Corporate Media Breaks Climate Silence, Following Undeniable Sandy Superstorm
'Its global warming, stupid'
As many have now observed, part of the new reality in Sandy's aftermath—whether too slowly, reluctantly or imperfectly—is that many corporate media outlets, once decidedly resigned to avoid the scientific consensus, are now asking significant questions about the role of human-induced global warming and the impact of climate change and extreme weather.
The most striking example of corporate media's climate change epiphanies, perhaps, is Thursday's Bloomberg Business week cover, which boasts: "It's Global Warming, Stupid."
Though the "climate connection to extreme weather was conspicuously absent" from most major coverage in the lead-up and during the storm, Stephen Lacey at ClimateProgress documents how, starting Tuesday afternoon, "there was an increase in climate-related stories, with extensive segments appearing on Al Jazeera, Current TV, MSNBC, and NBC." Even Fox News, he notes, has gotten in on the act.
Even unlikely political pundits such as Chuck Todd, are chiming in. Todd exclaimed on his "Daily Rundown" on MSNBC: "It's the second year in a row the New York Metro area hit by this stuff [sic]... Let's not bury our heads in the sand when it comes to -- something has changed in the Atlantic. The climate has changed. It's called climate change, folks.”
According to a top news story at CNN, Thursday morning, we have now entered the "Superstorm Era" -- a time of relentless weather systems like Hurricane Sandy, that will occur at an increasing rate, a direct result of the exponential process of the climate change feedback loop.
Hurricane Sandy is merely a "foretaste of things to come" Princeton University professor Michael Oppenheimer told CNN. "Bigger storms and higher sea levels" will pile on to create a "growing threat" in the coming decades.
ABC also published a featured article making the same connections:
If the growing trend shown in early data continues, hurricanes will show themselves to be the most tangible impact of climate change....As the globe warms, ice melts, contributing to rising sea levels. This, in turn, makes coastlines more vulnerable to damage caused by storm surges.
In the Businessweek exposé, uncharacteristic of the conservative, pro-business publication, author Paul M. Barrett pulls together voices from the climate science community, some of whom were less likely to speak out about global warming prior to Hurricane Sandy, critiquing this year's presidential candidates for their stubborn silence.
In an Oct. 30 blog post, Mark Fischetti of Scientific American took a spin through Ph.D.-land and found more and more credentialed experts willing to shrug off the climate caveats. The broadening consensus: 'Climate change amps up other basic factors that contribute to big storms. For example, the oceans have warmed, providing more energy for storms. And the Earth’s atmosphere has warmed, so it retains more moisture, which is drawn into storms and is then dumped on us.' Even those of us who are science-phobic can get the gist of that. [...]
However, Barrett, continues, "The issue was MIA during the presidential debates and, regardless of who wins on Nov. 6, is unlikely to appear on the near-term congressional calendar. After Sandy, that seems insane."
An unscientific survey of the social networking literature on Sandy reveals an illuminating tweet (you read that correctly) from Jonathan Foley, director of the Institute on the Environment at the University of Minnesota. On Oct. 29, Foley thumbed thusly: “Would this kind of storm happen without climate change? Yes. Fueled by many factors. Is storm stronger because of climate change? Yes.” Eric Pooley, senior vice president of the Environmental Defense Fund (and former deputy editor of Bloomberg Businessweek), offers a baseball analogy: “We can’t say that steroids caused any one home run by Barry Bonds, but steroids sure helped him hit more and hit them farther. Now we have weather on steroids.”
Some political leaders are gaining attention in corporate press in the aftermath of Sandy on their foreboding statements on the changing climate -- most notably New York Governor Andrew Cuomo who said in a press statement this week,
Climate change is...a controversial subject...people will debate weather or not there is climate change...I want to talk about the frequency of extreme weather situations...the frequency of extreme weather situations is way up. We just went through hurricane Irene just over a year ago, and there is only so long you can say well this is once in a lifetime and it will never happen again. And then it happens again. And then you are sure its not going to happen again. And then it happens again. I joke that every two years we have a one hundred years flood.
Cuomo, among others, are beginning to propose new measures to prepare for the scientific warnings that climate change and extreme weather are here to stay.
However—even as the mainstream media outlets start to end their "climate silence"—politicians and elected officials, most strikingly Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, seem committed to theirs.