Reporting on Heat

The following appeared in the August newsletter.

There is a good chance your community radio station has been affected by summer’s spikes of heat. 2019 has already been one of the hottest years on record, with August being among the hottest months for many regions.
 
The U.S. Global Change Research Program recently revealed that heat waves, a term for six consecutive days of extremely high temperatures, have been increasing in frequency since the 1960s. This kind of heat is lethal. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes more than 600 people in the U.S. die every year due to extreme heat. Axios says more cities have been declaring heat emergencies amid the boiling temperatures.
 
Climate change is increasingly cited as a reason for heat waves. The Center for Climate and Energy Solutions argues this trend may only worsen. “By midcentury, if greenhouse gas emissions are not significantly curtailed, the coldest and warmest daily temperatures are expected to increase by at least 5 degrees F in most areas by mid-century rising to 10 degrees F by late century. The National Climate Assessment estimates 20-30 more days over 90 degrees F in most areas by mid-century. A recent study projects that the annual number of days with a heat index above 100 degrees F will double, and days with a heat index above 105 degrees F will triple, nationwide, when compared to the end of the 20th century.”
 
How can your community radio station avoid the same eight ways of talking about heat waves? What ways can you tell a compelling, nuanced story about how heat is affecting your community?

Here are just a few leads for covering heat waves in your state:

  • Consumer Reports offers you some ways to stay safe in the heat. “The heat can affect anyone, but older adults, young children, and people with chronic illnesses are most at risk for serious problems. Simple precautions can help keep you safe.”
  • Do you have a military base near your station or community? America’s military forces are grappling with how to contend with rising temperatures. In Fort Benning, for example, soldiers report falling severely ill due to the oppressive heat.
  • Are your audiences taking overseas vacations? They may want to know Europeans are experiencing a heat wave.
  • Journalist’s Resource shares how heat waves affect the elderly. “To help reporters who may be writing stories about how heat waves affect the elderly on a local, national or international level, Journalist’s Resource collected research on the subject, including studies on the changing climate’s heat-related health effects, associated costs, which heat waves are most dangerous and potential interventions to mitigate these effects.”
  • “Throughout the recent record-breaking heat wave that affected millions across the United States, major broadcast TV networks overwhelmingly failed to report on the links between climate change and extreme heat. Over a two-week period from late June to early July, ABC, CBS, and NBC aired a combined 127 segments or weathercasts that discussed the heat wave, but only one segment, on CBS This Morning, mentioned climate change,” says Media Matters, which issued a study on media coverage.
  • Is your station looking to make this issue more understandable for listeners? Try a visual representation on your website. Here’s what National Geographic did to assess heat’s impact on our future.
  • The Columbia Journalism Review and The Nation assembled some of the world’s top journalists, scientists, and climate experts to devise a new playbook for journalism in covering this issue. You can watch the town hall here.
  • “If you’re young, healthy, work indoors, and don’t take unusual risks, the chances of dying from the heat are almost nil. Whereas most other natural disasters can take you if you’re just in the wrong place at the wrong time,” notes Chicago Magazine. Yet people die in heat waves all the time. Why? The magazine offers insights.
  • Consumer Reports offers you some ways to stay safe in the heat. “The heat can affect anyone, but older adults, young children, and people with chronic illnesses are most at risk for serious problems. Simple precautions can help keep you safe.”
  • Do you have a military base near your station or community? America’s military forces are grappling with how to contend with rising temperatures. In Fort Benning, for example, soldiers report falling severely ill due to the oppressive heat.
  • Are your audiences taking overseas vacations? They may want to know Europeans are experiencing a heat wave.
  • Journalist’s Resource shares how heat waves affect the elderly. “To help reporters who may be writing stories about how heat waves affect the elderly on a local, national or international level, Journalist’s Resource collected research on the subject, including studies on the changing climate’s heat-related health effects, associated costs, which heat waves are most dangerous and potential interventions to mitigate these effects.”
  • “If you’re young, healthy, work indoors, and don’t take unusual risks, the chances of dying from the heat are almost nil. Whereas most other natural disasters can take you if you’re just in the wrong place at the wrong time,” notes Chicago Magazine. Yet people die in heat waves all the time. Why? The magazine offers insights.

The Farmer’s Almanac indicates the summer heat is expected to keep rolling. And, with it, the likelihood of wildfires and other natural disasters may become more acute. 

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