When Is Discussing Climate Change and Disasters Together OK?

Over on Syfy, Phil Plait has a great opinion piece called Now Is Exactly The Time We Should Be Talking About Climate Change. In it, he addresses those who, when disaster strikes, inevitably pull out the "stop politicizing human suffering" card.

We need to listen to climate scientists now, as we should have been listening to them for decades. There are people out there saying we shouldn’t be politicizing these hurricanes … but they have already been politicized. When the president of the United States denies climate change, when he fills his cabinet with more of his ilk, when he continues to nominate them to important climate-related agency offices, then it is long past time to talk politics and hurricanes.

It's possible to feel deep concern and solidarity for those who've just been through a disaster like Maria, Irma, Jose, or Harvey, while still having conversations about what can be done long term to mitigate these disasters. In fact, it would be irresponsible not to have those conversations.

To that point, Jennifer Good at The Star analyzes how the media frames hurricanes and climate change.

The fundamental answer is that climate change and extreme weather (i.e., hurricanes) need to be framed together more often. As scientists have pointed out, while climate change is not causing the weather, it is definitely exacerbating the weather. But increasingly adding climate change to the extreme weather frame is only the tip of the (yes, melting) iceberg. Alternatives to “business as usual” need to be part of the media’s, and our, extreme weather frames ... In times of crisis, there are many immediate and urgent stories that need to be told about lives and loss, bravery and struggle. But crisis also provides an opportunity for change — an opportunity to shift our frames and include the ideas we desperately need.

Her conclusion is that the media can and should be doing a better job at framing the issue for viewers.

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