Vermont Public Radio comment for 06/25/15PM


VPR 262 INTRO: A great deal of our news these days concerns extreme weather. Commentator and veteran ABC News foreign correspondent Barrie Dunsmore has some thoughts on what is missing in most of the weather news reporting.
TEXT: We have reached the point where "storms of the century" are happening all the time. Network news programs are now devoting substantial parts of their broadcasts almost every evening to extreme weather related stories.

The coverage is formulaic. Nowadays nearly everyone has a video phone, so there is no shortage of dramatic pictures. But after a while these storms look pretty much alike. And the interviews with the families who have lost everything sometimes including even family members – as sad as they are -- don’t have quite the same impact after the hundredth time.

The part of today’s coverage, which is either given short shrift or is missing entirely is – why? Oh, I know we get occasional explanations about the el-Nino effect, and very occasionally someone dares to utter the dreaded words “climate change.” This makes up a small part of the coverage- mostly because the networks are reluctant to offend fellow corporations.

But if I were running a network- which I never was and never will be – I would greatly expand the coverage of why we have such extreme weather.

After a state has been consistently ravaged by this new pattern of extreme storms, I would report how that state’s congressional delegation – its congressmen and its senators – feel about the issue of climate change through their own words and actions. The people should especially know how each member has voted, every time, on proposed governmental laws to mitigate climate change impact.

Viewers should also be repeatedly reminded of what ties these political representatives have to the oil, gas and coal industries. Under the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, which gave corporations the same rights as individual people, corporations now can and do plow hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars into elections. Most don’t do so
for patriotic or altruistic reasons. Under current lax campaign finance laws, some of that money can be hidden. But not all of it.  And the American people should be told regularly, just how much their congressmen and senators are getting from corporations, or individuals who oppose virtually any climate change legislation.

The usual argument against effective steps to slow the devastation of a changing climate is that they are too expensive. So Americans should also frequently be told how much it is costing taxpayers right now, to clean up after every major storm, including business and workers’ pay losses. No state can be blamed for the hurricane, typhoon, flood or drought it has been hit with. But its people are ultimately responsible for those they elect to represent them.
Such news coverage would certainly make the extreme weather reporting more relevant - and even help to combat climate change. Maybe some day

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