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Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Excellent Climate Change Allegory

These past few weeks have involved long hours sitting at my computer trying to hammer out my thesis and ignore the uncomfortable sensation of sweat sticking me to my chair or trickling down my side. Thankfully, I do not suffer from hyperhidrosis, but it has simply been incredibly hot and humid.  In fact, this summer has brought on another record set of heat waves, which one can only hope will finally galvanize political environmental action.  Of course, this hope is likely in vain.  Media Matters published an excellent article on the coverage of the recent heat wave, which is worth reading:
In December 2008 the Washington Post reported that AT&T and DuPont planned to lay off a combined 14,500 employees. The lead of the story said: "Need more proof that the recession is real? An onslaught of grim unemployment and layoff reports yesterday should dispel any lingering doubts."
Was the recession the only force behind these job cuts? No. Other variables would be needed to explain why the layoffs were hitting these specific companies, at this time, and at this scale. But the recession was the obvious background condition, the broader context that could not go unmentioned in a proper news report on the layoffs, and there was no hand-wringing about drawing the connection. The article didn't caution that "No single bankruptcy or job cut can be definitively blamed on the recession." No one waited for a computer model to precisely sort the causes of these layoffs. No one tracked down a contrarian to point out that layoffs happened long before the recession and that, in fact, such-and-such a company somewhere is hiring.
Which brings me to the massive heat wave that we're now emerging from. Scientific observation and analysis have established that human-induced climate change makes extreme heat events more common. But when heat waves hit, many reporters hesitate to mention climate change without appending disclaimers of the sort that you don't see on other beats.
Go read the rest of the article.  As with all allegories, it is obviously not a perfect fit, but it does an excellent job of showcasing the frustrating manner in which environmental issues, particularly climate change, is treated by the media.