Thursday, September 02, 2004

Media in denial on hurricanes and global warming

Chris Mooney has a good post on how the media is ignoring the connections between hurricanes and global warming, citing the book Boiling Point that I had blogged about earlier (on August 17).

The post inspired me to take this blog to a new level - I committed an act of research, doing a Google News search on "Hurricane Charley" and "global warming". You can see the outcome - 23 hits, a mix of a few left-alternative news sources discussing the potential link, random posts that coincidentally contain the same words, some conservative news sources, and non-American news sources discussing the potential link. I think the foreign coverage says something by way of contrast. A Google News search for "Hurricane Charley" gave 47,000 hits.

One additional point the post doesn't discuss directly: it's newsworthy to mention that any particular hurricane may have been caused or worsened by global warming, even if you don't know for sure. The fact that global warming has made and will make extreme weather events even worse is also newsworthy, and worth more than 23 marginal mentions out of 47,000 articles.

Update, 9.6.04: Blogger John Fleck notes that the current scientific consensus does not find that hurricanes have increased in intensity in the last fifty years, although the consensus also considers it likely that warming will make hurricanes more intense. That point suggests I should back off from saying warming "has made" extreme weather even worse. I'm not going to back off completely though - hurricanes vary a great deal over time in natural cycles, and warming could have made them worse than they otherwise would've been. Better science might determine that in the future. The point about warming making extreme weather more intense in the future remains valid, however, and one that is appropriate to bring up in news about the weather.

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