On August 20, 2010, I had a good night’s sleep while the other 17 members of my family were wide awake scared to their core, running here and there with anxiety. I woke up in the morning and was told that it had rained heavily the whole night and there was a massive flash flood in my hometown. I straight up refused to believe at first. How could I? My hometown, Leh, is a cold desert, the annual rainfall is 4.02 inches, which means it hardly ever rains in Leh and a calamity like a flood is unheard of. That night, rainfall peaked 150mm/h (2010 Ladakh floods, Wikipedia) which is double the annual rainfall of Ladakh in one hour.
This is our world with climate change/global warming caused by the collective actions of mankind, we are seeing its effects in the changing pattern of natural disasters. Natural disasters are occurring in areas least expected, while the usual natural disasters are getting more intense. To better prepare for these changes, we need to make changes in our customs, lifestyle and most importantly our attitude towards climate change. Media is a very important tool that can drive this change, however, what we see in today’s media industry is that the media coverage of climate-related is distorted due media companies’ bias for and against climate change which leaves the public in a confusion about the reality of climate change.
Some media companies in the industry keep high the banner of climate change denial. Such media is called conservative media. Some prominent conservative media companies are Breitbart, Fox News and Wall street journal. Their stories often misinterpret scientific data, use unreliable sources and shower baseless arguments against climate change. Natural disasters in today’s time act as a harbinger of disasters we are going to see if climate change is not contained. However, its effects on people’s consensus about climate change are muffled by biased stories from conservative media. For example, Breitbart journalist James Delingpole in response to the hurricane Harvey activity writes, “This has nothing whatsoever to do with ‘climate change.’ Hurricane activity has been decreasing NOT increasing in recent years” (Delingpole), even when the fact can’t be denied that it is the second largest natural disaster striking the US in the last 5 years (Bragg). Baseless argument in conservative media stories read like “cold kills more people than heat” (Stossel) which is a baseless argument as the author is talking about the issue in the earlier context of global warming which now has become a much broader issue of climate change which is not just about the climate warming up but a change in the world’s climate as whole. Conservative media companies use unreliable sources to in to try prove their climate change denial for example Delingpole in his article “Hurricane Harvey Had Nothing Whatsoever to Do with ‘Climate Change” he shows a lot of trust in a person called ‘Paul Homewood’ saying “Here, with the evidence, is the trusty Paul Homewood” (Delingpole, 2017). Paul Homewood is a blogger on WordPress ‘not a lot of people know that’. The Great white con recently ran an article “Not A Lot of People Know How Paul Homewood Propagates Fake News” (Hunt). Their biased stories might not be appealing to a huge audience as readership of conservative media companies like Wall Street Journal is heavily comprised of wealthy and powerful men. Yet, it does have a negative impact on the public consensus on climate change.
The flipside of the natural disaster coverage is heavy towards climate change as except for a few media companies like Fox News, Breitbart and Wall Street Journal, most of the other media companies accept climate change. In these cases, natural disasters like Hurricane Harvey are considered as signs of worsening climate change. These media companies are often called the liberal media. For example, in an article in CNN with the title “Yes, climate change made Harvey and Irma worse” Wayne Drash starts with “The right time to talk climate change is now” (Drash). The article goes on to talk about how climate change can be attributed to increasing the intensity of recent hurricanes like Harvey and Irma. The arguments made in the article are backed with scientific evidence from organisations like Climate central and NASA. It is observable that the media companies advocating for climate change are influenced by science as a research conducted by IOP Science says that 97% of the scientist accept that climate change is real (Cook). In case of Hurricane Harvey Drash in his article relating Harvey to climate change says:
But the science is this: Hurricanes thrive over warm water and strengthen in intensity; oceans have warmed on an average 1 to 3 degrees Fahrenheit over the past century, and sea levels have risen about 7 inches during that time. Throw in compound flooding — the combination of rising sea levels from global warming, storm surge and extreme rainfall — and you have the perfect mix for record flooding. (Drash)
The difference in coverage of the two major sides of the media company leaves the public in a state of confusion a largely affects public consensus on climate change which is very important given the severity of the issue. According to a survey conducted by Pew research centre, only 42 % of Americans believe that climate change is responsible in increasing the severity of climate change (Funk) while as scientists from credible institutions like Oxford accept it as a fact (McGrath). this is a decline in American public can be because of public’s loss of trust in media as 47 % US adults say that the media does a bad job at global climate change issues (Funk)
Climate change is the biggest problem of our century. Unlike other problems that humanity has faced the effects of climate change are slow and not very visible to the most of the population. In that case, ab normal natural disasters act as an alarm urging people to wake up to this truth that threatens our existence. Here the support of media is very crucial in order to tackle this situation as this climate change can’t be solved by a bunch of individuals but by the whole humanity as a whole.
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