Reporting on heatwave records burying the lede

08.03.16 By
This article is more than 8 years old

JOURNALISTS who report on Australia’s record-breaking heatwaves are missing the real story if they don’t talk about the influence of climate change, the Climate Council said today.

Last night, Melbourne sweltered through the hottest March night on record, while Sydney has had a record-breaking 31 straight days (and counting) above 26℃.

Today Canberra is heading for its ninth consecutive of day of 30℃ or above. The lowest maximum the city has experienced so far this month is 31.3℃

Last year was the hottest year on record globally, marking the fourth time this century the annual temperature record has been broken.

The Climate Council’s Professor Will Steffen said journalists had a responsibility to provide their audiences with the facts when it came to these heat records.

“The science has clearly shown that the number and intensity of heatwaves we are now experiencing would not occur without the influence of climate change,” he said.

“Reporting on these heatwaves without talking about climate change is like talking about lung cancer deaths without mentioning that 90% of them are caused by smoking.

Prof Steffen urged media outlets to put individual extreme heat events into the context of the long-term warming trend driven by climate change.

“What we are seeing now is a remarkable increase in extreme heat across Australia and in many other parts of the world. This is not natural. These extreme heat events have the fingerprints of climate change all over them,” he said.

“Australia’s record heat is only set to worsen without rapid and deep cuts to our emissions and the reporting on these records should reflect these facts.

“Without serious action on climate change, Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Canberra could all experience a doubling or tripling of days over 35℃ by 2070.

“But Australia’s emissions continue to go up in the absence of a credible plan to meet Australia’s commitments in Paris.

“We need a rapid transition away from fossil fuels toward renewable energy if we are to protect Australians from worsening heat.”

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