Your Television Loved Global Warming

This testimony was the catalyst needed to fuse the weather, climate, and human drama into a gripping narrative which the news media could desperately use. There were plenty of dramatic life-and-death weather stories in the 1960s and 1970s, however there was no way to link what was happening to the climate and what people were doing. There was a weak attempt to link air pollution with colder weather, but it never took hold. There were stories about bitter cold and savage blizzards, but no “it’s our fault” stories.

But after Dr. Hansen’s testimony in 1988, media outlets began to fashion news stories that appealed to the portion of the audience that was convinced humans were destroying nature. The growth of the environmental movement from the 1960s on had already planted those seeds. In the cold weather of the 1960s and 1970s, people were still seen as victims of nature, but now the roles were reversed -- a fresh new story, good for ratings. The human drama brought weather into people’s homes and lives. We had to start thinking about what we were doing to nature: no longer the victim, but the destroyer.

Television market shares continued to erode through the 1990s, and old media was desperate to stop the bleeding. They hired consultants to tell them what to air to at least retain what audience they still had. And it turned out that weather was right near the top of the list of most popular topics. Weather stories began to get more air time.

I was working for a television station in Connecticut during this period, and stories about weather that would never have seen the light of day were now the leading the show! An executive producer once told me: “Weather trumps all!” The implication was that a weather story would get priority over almost anything else making news that day and that you should never miss an opportunity to make a weather story more than it really was.

One evening, I had predicted a light snowfall of 1 to 2 inches. I commented on-air:

It’s really no big deal, just a little snow but nothing we can’t handle.

The general manager of the station took me aside after the program and said:

When it comes to weather, don’t say "no big deal."

Dramatic life-and-death weather stories don’t simply occur when you need them, such as during a ratings period. But the global warming drama?

It could always be there.

Global warming supplies news outlets with an endless stream of planet-endangering, guilt-extracting drama that can be linked to all aspects of human activity. The production of carbon dioxide by industrial activity threatening a future climate catastrophe -- this is the global warming doctrine. The very fossil fuels that lifted societies to unprecedented prosperity being cast as climate killers. Weather, climate, and prosperity all wrapped into one very convenient eco-economic package.

Any story that dealt with economic activity was linked to global warming. Any story about global warming was linked to human industrial activity. This amalgamation of previously unrelated phenomena was the consultant's dream: All of what civilization does to produce energy and prosperity demonized in the name of saving the planet, with old media playing the hero role of saving the world from ourselves. A just and noble cause, and simply too irresistible of a story for struggling companies to resist.

Media outlets now are looking at a terribly uncertain future. Market shares and profits continue to plummet, newspapers are closing, and television stations and networks are reducing staffs.

When someone is drowning, they will grab whatever is around to save them. Dying media clutched at global warming as a way to stay afloat for a little while longer.