Monday, July 5, 2010

Get ready for more climate change in the Canadian media

Temperatures hit the mid-30s Celsius across much of southern Ontario and Quebec today, and are expected to do so for several more days before returning to more seasonal norms of the high 20s. Combined with an unusually wet summer on the Canadian Prairies, some heavy rainfall events and even a recent earthquake in Ottawa, expect any day now to see an upswing in reporting on climate change/global warming in the Canadian media.

Yes, I know, earthquakes are not climate-related, but the media doesn't mind - it all relates to the environment somehow, right? Summer is always a slow season for the news networks and papers, and especially now that the dust has settled on the G8/G20 circus and the gulf oil spill has become old news, there's nothing papers find easier to run than stories about the weather.

Which is what the current hot temperatures in Ontario and soggy conditions in Saskatchewan amount to - just the weather. They're not evidence of anything more than the fact that our daily livelihoods and activities are vulnerable to being disrupted by naturally-occurring events, just as they've always been. If we think the impacts of climate change aren't worth worrying about, consider the heat and rain a wake-up call. Or a reminder, if you're one of the majority of people who think, with good common sense, that it's unwise (and terribly wasteful) to transform the composition of the atmosphere as we're presently engaged in doing, and wonder about the negative impacts. And so they look to the media for stories about climate change and what can/ought to be done...

hmmm. An awkward full circle is reached. This week's weather has little to do with climate change (just as the home run hit yesterday by the Jays' Vernon Wells will have little impact on the outcome of their season) but at the same time it might stimulate the media to publish more climate change stories, which people might then read/listen to and thereby (perhaps) take a greater interest in doing something about it. The realpolitik of climate change would seem to dictate, then, that those hoping for action to mitigate global greenhouse gas emissions should hope for hot weather in the media capitals and extreme weather events across the nation. But it works the other way as well: last summer (which was cool and wet across much of eastern Canada, and followed on the heels of a snowy winter) saw a swelling of smarmy "so whatever happened to global warming?" columns by the dullards of the op-ed sections and news network gab shows.

So to wrap up then: if the weather makes you think about climate change, good for you. But hopefully you also give it some thought even when there's something else newsworthy besides the weather.

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