Majority of Americans now say climate change makes hurricanes more intense, poll finds
A majority of Americans say that global climate change contributed to the severity of recent hurricanes in Florida and Texas, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll. That marks a significant shift of opinion from a dozen years ago, when a majority of the public dismissed the role of global warming and said such severe weather events just happen from time to time.
In a 2005 Post-ABC poll, taken a month after Hurricane Katrina ravaged the Gulf Coast and devastated New Orleans, 39 percent of Americans said they believed climate change helped to fuel the intensity of hurricanes. Today, 55 percent believe that.
Gee, do you think that all the mass media reports connecting the storms with climate change had anything to do with that polling result? Here is just today’s sample from Google News of mainstream press articles pushing the linkage.
Hurricanes spur Schneider action on climate change Chicago Tribune
Hurricanes: A perfect storm of chance and climate change? BBC News
Like hurricanes, climate change is dangerous, but smart storm fixes won’t help climate USA TODAY
Next-generation models revealing climate change effect on hurricanes Phys.Org
After hurricanes, climate change resurfaces in Washington Houston Chronicle
Scientific models saved lives from Harvey and Irma. They can from climate change too The Guardian
National Guard chief cites ‘bigger, larger, more violent’ hurricanes as possible evidence of climate change Washington Post
Paradise lost? Caribbean leaders want action on climate change and help rebuilding Miami Herald
Yes, climate change made Harvey and Irma worse CNN
In addition, there are dozens of articles from climate advocacy sites like Greenpeace, Huffpost, Insideclimatenews, etc.
An exception to the onslaught appeared to be this one from The Stranger Why Connecting Climate Change with Powerful Hurricanes Is Doing More Damage Than Good
But it turns out to be another extreme hit piece by Sarah Myhre, who is no stranger to alarmism. (Background at Again Falsely Linking Smoking and Climate Science)
This time she attacks the media reporting on hurricanes and climate change, because they seem to allow for doubt (tsk, tsk). (Below her text with my bolds)
We need to poke a hole in this toxic narrative and news cycle around climate attribution. When I say attribution, what I am referring to are the ongoing arguments of attributing specific weather events to climate change: Was Hurricane Harvey caused by climate change? Was the low snow year of 2015, up and down the Cascadian mountains, caused by climate change? These questions—individually—are interesting and important to answer. But the science of Earth system change is not altered by the relative statistical significance of our attribution certainty. Far from it.
What’s more, this framing of attribution uncertainty is continually used to support climate action obstruction and denialist voices in our culture. When you hear pandering equivocation about climate and weather events, alarm bells should start ringing in your head. This news cycle is absolutely toxic and we together need to get our broad cultural conversation off this hamster wheel.
One closing point: When we use uncertainty around attributing individual weather events to climate change to call for “more data” or “better climate science” (think of Cliff Mass) we are driving a wedge between public health and public safety. We mislead the public because the message we send is: We don’t know what’s happening. This simply isn’t true; we do know what is happening. However, in some cases, we lack high-quality time series data to statistically detect the signal of climate from the noise of weather.
The last line in Myhre’s article says it all: We know what’s going on, we just don’t have the facts yet.
Despite all of the levelheaded statements by hurricane experts cautioning against jumping to these conclusions, and despite the IPCC SREX reports saying the linkage is not proven, the media and activists went on a rant proclaiming climate change makes hurricanes worse. They trumpeted these claims, and now take pride in a survey showing they succeeded in duping the public. That is a duping scandal and the mass media is at fault. Shame on them.
Background from Previous Post:
Climate Thought Control explains the deliberate media strategy to mold public opinion in support of climate change activism.
Jennifer Good is a communications professor explaining how the media is expected to mold public opinion in favor of climate activism. Her article in the Toronto Star Putting hurricanes and climate change into the same frame is revealing, especially the subtitle A study shows network Hurricane coverage this month did not link an increase in extreme weather to global warming.
The prof is disappointed that climate change was not even more frequently mentioned in stories about the recent hurricanes. She considers it an opportunity missed. (Update: Since her article was published, the media took up the cause big time.) Some excerpts below with my bolds.
I have analyzed two weeks of broadcast news stories that appeared on America’s seven largest TV networks as well as Canada’s CTV network. In just over 1,500 stories about hurricanes, “Trump” was discussed in 907 of those stories (or about 60 per cent), while “business” was discussed in 572 of those stories (or about 38 per cent).
“Climate change” was discussed in just 79 of the hurricane stories — or about five per cent.
What’s Wrong with Professional, Objective Reporting?
The fundamental answer is that climate change and extreme weather (i.e., hurricanes) need to be framed together more often. As scientists have pointed out, while climate change is not causing the weather, it is definitely exacerbating the weather. But increasingly adding climate change to the extreme weather frame is only the tip of the (yes, melting) iceberg. Alternatives to “business as usual” need to be part of the media’s, and our, extreme weather frames.
Of those 1,500 broadcast news stories involving hurricanes, only four also mentioned “fossil fuels,” and not a single news broadcast discussed “alternative energy.”
Similarly, while “economy” is discussed in 187 of the hurricane news stories, only 18 stories discussed hurricanes, the economy and climate change together; and not one story explored the links between an economic model based on endless growth, and the implications of this endless growth for the planet and climate change.
The Purpose of Media is to Manipulate Public Opinion
In his seminal 2010 paper “Why It Matters How We Frame the Environment,” published in the journal Environmental Communication, the American linguist and philosopher George Lakoff offered that the world is made up of frames. “Framing” is how our neural system defines a concept by grouping together what goes with — or gets framed with — that concept. Our brains are wired this way.
For example, when you read “climate change,” your brain immediately frames the concept of climate change with certain words and concepts. Everyone cognitively frames “climate change” somewhat differently, but there might also be large overlaps. Terms like “fossil fuels” and “human activity” might be in many people’s climate change frames, although frames can differ widely. (Think, for example, of climate change skeptics.)
Not surprisingly, the news media plays a significant role in how our brains frame concepts. The more the media frames a story by associating it with certain words and concepts, the more likely we are to use those same words and concepts in our own framing.
And conversely, if the news media never framed a story using certain concepts, there is “hypocognition,” or as Lakoff proposed, a “lack of ideas we need.”
In times of crisis, there are many immediate and urgent stories that need to be told about lives and loss, bravery and struggle. But crisis also provides an opportunity for change — an opportunity to shift our frames and include the ideas we desperately need.
So far, that opportunity seems to have been missed. Meanwhile, the oceans get warmer.
The Other Side of the Story
While the prof is totally convinced she knows what the public needs to know about weather and climate, actual weather scientists disagree with her. In fact, the efforts to link storms and fossil fuels were present way too often and hindered the public from understanding these events.
For instance, Hurricane scientist Dr. Ryan Maue ripped climate ‘hype’ on Irma & Harvey in his WSJ article Climate Change Hype Doesn’t Help.
As soon as Hurricanes Harvey and Irma made landfall in the U.S., scientists, politicians and journalists began to discuss the role of climate change in natural disasters. Although a clear scientific consensus has emerged over the past decade that climate change influences hurricanes in the long run, its effect upon any individual storm is unclear. Anyone trying to score political points after a natural disaster should take a deep breath and review the science first.
As a meteorologist with access to the best weather-forecast model data available, I watched each hurricane’s landfall with particular interest. Harvey and Irma broke the record 12-year major hurricane landfall drought on the U.S. coastline. Since Wilma in October 2005, 31 major hurricanes had swirled in the North Atlantic but all failed to reach the U.S. with a Category 3 or higher intensity.
Even as we worked to divine exactly where the hurricanes would land, a media narrative began to form linking the devastating storms to climate change. Some found it ironic that states represented by “climate deniers” were being pummeled by hurricanes. Alarmists reveled in the irony that Houston, home to petrochemical plants, was flooded by Harvey, while others gleefully reported that President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago might be inundated by Irma.
By focusing on whether climate change caused a hurricane, journalists fail to appreciate the complexity of extreme weather events. While most details are still hazy with the best climate modeling tools, the bigger issue than global warming is that more people are choosing to live in coastal areas, where hurricanes certainly will be most destructive.
Actual scientists are calling for less, not more manipulative journalism.
And as for the oceans getting warmer, Prof. Good, that is due to the oceans storing and releasing solar energy, nothing to do with burning fossil fuels. The oceans heat the atmosphere, and not the other way around. See Empirical Evidence: Oceans Make Climate
Footnote: If Framing doesn’t work, what’s next?