Washington Post: It’s Hot, Therefore ….

By August 4, 2006Global Warming

We find ourselves in rare agreement this morning with the Washington Post’s coverage of global warming. In the Post’s latest contribution on the topic, staff writer Juliet Eilperin offers:

  • “While it is impossible to attribute any one weather event to climate change…”, and
  • “Several researchers said it is hard to draw conclusions about the relationship between severe heat waves and climate change…”
  • Well, that’s right. Unfortunately, those two bits of acknowledgement are tucked inside a half-page opus ominous with worst-case scenarios, a story headlined, “More Frequent Heat Waves Linked to Global Warming.” But it’s something. Something smallish. But something.

    Then again, Tim Graham at Newsbusters.org spots something biggish in the story, i.e., this credulous paragraph reporting an alarming death toll (and alarming lack of air conditioning):

    Since July, 179 Americans, most of them Californians, have died in the current heat wave; more than 52,000 died during the 2003 episode in Europe, where air conditioning is less common.

    The claim about European deaths is unattributed, but Graham tracks it down to the ultra-green Earth Policy Institute. He pokes holes in the speculation-rife methodology and notes the Earth Policy Institute’s admitted advocacy mission, which includes, “The dissemination of information from the Institute is designed to help set the public agenda.” Graham observes:

    There is certainly nothing wrong with trying to set the public agenda. But it ought to make reporters more skeptical when they’re dealing with scientific claims, especially big heat-wave death counts that suddenly spurt upward dramatically two or three years after the fact.

    Credulity, advocacy…Sure, those are all possible. But it might also be that the Post’s story is another example of Northern Hemispheric Centrism.

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