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Why Isn't Global Warming News?

by Worldchanging Portland local blogger, Rowan Wolf

Oregon and Washington just got creamed by the second damaging storm in a month. Why isn't global warming news? In watching the hours of coverage for both storms - the one that hit in November and the one that hit this week, not one word was said about global warming. Instead, we get weather reports; reports that one strong storm after another is lined up in the Pacific; reports on the damages.

If the news does not make the connection between the weather we are experiencing and climate change, then the public sees no cause and effect. Instead, people say "What will global warming be like?" They will continue to think that the climatic changes being driven by our activities is still somewhere in the distant future.

If you still have a copy of the Living Section for the 12/13/06 Oregonian take a look at it. On the back of the section is the "Science" section which has an article on the warming of Oregon caves. Scientists are baffled, but one of the likely links discussed is the dramatically decreased snow pack, and how rapidly it melts off. Sounds like a climatic effect to me.

In the same section - and adjoining the cave warming article on page E11 - is the "Earthweek" summary. In that section, we read the little blurbs of the big environmental events for the week. In this week's snippets we learn:

- The ocean's phytoplankton are dying off (big news as they are the "greenhouse gas eaters);

- Some koala bears survived the massive fires in Australia (caused by global warming and the ensuing drought being cased by same);

- El Nino is going to last longer - because the ocean is taking longer to cool off - so the Northwest will continue to get hit by big storms this year;

- The glaciers that are melting (because of warming temperatures) have "reservoirs" of viruses that haven't been seen for thousands of years (at least);

- Typhoon Durian became one of the longest and deadliest storms of the year - it hit primarily Asia and largely did not make the U.S. news;

- Winter has been "delayed" in Europe - in fact, it is essentially spring in Europe.

I read through the list. I read about the warming caves. I asked, why is none of this on the front page? Why is it tucked quietly into the back of the Living section under the "Science" news? Isn't this stuff pretty big?

Hello? All of the above represent world changing - and Pacific Northwest changing - events. Might it not be a good idea to put it on the front page of the paper?

Hello local weather forecasters. Might you not give just a bit of connection to the larger picture that is causing the death and destruction which you scatter bundled up reporters around to cover?

Is anyone game to start a campaign on our local news outlets demanding that they make the connection between the events we are experiencing and the larger pattern of which they are a part? To not do so is to "spin" people into both ignorance and passivity.

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Scoop Nisker of San Francisco used to say, "If you don't like the news, go out and make some of your own."

Posted by: David Foley on 23 Dec 06

Either people don't understand Global Warming or, my pet theory, live in denial, since accepting that Global Warming is a reality is essentially a tacit acceptance of the fact that we have, as a species, contributed to it. At the very least, its worth speculating on the impact that Warming might have had on the recent weather.

Posted by: Deepak on 23 Dec 06

Not every little hiccup in the local weather is about climate change. The storms you describe were covered by weather reports because they were weather, not climate. In fact the year 2006 has probably been the coldest in the last 5 years (

And for the delayed winter in Europe: It has been a little warmer than average in the last few weeks, but don't forget, that the last winter ended in April. That's very late for Middle-Europe. Currently I have 1° Celsius outside (34 Fahrenheit).

Posted by: Oliver Stör on 24 Dec 06

Hi - is there a source for more information about the glacier melt releasing reservoirs of viruses? I did a google search and couldn't find anything, this is the first I had heard of it, and it sounds very interesting and important. Thanks for any pointers.

Posted by: Stephen Balbach on 24 Dec 06

It's amazing what little coverage this story gets. I'm calling others to join the WorldCoolers initiative I discovered on Wired last week. Their latest alert lets you contact your local TV station and ask them to talk about the effects of global warming.

Posted by: Gary on 24 Dec 06

welcome to my world... I've been writing about climate change for 10 years. sigh

Posted by: DanG on 24 Dec 06

I liked your observation, "spin people into ignorance and passivity." It makes a good definition of what the corporate world has done with the news--made it into spin.

Saw Al Gore's film and thought little of it. All of the examples have been on the news over the last 40 years, and much worse, like the Russian town buried under an avalanche of mud traveling 75mph from a melted glacier. Even the film will not penetrate American denial where the obvious has repeatedly failed. American politics and corporate media have never owned up to the truth of anything in my lifetime that I've noticed. Denial is our way of life. Economic expediency is the rule. Denial (tr: spin) keeps the economy going.

In 3rd World coups the television station is the first target. Control the news and you control the people. Our corporate government controls the news. Denial is policy. The bottom line rules.

Posted by: TJ Worthington on 25 Dec 06

People in general are obsessed with gossip and trivia.

They are not interested in any global issue unless it impacts on them directly.

Climate change is too gradual a thing to grab their attention.

The biggest problem though is that the world is run by extraverts and optimists. These are the people who get into influential positions in life.

You need to be a pessimistic intravert to see the truth.

Posted by: Ray Hume on 26 Dec 06

I'm doing a report on Global Warming. And in class we watched a video in class, and it's so obvious that it is Global Warming and I just don't understand why people think that these storms are just a weird event. The facts are right there, the evidence is hitting people in the face saying it's global warming it's all happening. There's no waiting to be done we have to fix it its all here

Posted by: Lauren on 16 Jan 07



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