26 February 2011

Bringing it Home

Writing at MIT's Knight Science Journalism Tracker, Charles Petit breathlessly announces to journalists that the scientific community has now given a green light to blaming contemporary disasters on the emissions of greenhouse gases:
An official shift may just have occurred not only in news coverage of climate change, but the way that careful scientists  talk about it. Till now blaming specific storms on climate change has been frowned upon. And it still is, if one is speaking of an isolated event. But something very much like blaming global warming for what is happening today, right now, outside the window has just gotten endorsement on the cover of Nature. Its photo of a flooded European village has splashed across it, “THE HUMAN FACTOR.” Extreme rains in many regions, it tells the scientific community, is not merely consistent with what to expect from global warming,  but herald its arrival.

This is a good deal more immediate than saying, as people have for some time, that glaciers are shrinking and seas are rising due to the effects of greenhouse gases. This brings it home.
We recently published a paper showing that the media overall has done an excellent job on its reporting of scientific projections of sea level rise. I suspect that a similar analysis of the issue of disasters and climate change would not result in such favorable results. Of course, looking at the cover of Nature above, it might be understandable why this would be the case.