In this guest post, scientist FishOutOfWater lays out how the massively increased nature disruptive weather patterns, which are in accord with climate science work lays out will happen in a warming globe, is at odds with the significant fall in serious examination of climate change in the American “traditional” media. One has to wonder whether climate change / chaos will go unmentioned when rising seas begin to shrink Manhattan.
U.S. weather in 2011 shattered records for extreme wet, extreme dry and the number of storms causing property damage over one billion inflation adjusted dollars. NOAA reported 12 billion dollar or greater weather disasters, swamping the previous record of 8. Record and near record rain and flooding swamped the Ohio and upper Mississippi river valleys while Texas suffered through the hottest and driest year on record. New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Connecticut all broke previous records for the wettest year. Twenty major cities broke extreme precipitation records, doubling the previous record of 10.
Figure 1.Wettest, driest, and warmest year records set during 2011 for major U.S. cities. No major cities had their coldest year on record during 2011. Image credit: NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center.
Figure 2. Percentage of the contiguous U.S. either in severe or greater drought (top 10% dryness) or extremely wet (top 10% wetness) during 2011, as computed using NOAA’s Climate Extremes Index. Remarkably, more than half of the country (58%) experienced either a top-ten driest or top-ten wettest year, a new record. Image credit: NOAA/NCDC.
Billion-Dollar Disaster Update, from NOAA news.
- To date, the United States set a record with 12 separate billion dollar weather/climate disasters in 2011, with an aggregate damage total of approximately $52 billion. This record year breaks the previous record of nine billion-dollar weather/climate disasters in one year, which occurred in 2008.
- These twelve disasters alone resulted in the tragic loss of 646 lives, with the National Weather Service reporting over 1,000 deaths across all weather categories for the year.
- Previously only 10 events were reported; the two new billion-dollar weather and climate events added to the 2011 total include:
- The Texas, New Mexico, Arizona wildfires event, now exceeding $1 billion, had been previously accounted for in the larger Southern Plains drought and heatwave event. This is in line with how NOAA has traditionally accounted for large wildfire events as separate events.
- The June 18-22 Midwest/Southeast Tornadoes and Severe Weather event, which just recently exceeded the $1 billion threshold
- NOAA continues to collect and assess data regarding several other extreme events that occurred this year including the pre-Halloween winter storm that impacted the Northeast and the wind/flood damage from Tropical Storm Lee. Currently, these events are not over the $1B threshold using the available data.
While every journalist knows that weather is not climate, increasingly extreme weather is a predicted hallmark of climate change caused by increasing levels of greenhouse gases from human activities. Journalists typically failed to ask questions about the links between the extreme weather and climate change. In fact, media coverage of climate change plummeted in a year of record smashing weather.
Last year at least 7,140 journalists and opinion writers published some 19,000 stories on climate change, compared to more than 11,100 reporters who filed 32,400 stories in 2009, according to DailyClimate.org.The decline was seen across almost all benchmarks measured by the news service: 20 percent fewer reporters covered the issue in 2011 than in 2010, 20 percent fewer outlets published stories, and the most prolific reporters on the climate change beat published 20 percent fewer stories.
Particularly noticeable was the silence from the nation’s editorial boards: In 2009, newspapers published 1,229 editorials on the topic. Last year, they published less than 580 – half as many, according to DailyClimate.org’s archives.
Robert Brulle, a professor of sociology and environmental science at Drexel University in Philadelphia, put together similarly stunning data on the coverage in the past 15 years by NBC, ABC, and CBS on the night news.Brulle explained in an email (to Joe Romm of Climate Progress @ Think Progress) what he has to say on what happened and why:
As far as coverage of climate change on the evening broadcast news (NBC, CBS, and ABC), this year there were a total of 14 stories, for a total of 32 minutes and 20 seconds of coverage on the three evening news broadcasts. This is down from 32 stories with 90 minutes and 28 seconds of coverage last year, and way off from the peak in 2007, with 147 stories and over 386 minutes of coverage. The nearest year with this low of TV coverage of climate change was 2003, with only 10 stories and 29 minutes and 30 seconds of coverage.
If last year was titled the year coverage fell off the map — then the headline this year might be WHAT COVERAGE?
What drove this? We know that media coverage reacts to political events and elite cues. So from that perspective, we can identify three factors:
1) Failure of the political elite to focus on this issue (Elite Cues) The Obama administration has not discussed this issue at all, as you have previously blogged.
2) Crowding out by other issues (unemployment and economic issue – i.e. macro-economic factors), and
3) No significant change in political equation (no big political events).
The source of the term is a quotation in an October 17, 2004, The New York Times Magazine article by writer Ron Suskind, quoting an unnamed aide to George W. Bush (later attributed to Karl Rove): The aide said that guys like me were “in what we call the reality-based community,” which he defined as people who “believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.” … “That’s not the way the world really works anymore,” he continued. “We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality—judiciously, as you will—we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors…and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.”
The news media no longer covers objective reality. TV news has gone beyond reporting false equivalence of the “two sides” in stories. If there isn’t a battle between two sides there is no story.
Climate change has gone away because no one in power in Washington, DC is talking about it or acting on it.
And because it doesn’t involve celebrities or a sex scandal.