Home > Uncategorized > Why The News Blackout on Extreme Weather and Climate Change?

Why The News Blackout on Extreme Weather and Climate Change?

Where are the Activists, Media and Scientists?

Model projection of the number of summer days with temperature over 90 degrees, Boston mass.

Model projection of the number of summer days with temperature over 90 degrees, Boston.

[Updates below]

I frequently complain that local weathermen and media fail to connect the dots between extreme weather events and the predicted impacts of climate change (heat, drought, floods, wildfires, etc – see this for Northeastern US impact assessment).

Extreme heat and declining air quality are likely to pose increasing problems for human health, especially in urban areas.

Heat waves, which are currently rare in the region, are projected to become much more commonplace in a warmer future, with major implications for human health (see Human Health sector).163,68

In addition to the physiological stresses associated with hotter days and nights,360 for cities that now experience ozone pollution problems, the number of days that fail to meet federal air quality standards is projected to increase with rising temperatures if there are no additional controls on ozone-causing pollutants163,361 (see Human Healt h sector). Sharp reductions in emissions will be needed to keep ozone within existing standards.

Projected changes in summer heat (see figure below) provide a clear sense of how different the climate of the Northeast is projected to be under lower versus higher emissions scenarios. Changes of this kind will require greater use of air conditioning (see Energy sector).

But now the coverage is even worse than just ignoring the gorilla in the room.

Media are now actively misleading readers by attributing the cause to “heat domes” and writing about trivial effects (horse racing), instead of real causes and the huge implications.

We have a huge teachable moment that we are not capitalizing on – the world is on fire!

After a week into a record heat wave, do you think news editors could dedicate just ONE story to the extreme weather link to global warming?

The only thing I’ve seen is Todd bates’ blog at the Asbury Park Press.

Maybe environmental groups might hold a press conference to educate the public and force the media to engage the story?

This is particularly timely and important, with public hearings on the Christie Energy Master Plan rollback scheduled for next week (see:

Just think if a river conveniently caught on fire the week before hearings on Clean Water!

Or an oil spill occurred a week before a public hearing on offshore drilling!

Maybe the State Climatologist should step outside his narrow and conservative science orientation and speak out to educate the public.

How bad does it have to get before someone speaks out and takes action?

Where is the leadership?

Hit this link – Watch, read, learn – and DO SOMETHING.

[Update: Timid EPA sure won’t go there – they safely advise the public of only air quality issues.

Climate change not even mentioned. See: EPA and New York City Urge People to Save Energy, Money and the Environment on Hot Summer Days

Not to worry, we’re only experiencing “hot summer days”.

You know, like, from my childhood – the famous Nat King Cole song (listen):

Roll out those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer
Those days of soda and pretzels and beer
Roll out those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer
Dust off the sun and moon and sing a song of cheer

[Update #4 – 8/31/11 – Sandy Bauers of Philly Inquirer touched on role of climate change in Irene flooding – let’s hope for a more focused  followup: While creeping development brings flooding, change is slow and costly. end update]

Update #3 – 8/7/11: Ding Dong the Witch is Dead! Jim O’Neill of the Bergen Record just connected some of the dots and broke the blackout! But Wolfenotes gets no credit for pushing the story. See: July was NJ’s 2nd-hottest month ever.  Put this quote in Neon lights in Times Square:

“Those data are completely consistent with our understanding of global warming”, said Alan Robock, associate director of the Center for Environmental Prediction at Rutgers. “As the average temperature of the planet warms due to human emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, individual locations are expected to follow the trend, but with a large amount of natural variability thrown in.”

That quote is almost as good as Jim Hansen’s take:

“The standard scientist answer is “you cannot blame a specific weather/climate event on global warming.” That answer, to the public, translates as “no”.  However, if the question were posed as “would these events have occurred if atmospheric carbon dioxide had remained at its pre-industrial level of 280 [parts per million] ppm?”, an appropriate answer in that case is “almost certainly not.” That answer, to the public, translates as “yes”, i.e., humans probably bear a responsibility for the extreme event.”

“In either case, the scientist usually goes on to say something about probabilities and how those are changing because of global warming. But the extended discussion, to much of the public, is chatter. The initial answer is all important. Although either answer can be defended as “correct”, we suggest that leading with the standard caveat “you cannot blame” is misleading and allows a misinterpretation about the danger of increasing extreme events.

Update #2 – State Climatologist  Robinson today reminded me that the Asbury Park Press discussed extreme weather in a recent interview with him, published in this July 8 opinion Q&A. I am well aware of that, having corresponded with APP reporter Todd Bates (who has written about the issue on his blog) and editor Randy Bergmann on this issue before Robinson’s interview. But a single Q&A opinion piece does not alter my overall assessment that there is an ongoing news blackout of the issue. end update]

Update #1: 7/23/11Star Ledger links blizzard with heat wave – with this pathetic stunt.]

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  1. PM
    July 22nd, 2011 at 14:28 | #1

    Will you be covering the NYC sewage spill to the Hudson?

  2. July 22nd, 2011 at 14:55 | #2

    Hi Paul – thansk for your comment.

    DEP seems to have a lot bigger media megaphone than I, and they issued a press release yesterday, so i don’t see that as the most effective use of my time,. See:

    In addition, the discharge is the result of an event beyond the control of the plant operator (fire), so it does not seem to be related to negligent operation or raise regualtroy policy or enforcement issues.

    Last, I think it is misleading and hypocrtical for NJ DEP to ppoint teh finger at NY for an accident, when raw sewage from NJ cities discharges into the Hudson, NY harbor, Raritan Bay, and the ocean every time it rains. Yet DEP never has money for upgrades and does not enforce or isues press releases on NJ violations of Clean Water Act and CSO requirements – EPA just entered into a Settlement Agreement with Jersey City on that last week. No thans to DEP and ignored by the press corps.

    Governor Whitman played the same political game when she was rolling back NJ’s clean water standards when she stoood in Atlantic Highlands (during the winter no lesss) and attacked a NYC sewage treatmetn plant. The plant was being upgraded, something not being done in most NJ plants, and the discharge could have no impact on NJ beaches or waters during the winter. ANd then Whitman was praised for that by some ENGO’s, whioch provided green cover for her rollbacks.

    I will not allow a repeat of the BS.

  3. zimmerman
    July 22nd, 2011 at 17:31 | #3

    a couple cool global warming blogs which are worth a peek:



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