Peter Dykstra: Start spreadin’ the (climate) news

Climate change opened on Broadway this week: Will it make a difference?

Until Wednesday night, climate change was a road show: Fires in California, floods in Germany, and melting ice caps in wherever.


But suddenly, hellacious rain jumped the turnstiles beneath Times Square and poured sideways under the partial roof meant to keep the U.S. Tennis Open dry. The bridge-and-tunnel people over in New Jersey woke up to two feet of mud in the streets and trees felled by tornados.

If you can't bring the media to the climate change, let's try bringing climate change to the media, shall we? New York-based anchors were gaga-eyed over the torrential rain and "apocalyptic" weather. The wall-to-wall coverage on cable news big-footed the other immense stories in play: COVID-19, Afghanistan, Hurricane Ida's aftermath on the Gulf Coast, and the Supreme Court's big first step toward undoing Roe vs. Wade, the historic 1973 ruling that gave constitutional protection for abortion rights.

A special nod to Fox News, which managed to duck mentioning climate change wherever possible. A staffer for the liberal news watchdog group Media Matters for America tweeted that Fox dumped out of covering a live briefing by New York officials who were "getting political" by mentioning climate change.

Most of the news media is playing "Ida Takes New York" like it was "Godzilla Takes Tokyo." I'm fine with that. My problem is that Climate Godzilla is striking somewhere around the world every couple of days, with yawning indifference from the U.S. broadcast media. A partial list for the first two-thirds of 2021:

  • Record high temperatures in Greece led to a summer of 500+ wildfires;
  • A "heat dome" settled over western Canada setting an all-time national temperature record of 121 °F;
  • Temperate Portland, Oregon, reached an unheard-of 118°F;
  • With some areas receiving what's typically two months' rainfall in two days, more than 200 died in midsummer flooding in Germany and Belgium;
  • A three-day downpour dropped a year's worth of rain on Zhengzhou, China;
  • With the bulk of Western wildfire season perhaps still to come, blazes menace Lake Tahoe and California suburbs;
  • Record-low water levels in Lakes Powell and Mead suggest permanent water and hydropower problems for 40 million in Nevada, Arizona, and Southern California.

And just how long of a warning have we had? Here's one screamer from New Jersey:

On October 23, 1989, New Jersey Governor Thomas Kean – that's Republican Governor Thomas Kean — issued an executive order directing the state to prepare for the impacts of climate change, including sea level rise and "an increase in the intensity of hurricanes and other major storms."

Twenty-three years later Superstorm Sandy destroyed piers, boardwalks, and thousands of homes along the largely unprepared Jersey Shore. Nine years after that, here we are.

Will climate finally light some editorial bulbs on the Great White Way? If it can make it there...

Peter Dykstra is our weekend editor and columnist and can be reached at pdykstra@ehn.org or @pdykstra.

His views do not necessarily represent those of Environmental Health News, The Daily Climate, or publisher, Environmental Health Sciences.

Banner photo credit: Rain on NYC's Sixth Avenue, September 1, 2021. (Credit: Eden, Janine and Jim/flickr)

Op-ed: We don’t have time for another fossil fuel bridge

Those holding up carbon capture and hydrogen as new climate solutions are leading us down the wrong path.

In his 2014 State of the Union address, President Obama praised natural gas as "the bridge fuel that can power our economy with less of the carbon pollution that causes climate change."
Keep reading... Show less

Get our Good News newsletter

Get the best positive, solutions-oriented stories we've seen on the intersection of our health and environment, FREE every Tuesday in your inbox. Subscribe here today. Keep the change tomorrow.

Fossil fjords in Africa hold clues to how the Arctic could look in a distant future

Namibia holds a network of fossil fjords that could help climate scientists better understand the climate of the past while also offering insights into the role modern fjords play in a warmer world, suggest the authors of a recent scientific paper.

California's megafires spur insurers to send in special, private crews before a blaze hits

There is a growing sector of private "pre-incident" troubleshooters who are deployed to defend specific properties in advance of wildfires

Panel with stakes in clean water adds to coastal habitat plan

A group of nine people with backgrounds and interests in the coastal economy and related water quality issues provided its recommendations for improving the state's Coastal Habitat Protection Plan.

Why Forest Service Chief Randy Moore has hope for America’s forests

Moore, who has been with the Forest Service for 43 years, the last 14 of them in California, seems sanguine about the future of forests and fire-prone towns — if Congress passes an infrastructure package with funding for fire prevention work.

Conoco kicks off oil industry’s carbon shell game

The transaction kicks off what could be a torch-passing ceremony for the fossil fuel industry over the coming months and years from the most environmentally pressured to the least and from the least efficient to the most.