News Release

Extreme Weather and Global Warming: “Media Miss the Forest for the Burning Trees”


NEIL deMAUSE, neil at, @neildemause
Neil deMause is a Brooklyn-based journalist who has written extensively about climate change coverage for FAIR’s magazine Extra! — including the article “The Fires This Time: In coverage of extreme weather, media downplay climate change.

He said today: “Despite overwhelming evidence that climate change is causing dramatic changes in weather patterns — from increasingly deadly heat waves and wildfires to hurricanes and tornadoes — media coverage has bent over backwards to avoid making the connection between extreme weather events and the warming climate. Instead, reporters have largely hidden behind the truism that there’s no way to say that any given event was caused by climate change. Yes, in the same way that it’s hard to show that any given person wouldn’t have gotten cancer without smoking cigarettes — but that doesn’t mean that journalists should avoid reporting that smoking kills.”

JOE ROMM, jromm at
Romm is a senior fellow at American Progress, edits Climate Progress and holds a Ph.D. in physics from MIT. He recently wrote the piece “Hell And High Water Strikes, Media Miss the Forest for the Burning Trees.

Romm said today: “It is a basic conclusion of climate science that as the average temperature gets warmer, heat waves — which are extremes on top of the average — will get more intense. For the same reason, heat waves will last longer and cover a larger region. Recent research further links Arctic warming, and especially the loss of Arctic ice, to more extreme, prolonged weather events ‘such as drought, flooding, cold spells and heat waves.’

“Since droughts are made more intense by higher temperatures, which dry out the soil, and by earlier snowmelt, more intense droughts have long been predicted to occur as the planet warms. Since wildfires are worsened by drought and heat waves and earlier snowmelt, longer wildfire seasons and more intense firestorms has been another basic prediction.

“We also know that as we warm the oceans, we end up with more water vapor in the atmosphere — 4 percent more than was in the atmosphere just a few decades ago. That is why another basic prediction of climate science has been more intense deluges and floods.

“Scientists have already begun to document stronger heatwaves, worsening drought, longer widlfire seasons, and more intense downpours. Global warming has ‘juiced’ the climate, as if it were on steroids. The question is not whether you can blame a specific weather event on global warming. As Dr. Kevin Trenberth, former head of the Climate Analysis Section of the National Center for Atmospheric Research told the New York Times, ‘It’s not the right question to ask if this storm or that storm is due to global warming, or is it natural variability. Nowadays, there’s always an element of both.'”