I just got off the phone with a Congressional staffer, who couldn't quite focus on the issue we were supposed to discuss because she is working overtime on the floods in the Midwest. So I turned on cable news, and found out that the floods are plastered all over, much as the wildfires in California were in October of 2007. And just like 2007, the major environmental groups are AWOL on the most covered climate event of the year so far.
Here's an answer to a vexing question for lots of liberals. If you want to know why there is no action on global warming, do the following simple exercise. Turn on cable news right now, or do a Google News search for floods. Here are some news headlines you might find.
|In Pictures, Iowa Floods from the BBC.
Wide Range Of Weather Ills Plague U.S. from the AP.
Flood waters, death toll rise after weekend storms from CNN.
None of these stories mention climate change, yet, as Joe Romm points out, extreme downpours are exactly what the NOAA found is increasingly common in the last fifty years, with "a 20 percent increase in "very heavy rain events", and these fit with global warming prediction models. Romm goes on to point out that "2007 saw the second most extreme precipitation over the United States in the historical record, according to NCDC's Climate Extremes Index."
So one would think the press would cover global warming in the context of extreme weather. Of course journalists don't. But is this a media problem? Yes, but it's not just a media problem. I looked at the home pages and press pages of the Sierra Club, NRDC, Environmental Defense, the League of Conservation Voters, and Al Gore's We Can Solve It. The Sierra Club is asking for higher mileage standards on cars, NRDC is discussing lead and growing support for action on global warming, the League of Conservation Voters brags about its recent endorsement of Gabrielle Giffords, Environmental Defense asks for lower gas prices, and We Can Solve It puts its new ad front and center.
So yes, the media isn't tying the Iowa floods to global warming. But then, neither are the major environmental groups. As these extreme weather events become more common due to global warming, there will be more competition to tie these events to climate change policy action, a sort of Shock Doctrine in reverse. One interesting irony is that Iowa is ground zero for these floods, and it was in Iowa where none of the major environmental groups backed a candidate - Ed Fallon - calling for a moratorium on coal versus conservative Democrat Leonard Boswell that wants to continue tax breaks for oil companies. Gore, of course, endorsed Boswell, and he and Tipper maxed out to him.
Meanwhile, Grist and Dailykos are all over the connection between the flood and global warming, as is the Center for American Progress's Wonk Room (who was attacked by Drudge).
I don't know what's going on behind the scenes, so it might be the case that there is a coordinated green response to these floods. If there is, I will be sure to update this post. And of course, if leaders Carl Pope, Fred Krupp, Frances Beinecke, or Brent Blackwelder have comments on this, I'll happily update my post.