Fidest – Agenzia giornalistica/press agency

Quotidiano di informazione – Anno 31 n° 344

Climate change plays second fiddle as California burns

Posted by fidest press agency su mercoledì, 14 novembre 2018

By Jon Allsop. California is burning again. Separate fires in the north and south of the state wreaked devastation over the weekend and are not done yet. In SoCal, the Woolsey Fire has killed two people so far. In Butte County, north of Sacramento, the death toll from the Camp Fire is 29 and rising, with more than 200 people still missing. Many news organizations have stressed the historic proportions of the latter fire, in particular—on Sunday night, it tied as the deadliest recorded in California history. While outlets at all levels have painted poignant portraits of human suffering, local newspapers, as is their responsibility, have led with more pragmatic coverage. Small titles like the Chico Enterprise-Record have reported on what dislocated residents can expect to happen next. The San Francisco Chronicle, meanwhile, took a bigger picture look at how the state’s intensifying fire threat might be mitigated going forward. The Woolsey and Camp fires are not coincidental, one-off monstrosities, but rather significant new evidence of a rapidly changing climate. Sadly, far too much media coverage has failed to draw that link. That oversight is not surprising—in turn, it fits its own trend of big news organizations investing in detailed reporting on climate change, then failing to cite it in their quick turnaround stories when the threat strikes close to home. (As Hurricane Michael made landfall in Florida last month, CJR’s Pete Vernon pointed out that newspaper front pages did not mention climate change, despite having splashed dire UN climate projections just days earlier.) Over the weekend, fire stories that did reference climate change often did so in quotation marks, referencing, variously, high-profile comments from outgoing California Governor Jerry Brown, Los Angeles fire chief Daryl Osby, and the musician Neil Young (the latter’s remarks, on his website, were a rare benefit of a cycle that otherwise paid wildly disproportionate attention to celebrities losing their homes). These are weighty voices, and editors’ hesitation to blame individual meteorological events on climate change in the absence of conclusive proof is not without reason. Nonetheless, this sort of attribution is not sufficiently authoritative. Brown’s comments, in particular, were framed as a political dispute with President Trump, even though the latter’s weekend tweets blaming poor forest management for the fires carried significantly less merit.There is clear contextual evidence of the role of climate change in California’s worsening wildfire problem, and not enough outlets have cited it. The San Francisco Chronicle, at least, quickly got bona fide experts on the record: LeRoy Westerling, a climate and fire scientist at the University of California, Merced, for example, told the paper that “Climate change is drying out our landscape.” The Chronicle’s editorial board itself weighed in definitively as the fires spread on Friday, adding a practical call to action. “Rather than absolve us of responsibility for the growing human and material devastation of wildfires,” it wrote, “global warming should spur more urgent efforts to mitigate the danger with policies that make sense in any weather.” (font: CJR Editors)

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