Inside Climate News reports:
Scientists agree that climate change was very likely one of the underlying triggers for the Yarnell Hill wildfire in Arizona that killed 19 firefighters on June 30. But while some of the nation’s media have acknowledged global warming’s link to the tragedy, others have ignored it entirely.
The discrepancy highlights an ethical question that is expected to increasingly confront publications and TV networks as climate-related calamities are set to rise: Amid loss of life in weather disasters, when is it appropriate to speak of climate change?
“This is a question journalists need to answer sooner rather than later,” said Hunter Cutting, a climate communications expert for the non-profit group Climate Nexus. “Extreme weather is only going to get worse.”
But the answer, according to experts, isn’t straightforward.
The dilemma, they say, is not unlike the one journalists face after school shootings, when they must decide when—or whether—to link the incident to gun control. Both issues are political lightning rods for many Americans. And in the wake of both types of tragedies, journalists struggle to find a balance between delving into controversial debate and being sensitive to the affected communities.