Friday 25 October 2013

Climate change and the media

Radio New Zealand - avoiding discussion of climate change


Yesterday evening, listening to evening radio I heard this interview with a meteorologist on Radio New Zealand.


The interview was moderately informative, 

Certainly it was the first time I have heard come across any discussion of the jet stream with reference to the Southern Hemisphere.

Just try googling it. You won't find anything much that will leave you knowing anything more.

What screamed out at me was the absence of one phrase - climate change.

It's all just business- as-usual.  

Nothing unusual about the weather. We've always had storms and winds just as Australia has always been hot and gets bushfires, haven't we?

Don't get worried about last summer's drought  - ('we've always had droughts', haven't we'); or the winter-that-wasn't- a-winter; or the two storms in a short period bringing 100+ mph winds, followed by weather with lots of winds (60 mph winds several days in a row where I live has been the norm). 

Just relax,go back to sleep. Go shopping.

I have to wonder whether most meteorologists are climate sceptics, (the late RNZ 'weather man' Augie Auer was), or just so conservative and caught up with their speciality of predicting tomorrow's weather, that they've never thought about it.

Whenever we have had especially extreme weather the weathermen's explanation has always been either that it's an El Niño or an La Niña.

This year, we're told, it's neither - it's a 'balanced' year (neither one, nor the other), but also (said with a straight face) that we're likely to see some extreme storms(!)

Going back to when I was going up in the 60's and 70's I seem to remember (and I admit I could be wrong) the El Niño was part of a much longer cycle. 

Certainly the storms when they came were much less frequent.

If I want discussion of climate change I have to go elsewhere.  Even in Australia, despite having elected a climate change fascist for MP, there is a fairly robust discussion going on about the connection with climate change (see Climate change raising fire risk).

In this country there is no mention of climate change unless it is some press release from API or Reuters in the print media. On television it simply doesn't exist.

Radio New Zealand, which caters to the more sophisticated and educated part of the populace has a more complicated relationship.  

It seems to be OK to discuss it so long as it is kept fairly theoretical, 'out there', in the future.  Otherwise it has proved to be pretty much a taboo word.

I was told by one producer that RNZ likes discussion of global warming to have a New Zealand connection. 

But if you suggest that there is a link with local conditions and climate change that becomes a no-go area.

In Australia, at least they are (at last!) saying it. 

The gap between major bushfires is narrowing with each season. 

Last year they had to introduce a new colour to reflect the record high temperatures.  

Now, this year both the high temperatures and the bushfires have come three months  early.

New Zealand is surrounded by ocean so is not so likely to get the in-your-face hot conditions that the Australian landmass does.

However, our weather is likely to become more and more unstable and the conditions - whether it be storms or drought, will become more extreme in a short period of time, and it will become increasingly difficult to produce food.

It may just sustain life for a little longer than its nearest neighbour.

I suspect there will be plenty of room for avoidance and denial for some time yet.


Going back to weather and the jet stream I wish that everyone could see the following two videos which explain clearly the connection between global warming and unstable weather conditions.

In fact, I would like (decreasingly) to shake people by the shoulder and shout "wake-the-fuck-up!"

Jennifer Francis - Understanding the Jetstream

Climate change and extreme weather - Prof. Jennifer Francis

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