While scientists hoped that the public would realize how dangerous Climate Change is when it's deadly effects hit home, for example with West Nile epidemics or megafloods, media coverage usually ignores climate change in reporting the disasters. Instead each event is treated as an isolated natural disaster, calling for government blame and/or technological remedy. Climate Destabilization is unthinkable, even amidst its turmoil.

The storyline fits so well with existing worldviews, and the rise and fall of this outbreak fits so neatly with short political and news cycles, that there are few goods reasons why anyone would wish to tell the more complex story: that this problem will keep coming back and becoming worse because it has long term systemic causes. This is why we strongly prefer stories that have a narrative arc leading to neat closure.

We can see a similar pattern around flooding resulting from extreme rainfall events. There is little evidence that flooding increases awareness of climate change. Indeed there is good research showing that flood victims are no more likely to link their experience to climate change than non-victims. What we can see, time and again, is that the dominant story concerns the struggle with an external enemy- typically a government agency that has failedto provide adequate flood defences or flood relief.

This is not to say that we cannot engage people around impacts- just to point out that human responses are complex and will readily default to a familiar and appealing narrative even when this  does not reflect the reality of the situation. [emphasis mine]

Tags: Climate Change, Climate Destabilization, West Nile epidemic, simplistic media coverage, surface news

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