Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Drought and Bias (Mine)

It has been raining pretty heavily for a while now in California, where I live. That ought to be good news, but one would not know it by the news stories I see. They typically say two things:

1. The heavy rains may lead to flooding, mud slides, and similar problems. 

2. The drought is not over. 

My initial reaction to that pattern, in part due to spending too much time arguing climate issues online, was that the news media were pushing the orthodox line—climate change is bad—by focusing on the bad features of current weather and dismissing the fact that the increased rain signaled the end of a serious three year drought. My wife offered a different, and probably more nearly correct, interpretation. The claim that the drought is not over, taken as a statement about the weather, is false, since rainfall appears (casual observation—I have not seen comparative data) to be back up to at least its normal level. But it is an accurate description of the implications for humans. Three years of drought have left reservoirs very low and it will take more than a few weeks of rain to refill them. 

The claim that the drought is not over, in her view, is designed not to reinforce climate worries but to persuade people to hold down their use of water, since the less is consumed the faster the reservoirs will refill.


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Fred Mangels said...

Your wife is pretty much correct. There was an article in the Santa Rosa Press- Democrat yesterday or the day before that quoted some water guy as saying we'd need 150% of normal rainfall to fill up all the reservoirs. So, it would be prudent to conserve water in areas that have low reserves.

That's aside of Believers trying to hype weather events to point to global warming/climate change. Not sure if you noticed all the hype over the storm of last week or however long ago it was. We were being told it was a superstorm at first. That fizzled out and it ended up just being a typical winter storm.

But leave it to Amy Goodman, over at Democracy Now, to keep hyping it up. As part of her coverage of the recent climate conference she tried as usual to link the typhoon in the Philippines to climate change, just as she did the one before that. She also threw California's storm into the mix as an example of climate change, and that was some days after nearly all agreed it was just a normal winter storm.

clayt666 said...

And don't forget the "OMG it's a DISASTER!" angle. Everything has to be a disaster on the news or no one will watch/follow/click.

Will McLean said...

I think your wife has the right of it. The drought isn't over until the reservoirs are back to normal.

Biopolitical said...

The purpose of news outlets is to get ad viewers, not to relieve water shortages. Bad news attract more viewers that good ones do. So I am with Clayton Neff. Also, pandering to the prejudices of potential viewers attracts more viewers.