
This present heatwave and the rash of wildfires out West are not merely anomalies—there’s a pattern. Sure, the weather changes from day to day and year to year, and we get some highs and lows, but in the last few years the highs have outpaced the lows 10-1. Even so, the media is not connecting the dots:
· STUDY: Media Avoid Climate Context In Wildfire Coverage “While numerous factors determine the frequency, severity and cost of wildfires, scientific research indicates that human-induced climate change increases fire risks in parts of the Western U.S. by promoting warmer and drier conditions. Seven of nine fire experts contacted by Media Matters agreed journalists should explain the relationship between climate change and wildfires. But an analysis of recent coverage suggests mainstream media outlets are not up to the task -- only 3 percent of news reports on wildfires in the West mentioned climate change.” (July 3, 2012) Media Matters for America
You need to put that media irresponsibility in this context of Climate experts who are saying we’d better pay attention:
· Climate Communication | Kevin Trenberth on PBS Newshour: Extreme heat and climate change "Climate Communication Science Advisor, Kevin Trenberth, was interviewed by Judy Woodruff on PBS Newshour on July 2nd, 2012. He spoke about recent extreme heat and its impacts, and the connection to climate change. The video can be viewed here on the PBS website. "
· Heat, wind, fires: Just freakish weather or something more? ‘Told you so,’ one scientist says - WASHINGTON — Is it just freakish weather or something more? Climate scientists suggest that if you want a glimpse of some of the worst of global warming, take a look at U.S. weather in recent weeks. Horrendous wildfires. Oppressive heat waves. Devastating droughts. Flooding from giant deluges. And a powerful freak wind storm called a derecho (July 3, 2012) Washington Post
· We are not prepared for what’s coming. You really ought to read the Press Release from last March and watch this short video from the IPCC on the relationship between extreme weather and Climate Change. IPCC Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation (SREX)
· "This Is Just the Beginning": Forest Fires, Deadly Storms, Record Heat Reveal a Changed Climate The past two weeks have witnessed the worst forest fires in Colorado history, a deadly Mid-Atlantic storm that left 23 dead and four million without power, and a record shattering heatwave across the East Coast and Midwest that has not seen since the Dust Bowl. More than 2,000 heat records have been broken in the past week. As the words "extreme weather" flash across TV screens, where are the other two words: "global warming"? (July 3, 2012) Democracy Now!
Some might ask, “Why pay attention to Climate Change when what we really care about is jobs?” Why should Mr. Romney and Mr. Obama talk about Climate Change if it will put them at political risk? The answer lies in this interview:
Climate Disasters’ Toll Worsened by Sustained Attacks on Public Sector, Science and Regulation As we discuss the spate of extreme weather in the United States, the author and professor Christian Parenti argues that the Republican-led assault on the public sector will leave states more vulnerable to global warming's effects. "Another thing missing from these discussions -- it's not just the words 'climate change,' but the words 'public sector,'" (July 3, 2012) Democracy Now!
It’s about us. As our environment and our US citizens endure the consequences of Climate Change, it will be the responsibility our government to conceive and execute plans to address it. It will be our firefighters who will protect our property and our lives as the fires rage on. It will be our public health infrastructure that will take care of us on a hotter planet. It will be our government that will fund our losses because the insurance industry will be bailing out—as they have been increasingly doing. Those who are sucking the lifeblood out of the public sector might not care, but we do.
So, why are we allowing this election year to go on without answers to our questions about Climate Change and extreme weather? How can it possibly be in our best interest to gut government, the very people who will save and protect the public sector, as the temperatures continue to rise? Why do we continually attend to a media that won’t connect the dots on the most critical issue of this century? Why have we stopped acting in our own best interest?