Monday, January 27, 2014

In local TV news biz, only 'breaking news' counts, not the planet

Some may think me as being harsh in what I say in this column about the local tee vee news biz, but as a journalist of 40-some years' experience, I think I know what's going on. What do you think?

The talking heads of the TV news networks don’t seem to get into this long-term thinking. My guess: It doesn’t fit under the banner of “breaking news,” like the latest car crash out on the interstate.
Here’s what NASA scientists said in a news release I just looked at: “NASA scientists say 2013 tied with 2009 and 2006 for the seventh warmest year since 1880, continuing a long-term trend of rising global temperatures.
“With the exception of 1998, the 10 warmest years in the 134-year record all have occurred since 2000, with 2010 and 2005 ranking as the warmest years on record. NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York, which analyzes global surface temperatures on an ongoing basis, released an updated report [Jan. 21] on temperatures around the globe in 2013. The comparison shows how Earth continues to experience temperatures warmer than those measured several decades ago.”
You can read the entirety of NASA’s release at
On the policy-making front in D.C., meanwhile, nine U.S. senators signed a two-page letter to the top brass of FOX News, ABC News, CBS News and NBC News. In it, the lawmakers (their last names are Sanders, Boxer, Cardin, Blumenthal, Murphy, Schatz, Whitehouse, Merkley and Menendez) first expressed “deep concern over the lack of attention to climate change” on the networks’ Sunday talk shows.
Driving the need for more media coverage is this, the senators wrote: “According to the scientific community, climate change is the most serious environmental crisis facing our planet. The scientists who have studied this issue are virtually unanimous in the view that climate change is occurring, that it poses a huge threat to our nation and the global community and that it is caused by human activity. In fact, 97 percent of researchers actively publishing in this field agree with these conclusions.”
The senators also note: “We are more than aware that major fossil fuel companies spend significant amounts of money advertising on your networks. We hope this is not influencing your decision about the subjects discussed or the guests who appear on your network programming.”
You can read the senators’ full letter at
By emitting ever-increasing amounts of greenhouse gases (chiefly carbon dioxide) into our one and only atmosphere, we are birthing extreme changes to our natural heritage.

An example: In a recent edition of the local daily was a feature about how the extreme cold weather of late might at least slow down the spread northward of an invasive insect that’s been sucking the life out of Eastern Hemlock trees in the East.
The critter, Hemlock Wooly Adelgid, came to North America from Japan, first appearing in the region in the early 1950s and quickly becoming established in hemlock stands in Virginia. (Learn a whole lot more about the insect at
But, as average temperatures climb, populations of the adelgid, an invasive insect that destroys Eastern hemlock, are creeping up the East Coast. Intolerance of cold weather has checked its spread north of Massachusetts, but as temperatures rise over the long term, hemlock stands in northern New England are becoming vulnerable to this non-native species introduced from Japan.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service: “Adelgid infestations can kill a hemlock in just a few years, sucking it dry of the nutrients it needs to survive. The insect inserts its piercing mouthpart into the base of a hemlock needle and then sucks out the sap, killing the tree’s nutrient supply. With two generations produced each year, adelgids can quickly spread to new territory.”
I saw the adelgid in action every spring, summer and fall starting in the mid 1990s while on a favorite fitness walking route into a section of Sugarloaf Township just north of Conyngham. Fuzzy white balls attached to the needles of hemlocks in a grove alongside Fredrick Drive told the story.
FWS again: “Eastern hemlocks are integral to the ecosystems they inhabit. They provide dense shade necessary to keep forests cool. According to a study, brook trout are three times more likely to be found in streams surrounded by hemlock because they help provide cooler water temperatures” for this coldwater fish.
FWS intern Michael Gardner, in a release about what climate change is doing to Wild Nature, wrote: “A growing body of evidence has linked accelerating climate change with observed changes in fish and wildlife, their populations, and their habitats in the United States. Polar bear population declines have already been noted in Canada, and extirpations of Bay checkerspot butterfly populations in the San Francisco Bay area are also documented. Across the continental United States, climate change is affecting the migration cycles and body condition of migratory songbirds, causing decoupling of the arrival dates of birds on their breeding grounds and the availability of the food they need for successful reproduction.
“Climate change has very likely increased the size and number of wildfires, insect outbreaks, pathogens, disease outbreaks, and tree mortality in the interior West, the Southwest, and Alaska. In the aquatic environment, evidence is growing that higher water temperatures resulting from climate change are negatively impacting cold- and cool-water fish populations across the country. Along our coasts, rising sea levels have begun to affect fish and wildlife habitats, including those used by shorebirds and sea turtles that nest on our coastal National Wildlife Refuges. In the oceans, subtropical and tropical corals in shallow waters have already suffered major bleaching events driven by increases in sea surface temperatures.
“The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Fourth Assessment Report estimates that approximately 20-30 percent of the world’s plant and animal species assessed as of 2006 are likely to be at increasingly high risk of extinction as global mean temperatures exceed a warming of 2 – 3 degrees Centigrade above pre-industrial levels . . . The IPCC also reports that the resilience of many ecosystems around the world is likely to be exceeded this century by an unprecedented combination of climate change; disturbances associated with climate change, such as flooding, drought, wildfire, and insects; and other global change-drivers, including land-use changes, pollution, habitat fragmentation, urbanization, and growing human populations and economies.
“These projected changes have enormous implications for management of fish and wildlife and their habitats around the world.”
Many Americans enjoy the out-of-doors, whether they’re fishing and hunting or just watching the flora and fauna. What will future generations think when those cultural traditions are gone?

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