On Friday, I was on The Alyona Show to talk about wildfires and climate change. I apologize to viewers that my head is so enormous. I mean, it’s naturally enormous, but, you know, looming like that. It’s not to give you a closer view of the beard, it’s just that I forgot to adjust my webcam beforehand, so it looks like you’re seeing me in your car’s side mirror. ("Objects in the mirror may appear Brobdingnagian.")
I’m going to do that neurotic thing where I annotate my answers below the video:
I was on to talk about wildfires and climate change, but it occurs to me that in my first answer I didn’t mention climate at all. And then I drop it in at random at the end of my second answer, which, if you hadn’t already read my post on the subject, will likely make no sense at all to you. So, top-notch work there.
Then we head back to "Climategate," which … I know I should have some sort of poll-tested, social-psych-savvy answer for this, but I just can’t take it seriously. I can’t. It’s dumb. I should have shut up after the independent investigations bit, since that’s all that really needs to be said about it. I do think it’s amusing, though, that a federal appeals court basically laughed in the face of litigants who cited Climategate as evidence against EPA’s endangerment finding.
As for that last answer, I blew it. I was attempting to explain why people in the midst of a chaotic disaster would not have climate change top of mind. It’s understandable: there are so many factors closer, more salient in their personal experience. But I let the media off way too easy.
The problem with media coverage of the fire is not that it should be about climate change, but that it should take climate change for granted. Right now, your best case scenario is to find something like this buried down in paragraph 23: "Oh yeah, and some scientists say this is connected to climate change." The lead should be, "Climate change’s growing effects were felt once again this month as wildfires drove thousands from their homes etc. etc." It shouldn’t be a contested fact within the story, it should be an accepted background condition that shapes the story. The more proximate causes and conditions are always going to be the foreground, but that’s no excuse to botch the background.