Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Media Quietude Over Climate Change

A few months ago, when we were seeing mid-summer temperatures during early spring, I remember Tom Brown, the CTV weatherman, looking grim and saying words to the effect that "This is something we all need to be concerned about." It was, I assume, a brave but oblique allusion to climate change.

Why brave? Since it was an observation never again repeated, I assume old Tom knew he was treading dangerously close to something that the corporate ownership of CTV does not want discussed, lest it offend sponsors or potential sponsors whose ultimate message is to consume like there is no tomorrow (rather prescient in some ways, aren't they?)

I had occasion to think about that reference last evening as I was watching my local news, and there was a report on the extreme weather we have been experiencing this summer (extreme humidity, drought, and sudden destructive storms), yet not a word was said about the broader implications of this weather.

Earlier this month, The Guardian ran a story by Amy Goodman, who is the host and executive producer of Democracy Now!, a national, daily, independent, award-winning news program airing on over 1,000 public television and radio stations worldwide. In it, she observed that in U.S. reporting,

The phrase "extreme weather" flashes across television screens from coast to coast, but its connection to climate change is consistently ignored, if not outright mocked.

In her column today in The Toronto Star, Linda McQuaig, makes similar observations about the cone of silence that permeates weather news in Canada:

CBC TV’s The National announced a report on this summer’s “wicked weather.”

...But the report focused on “storm chasers” — people who follow tornadoes for a hobby. And it raised the question of whether the wild weather could affect our insurance rates. Not a word about whether the unusual heat, drought and storms could be a symptom of what we’re doing to the planet.

McQuaig goes on to suggest:

...the issue seems to have lost its cachet with media managers, who apparently consider it too negative or tedious for audiences they feel obliged to entertain. Media commentators tend to ignore it or dismiss it, apparently afraid of looking too earnest or Earth-hugging, and therefore out of sync with our money-driven corporate culture.

I guess it is a truism to say that we are a very short-sighted species that prefers to ignore things until they can no longer be ignored. We seem to have reached that point, but one has to wonder how long it will be before the mainstream media acknowledge that fact.


  1. I also read McQuaig's column, Lorne, and wondered why we are so unmoved. But, as I recall, in the opposite situation, Noah's neighbours thought he was crazy.

  2. I suspect things will be thus until the end, Owen. And if, for example, we get a cold and harsh winter, that will convince many that our fears were overblown, don't you think?