Weather may not be a politically correct conversation in Washington, but it is on the news channels. Most evenings, I watch the national news and noticed, some time ago, that the weather, which occasionally used to show up late in the program, is now often the featured story, night after night. Every night, I watch Ginger Zee explaining why half the country is going to be either inundated or parched. ABC, my usual channel, has a huge techie display that enables them to show extreme events in infinite detail.
It’s clear from all this that extreme weather has both entered our consciousness and our conscience. Death counts are frequent as are photos of utter devastation. The interviews with those who have literally lost everything to the wind are heart-wrenching. But something is missing in all this. I have yet to hear a word about the possible cause of this new reality. No scientific expert is called in to explain; to give us the back story, as is done in virtually every other case of breaking news. After every drone attack, some security expert shows up to give us the old tired story about it. After the last several police shootings, the number of explainers was legend.
Why is the media hiding the background from us? I have to assume that the failure to expand beyond the always clean-cut professional meteorologists is deliberate. The elevation of weather events to the prime story clearly indicates its evolving interest as news. Extreme weather is no more a random act than are other major breaking news stories. There is always some attempt at explanation or elaboration. Is there a hidden and unintentional conspiracy at work? Do the newscasters really know the true story behind all that damage and carnage: that the watchers of the shows are the culprits. Are they afraid of telling us the truth and scaring us off? Are they afraid we can’t face it? Are their owners and managers part of the general conspiracy to simply deny any relationship between our everyday behavior and these persistent extreme events.
I don’t know, of course. If they simply don’t see the connection, we are being robbed of a critical opportunity to learn one of the most important facts about our lives today and tomorrow. Ebola, which is certainly a most serious problem, but not for us, got far more attention to its causes than the weather. I would love to see ABC hire a scientist, like their medical expert, Richard Besser, who would appear almost every night and tell us a little more about climate change science. The greenhouse effect, the primary physical process involved, is not really all that arcane. The whole story that connects my specific tailpipe emissions with a flood in California is very complex, but the principle is not all that abstruse.
Write to your media asking them to make the extreme weather a regular part of the news and to provide expertise to explain what is happening. It is not just happening over there any more. These events now are covering the entire US. If we demanded an detailed explanation of Ebola and similar not-so-imminent problems, we should really start to care about the weather. It’s time to put the lie to Charles Dudley Warner’s famous quote, “Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it.”