Extreme Heat’s Climate Link Cannot Be Ignored, Especially in the Media

With major news outlets downplaying the impact of climate change on summer heat, it is imperative this trend reroutes.


As a budding journalist, I try not to input my opinion on topics that I want to cover in a news article. I enjoy exploring the climate beat – thanks to The Sweaty Penguin – and the endless ways to mitigate climate change and extreme weather events. However, the national media does not acknowledge that climate change is the major driver of extreme heat, storms and droughts as often as I assumed.

I was born in the wintery, chilly Grand Rapids, Michigan, but moved to Nashville, Tennessee when I entered grade school. Although I was living in the South, winters were surprisingly harsh. I remember getting snow days off in school due to actual blizzards. Since our infrastructure couldn’t handle anything more than a half-inch of snow, trucks would be salting the roads well into the icy afternoons.

Then, you get hit by the complete opposite in the summer. Anyone who has lived here for a couple of years can attest to the noticeable increase in temperatures starting in May. Not only is it unbearably hot and sunny, but the air is sticky and humid, adding another layer of heat-trapping insulation. This July, Nashville experienced the first triple digit reading at 101 degrees Fahrenheit in almost 10 years.

I know we all know that it is getting warmer, and it’s not stopping. However, it is quite the disservice to the general public to not attribute this intolerable heat to climate change. National TV networks such as ABC, CBS and CNN mention climate change in 32% of segments on global extreme heat – 20 out of 62 clips – from July 16 to 18, according to Media Matters for America, a non-profit research center specializing in misinformation in the media. Almost all of those segments were related to the European heat wave where droughts and additional heat resulted in raging fires.

Evidence shows an indisputable link between climate change and extreme heat. Experts have told us year after year about the impact of greenhouse gases, but we have become noseblind to this omnipresent crisis. Corporate news programs need to be clear that anthropogenic, or human-caused, activity is greatly responsible for these heat emergencies.

With greenwashing and trendy sustainability fads, many people feel hopeless in trying to combat climate change. More than 70% of all greenhouse gas emissions globally come from 100 companies since 1988, the birth year of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, according to the Carbon Majors Report in 2017.

I wish the media would address these questions about climate solutions, fossil fuel companies, and the relationship between extreme weather and climate change in their “this summer is really hot” coverage. It’s not just that this summer is hot, but what is to come if we ignore climate change.

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Melina Nguyen


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