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The Mainstream Media’s Climate Malpractice

The corporate media in this country need to stop kowtowing to vested fossil fuel advertisers.

A storm front rolls into Portarlington, Australia, on December 2, 2010. (Photo: mrpbps)

A state of disaster has been declared in 31 flooded Texas counties as rivers in the region are cresting at historic highs.

Six people have died, up to four more people are missing and hundreds of people were evacuated from their homes in Houston as the Brazos River reached over 54 feet in Fort Bend County.

On the East Coast, the National Hurricane Center declared that Tropical Depression Bonnie, which caused significant flash flooding in the US Southeast over Memorial Day weekend, has “revived” off the coast of North Carolina.

See more news and opinion from Thom Hartmann at Truthout here.

It’s not just remarkable that Bonnie “revived” itself as a Tropical Depression — it’s remarkable that 2016 is the second year in a row that the Atlantic hurricane season has begun before June 1.

Over in Europe meanwhile, the French government issued an orange alert in response to days of torrential rains that brought the Seine’s water level to over five meters.

As a result, the Louvre announced earlier today that it was not admitting any more visitors to the museum and that the museum will be closed to the public on Friday so that staff can prepare for the worst.

Nine people in total have died across northern Europe as a result of the storms and subsequent flooding: Streets are submerged, schools have been forced to close, thousands of people have been evacuated and others have been stranded on their rooftops.

The Loiret region in France alone has gotten six weeks of rainfall in three days, and the situation in Europe has been described as “worse than the floods of 1910,” which cost France roughly $1.5 billion in today’s dollars.

And the mainstream media in this country is committing malpractice with their coverage of these events.

The simple fact is, these storms are directly connected to global climate change.

More specifically, these storms are directly related to the “water vapor positive feedback loop.”

Right now according to climate scientist Kevin Trenberth, there is about 5 percent more water vapor in the atmosphere above the oceans than there was in 1968 when Richard Nixon was sworn in, thanks to the fact that the oceans have already warmed 1 degree Celsius.

We know that the planet is warming and that it’s warming because of human activities: We rip fossil fuels out of the Earth and burn them into the atmosphere, we destroy our soils with industrial farming and we clear cut carbon-rich rainforests to plant fields of monocrops.

All of those activities have contributed to unprecedented, and unnatural, global warming during the last century and a half.

And as a result, the planet’s atmosphere can hold more moisture than it could have in the absence of human-caused global warming.

That’s because warmer systems can hold more moisture: Think about how much stickier and wet it feels if it’s 90 degrees Fahrenheit at 90 percent humidity, than it feels if it’s 45 degrees Fahrenheit at 90 percent humidity.

And water vapor acts just like any other greenhouse gas in the atmosphere: It reflects light and heat back in all directions, including back toward Earth.

This leads to the “water vapor positive feedback loop” that causes a dangerous amplification in warming over time.

A warmer planet can hold more moisture in the atmosphere, more moisture in the atmosphere leads to more warming, more warming means that the atmosphere can hold more moisture and so on and so on.

But water vapor is also very good at trapping energy, and in fact we use “calorie” as a basic measurement of energy and we define it simply as the amount of energy needed to raise the temperature of one gram of water by 1 degree Celsius at sea level.

What that means is that more water vapor in the atmosphere doesn’t just mean more light and heat reflected back to Earth, it means more energy is trapped in the atmosphere at any given time.

According to NASA, as the Earth approaches 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit warming, the resulting increase in water vapor will trap an extra 2 Watts of energy per-square-meter.

And as Andrew Dessler told NASA, “That number may not sound like much, but add up all of that energy of the entire Earth surface and you find that water vapor is trapping a lot of energy. We now think the water vapor feedback is extraordinarily strong, capable of doubling the warming due to carbon dioxide alone.”

Which brings us back to the storms in Texas, off the coast of North Carolina and in Northern Europe, where these unprecedented storm events are killing dozens of people, stranding hundreds others, forcing thousands of people to evacuate and easily costing millions, if not billions, of dollars in disaster relief.

If the mainstream media were doing its job responsibly, they wouldn’t just tell you about how the storms are unprecedented, they would tell you how global climate change is driving these unprecedented storm events.

If the mainstream media were doing its job responsibly, they wouldn’t just tell you the estimated cost of disaster relief, they would tell you that according to Citibank, the estimated cost of climate inaction is around $44 TRILLION globally.

But they won’t.

Because that sort of honest reporting in the public interest would fly in the face of major corporate sponsors and lobbying groups like BP, ExxonMobil and the American Petroleum Institute.

It’s bad enough that those groups are sowing disinformation during commercial breaks on our news channels, but it’s downright malpractice by the mainstream media to avoid mentioning climate change during their broadcasts for fear of losing out on fossil fuel sponsorship.

The corporate media in this country need to stop kowtowing to vested fossil fuel advertisers that want to keep the US public in the dark, and they need to start telling people the truth about the connections between extreme weather events and climate change.

We can’t expect the US public to rally to aggressively address our climate crisis if the mainstream media refuses to talk about the realities of climate change.

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