Today the Washington Post runs a front-page story reporting on "wild, wild weather" in Europe this summer, with floods in England, killer heat in Greece, fires in the Canary Islands, and unseasonable cold in Paris — and doesn’t even mention the possibility of a connection to climate change!
Yes, weather is not the same as climate, but to not even discuss the connection that scientists in Europe are actively debating — ridiculous.
Climatologists have long argued that global warming will lead to greater variability, which is exactly what we’re seeing in Europe this summer. For example, in a Los Angeles Times story quoted a week or so ago, a scientist at Oxford named Jon Finch put it this way:
thing to remember is that what seems to be indicated with global
warming is much more variability in the climate," [Jon Finch of Oxford U.] said. "So this
[flood] event, which basically looks like it’s a 1-in-200-year event, may with
a change in climate come down to a 1-in-50-year event."
Finch hastens to add that his number is speculative, but it shows that European scientists are already trying to quantitatively assess the increased variability that global warming is bringing us, which will no doubt soon show up in insurance quotes, as increased hurricane risk has already in the East and along the Gulf Coast.
Why is this concept of a connection between climate change and "wild weather" so difficult? We can grasp that smoking cigarettes leads to an increased chance of lung cancer. According to the Centers for Disease Control, smoking is a risk factor that means that people who smoke are ten or twenty times more likely to contract lung cancer than those who do not.
Now we have an Oxford University researcher estimating that climate change means a 4x greater chance of devastating floods. Is this concept so difficult it cannot be mentioned to American news readers?
When it comes to weather and climate, apparently most American reporters don’t want to do the hard work of assessing the possibility of a connection between global warming and strange weather occurences.
Or they are in denial. Or they are afraid of being battered by deniers.
Is that too harsh?