Orange County fire officials recently held a press conference to go over their strategies and, more importantly, warn the public about an ever-earlier fire season. The Orange County Register covered this, as it did Southern California's recent wildfires, but a media watchdog saw a huge hole in the coverage.
Fret not, Register editorial department: the Associated Press and San Francisco Chronicle, San Jose Mercury News and U-T San Diego missed it also (while the Los Angeles Times and Sacramento Bee did not): climate change.
“Climate experts warn that rising global temperatures are already leading to more frequent and more severe wildfires and longer fire seasons in the Southwest, calling large fires like those in California 'the new normal.' But several major print outlets in California have failed to make this connection, even after Governor Jerry Brown noted the link Monday,” reports the progressive Media Matters for America.
The group reached this conclusion via a Nexis database search for articles in the aforementioned newspaper that mentioned “wildfire or wild fire or forest fire” from Wednesday to Wednesday, May 1-8. The Associated Press was lumped in because papers like the Register carried news service reports on the wildfires.
The climate-change gap is more startling when you consider this:
California's wildfire season kicked off early this year, with record temperatures, heavy winds and ongoing drought conditions fueling fires across the state that have threatened thousands of homes and businesses. California has already experienced 680 wildfires this year–about 200 more than average for this period–and the National Interagency Fire Service is predicting “above normal” potential for significant fires in northern and southern California this season. Meanwhile, the U.S. Forest Service is preparing for a higher number of significant fires across the West.
Seven out of nine fire experts contacted by Media Matters in 2012 “agreed that journalists covering wildfires in the West should explain how human-induced climate change increases the risk of wildfires in that region,” the group notes. “But a previous Media Matters analysis found that only 3 percent of national media coverage connected the dots between wildfires and climate change.”