All of the apocalyptic weather occurring right now across the US, and especially in the west where I’m from, prompted me to google “link between climate change and wildfires.” I found an article written about a year ago that lamented the lack of reporters who were connecting the dots between climate change and natural disasters. But that was a year ago. Has anything changed since then?
My first cursory Google News search yielded these top two results:
Seventy-eight related news articles would seem to be a promising sign that more linkages are being made compared to last year; though I must admit that I have not read all 78 articles to assess the quality of this reporting.
There are several immediate drivers of these fires that most media sources agree on: early spring snow melt, little moisture and higher summer temperatures. But because climate change accounts for broader weather pattern shifts instead of acting as the culprit in individual disaster cases, it is often not given the significance it requires. Rebecca Anderson of the Alliance for Climate Education writes, “Perhaps the current cocktail of all these factors will spark something more than another wildfire — maybe it can also spark a public conversation around the fire-climate change connection and let people see the forest for the trees.”
Ahren Stroming of Policymic might agree: “The ultimate crisis, though, has garnered much less attention. The destructive fires , the intense heat waves , the torrential storms, and the extended droughts should be the equivalent to waking up to a bucket of cold water dumped on your face. Global warming is staring us down, dripping bucket in hand.”
Indeed, it is easier to blame cigarette butts or lightning for our problems than to paint a bigger picture which might help to mobilize people to take action for the environment. Right now is the media’s perfect moment to seize our attention about the consequences of the human footprint on the environment. We can’t afford to wait another year for reporters to definitively make the link between natural disasters like wildfires and climate change.