Why main line news organizations do not address the reasons behind extreme weather

By Jim Johnson

The average U.S. temperature for March was 46.1 ˚ F, 4.6˚ F above average, ranking 10th warmest in the 126-year record. The U.S. precipitation average for March was 2.83”, some 0.32” above average, ranking among the wettest one-third of the historical record. Alaska endured the coldest January through March since 2012. Southerly winds contributed to a 77 Kilometer reduction in Bering Sea ice cover—the largest drop on record for March.  Flooding along the James River in the northeast South Dakota has been ongoing since April 2, 2019.

Here in the Ohio Valley overnight tornadoes on March 2nd and 3rd caused severe damage and fatalities across the greater Nashville metro area including EF-3 and EF-4 tornadoes east of Nashville. Damage exceeded $1 Billion.  By March 31st, 14.5% of the contiguous U.S. was in drought. Drought conditions intensified and expanded across Colorado, Oregon, Washington, Nevada and the Golf Coast. So states the “National Climate Report-March 2020, State of the Climate,” provided by the National Centers for Environmental Information.

Here locally we listen to weathermen and women from WLKY, WHAS and WAVE news predict abnormal rainfall and below average temperatures.  The National Weather Service documents seven days of below average temperatures for the month of May.  Two of those days the temperature was 17˚ F. below normal.  The below normal temperature, they tell us, occurs because the polar vortex or jet stream is dipping south. But not a word as why the jet stream is streaming across the lower 48 states. 

Almost every night, mainline national news, NBC, CBS and ABC produce stories about natural disasters: flooding in the Midwest, multiple tornadoes crossing the plains states, hurricanes and tropical depressions in the Caribbean and along the east coast, droughts and out of control wild fires in the West.  But not a word about what is causing these extreme, devastating weather conditions.

But we know why abnormal weather is occurring. Explains Illissa Ocko, Senior Climate Scientist and the Tianyi Sun, Postdoc Climate Science Fellow for the Environmental Defense Fund, “Though it can be hard to pinpoint whether climate change intensified a particular weather event, the trajectory is clear—hotter heat waves, drier droughts, bigger storm surges and greater snowfall” are linked to the planet’s warming and its changing weather patterns.

The science is overwhelming. The connection between climate change and extreme weather comes from scholarly articles published by scientists like Cynthia Rosenzweig, Ana Iglesias, X.B. Yang, Paul R. Epstein, and Eric Chivian in their article “Climate change and extreme weather events.” The science comes from an article published in CarbonBrief penned by multiple authors, titled “Mapped: How climate change affects extreme weather around the world;” It comes from a revealing article published by the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions titled “Extreme Weather and Climate Change.” The science comes from an article entitled “Extreme Weather; National Climate Assessment” published by the U.S. Global Change Research Program and composed by over 300 scientists.  

Many other articles, too numerous to mention here, substantiate the research.  Even a scientist like Marlo Lewis, Jr., from the Competitive Enterprise Institute, in his article “Climate Change, Fossil Fuels and Human Well Being,” admits that climate change is real and the result of human activity. However, Dr. Lewis believes that climate change has a positive effect on humans. With the extreme weather events that are now occurring, not just in the United States, but all over the world, the effect of climate change on humans is not positive, it is negative.

The fact that the evidence demonstrates climate change is linked to extreme weather events, begs the question: why are local and national mainline news organizations not addressing this issue? Why has the story behind the story disappeared?  Local weathermen and women may tell us that it is not their job to explain the reason behind extreme weather.  Their job is to report and predict the weather. So, if it is not their job to explain the reason for such extreme weather events, whose job is it?  Guess not the Louisville Courier-Journal, because they seldom address global warming issues.  It should be noted here that FORward Radio, WFMP 106.5 FM, produces three programs, one national and two local programs, concerned with climate change. However, WFMP is a non-commercial, non-profit, all-volunteer radio station.

So, the question as to why the mainline news organizations are not addressing the reason behind extreme weather remains unanswered. But the implications are clear.  I’ll leave it up to you, our reader, to decipher that answer for yourself.

Jim Johnson is a retired Jefferson County Public School teacher.  He has been involved in the Louisville Peace and Justice community since 1985. He is currently the facilitator for the Fellowship of Reconciliation affiliate “Aim Higher” and is a member of the Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR). He can be reached at  jimpeace8@att.net