COMMENTS: Hot & Bothered

A second day of coverage of the Lake Tahoe forest fire that was yesterday's Story of the Day (text link), saw CBS and NBC search for the wider picture. NBC's George Lewis noted that the threat of the fire for homes arises because "new residents keep coming." In the past 25 years, 8.6m new homes have been built within 30 miles of a western national forest. CBS' Bill Whitaker blamed the fire on "persistent drought conditions." Reservoirs are dropping throughout the west: "Nevadans worry Lake Mead could run dry in a decade."

Oddly, neither Whitaker nor Lewis linked the tinder-dry conditions to global warming climate change. Even more oddly, NBC's Anne Thompson invoked the "gas that fuels global warming" as a possible explanation for the increase in prevalence and strength of poison ivy in suburban backyards. Thompson did not explain why poison ivy in particular would thrive on carbon dioxide any more than rival vegetation, so her second theory--"the clearing of wooded areas to build homes"--seems sounder.

After years of undercovering global warming, there are signs that the networks are now trying to shoehorn it into stories where it does not belong. Last week, CBS' Mark Phillips invoked climate change as the pretext for a travelogue of tourist sites to illustrate worries about atmospheric effects on stonework; now Thompson tries to tell us An Inconvenient Truth about itching and scratching.


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