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Florida Newspapers Fizzle on Connecting Extreme Heat to Climate Change

Nov. 20, 2018

Florida Newspapers Fizzle on Connecting Extreme Heat to Climate Change

Newspapers Are Connecting Sea Level Rise to Climate, but Falling Short on Extreme Heat

WASHINGTON, D.C. – While Florida newspapers frequently are noting the connection to climate change when reporting on rising sea levels, far fewer outlets are making the same connection when discussing extreme heat, according to a new report (PDF) by Public Citizen.

Between January 2017 and October 2018, Florida newspapers published 2,161 articles mentioning sea level rise. About 57 percent of those articles mentioned climate change, the report found. However, during the same 22-month period, of the 785 articles that covered extreme heat, only 22 percent mentioned climate change.

Additionally, over half of the articles that mentioned heat and climate change were not primarily about heat or record temperatures.

Extreme heat is a major environmental and health issue for the Sunshine State. About 94 percent of Florida’s population – more than 18 million people – live in areas that recorded extreme heat days over the past 10 years. The state sees the highest number of heat stress hospitalizations in the nation – more than 1,100 per year. A report (PDF) published last month by Public Citizen and the Farmworker Association of Florida found that outdoor workers in Florida routinely work in dangerously hot conditions.

Due to global warming, these problems are growing worse.

“On our current greenhouse gas pollution pathway, rising temperatures could hurt Florida sooner and more severely than rising seas,” said David Arkush, managing director of Public Citizen’s Climate Program. “Many Florida newspapers have been missing this story even while doing some great reporting on sea levels. You need a wider lens to capture all of the climate-related harms endangering the Sunshine State.”

In a sign of progress, the Miami Herald, the Sun-Sentinel and The Palm Beach Post formed an alliance in May to raise awareness about the threat from sea level rise during the recent midterm election season.