The Changing Climate Won’t Be Televised

 We like to track storms, but climate change flies under the Triple Doppler radar. (istock)

We like to track storms, but climate change flies under the Triple Doppler radar. (istock)


They say the revolution won’t be televised. And neither, apparently, will climate change.

But you can be sure that headline-grabbing extreme weather events will be. In the past few days, newscasts have been studded with scary militarized weather terms like Bomb Cyclone and Bombogenesis.

Snowstorm, anyone?
The literal media barrage of storm coverage in advance of the Jan. 4 blizzard sent the usual panicking crowds to the grocery stores, where the masses stripped the shelves of bread, milk and even broccoli before hunkering down, presumably to watch more storm coverage.

[Cut to the shot of the fur-hooded reporter squinting against the wind informing viewers that, “It’s really coming down out here.”]

The mainstream media, in general, does a great job of covering extreme weather events such as storms — it’s their bread and butter (and milk), so to speak.

But the challenge of contextualizing extreme weather events as part of a larger pattern of climate change continues to elude the news media. Perhaps it’s because climate change is a complex and slow-moving disaster, and one that’s difficult to distill into word cocktails that trigger clicks, hashtags, and retweets.

It could be the media is simply responding to what viewers want. It’s far easier to think about an impending snowstorm than it is the existential threat posed by human-made climate change. Ain’t no amount of bread and milk gonna fix that.

As I watch the falling snow — or is it the “bombing” snow? — I’m still waiting for the day that climate change will begin to inspire the same level of action, anxiety, and preparation that motivates the bread-and-milk crowd before a winter snowstorm.

So, here’s a thought. Let’s start by eliminating the hyperbole around weather terminology. Here are some suggested replacements:

Bomb Cyclone (n.) Snowstorm
Nor’easter (n.) Snowstorm
Bombogenesis (n.) Snowstorm
Snowmageddeon (n.) Snowstorm
Frankenstorm (n.) Snowstorm

As for Climate Change (n.), we need to come up with a far scarier term to get prime media placement and the accompanying attention of those bread-and-milk folks. Please send suggestions to, subject line: Triple Doppler Threat Tracker.

Joanna Detz is the executive director of ecoRI News.