Currently stuck indoors due to typhoon Mangkhut (also known as Ompong in the Philippines since they go by different names).
It’s a BIG one, Catagory 5 on the Saffir–Simpson scale (the highest the scale currently goes to) and a T10 warning has been called for the Super Typhoon in Hong Kong. Luckily, it won’t pass directly over us (it will come about 100km away from HK island) but it certainly feels like it lives up to the monicker of Worst Typhoon in Living Memory.
Lights were flickering earlier today but things seem to have settled down momentarily, so we should be good (we are also prepped just in case things get worse! ). The main road in and out of where I live in Hong Kong has been blocked off by a downed tree, and the tv/social media/online news keeps talking about skyscrapers with smashed windows or flooding, but overall HK is as ready as it will ever be for it.
Anyways, since I’m stuck indoors all day today, why not write a blog post?!
I need to talk about the reporting of the typhoon by certain news organizations, in particular, Fox News.
Now… (this is your cue to leave if you don’t want to listen to me talk about media bias in USA news)
I’m not the biggest fan of Fox, but it popped up in my news feed and I’d thought I should read through it before making a snap judgment, as so often happens these days on the internet…
And it may be because I’m a double-majoring Ecology & History university student, thus I care deeply about climate change while spending a good chunk of my time possibly over analyzing the underlying reason/meaning behind the use of certain words.
But this article annoys the heck out of me.
(Linked using donotlink.it so you won’t boost the site’s search engine standings, nor will it the website be able to track where you are coming from) – Check it out if you want to, and keep me accountable!
The general gist of the article is the two tropical storms occurring at the moment – Hurricane Florence in the USA Carolinas area & Typhoon Mangkhut/Omopong in South East Asia (mainly the Philippines, HK, Macao & China – although my relatives in Taiwan also felt some of the storm’s effects) are extremely different – like “wind and water”.
(By the way, meteorologically speaking Typhoons and Hurricanes are the same thing – tropical cyclones – they just refer to which side of the International Date Line the cyclone happens)
Specifically, it points out how:
- Mangkhut has been a Cat. 5 storm while Florence was lowered to a Cat. 1 before making landfall
- Mangkhut is “faster-moving” while Florence has been moving “at a pace slower than a normal person walks”
- Mangkhut will likely be deadlier as it hit “disaster-prone” areas, while Florence’s “insured loses” will be higher
- There are generally more cyclones in the Pacific than there are in Atlantic (23 vs 10 this year)
- M was formed “further south and stayed south”, while F was out of the tropics by the time it made landfall
- M grew in warmer waters, while F was “weakened by the dry air and upper-level winds”
- M is much larger than F (325 miles/523km vs 195 miles/314km)
Harmless little article containing facts about two tropical cyclones….
Except as I’m reading it, the alarm bells in my head get louder and louder.
Because all I’m thinking is “Huh… so these cyclones are completely unrelated and it is just an odd, natural coincidence that they are happening at the same time”
And if that is from someone who has decided to make a career out of understanding the anthropogenic (=human-caused) effects on our natural world.
Imagine what the average, layman is thinking after reading this article.
Imagine the fuel this gives human-caused climate change skeptics (who dismiss our impact and insist that the soley change is due to natural fluxuations).
Imagine the ammunition it gives to ACTUAL climate change DENIERS (which is for some reason still a thing).
Since while the facts are mostly sound, they are organized to presents a specific, disingenuous narrative.
The article, by spending paragraph after paragraph pointing out the superficial differences between the two storms, fails to highlight the underlying point.
In the future, we will see wetter, windier and more intense storms like Mangkhut and Florence due to anthropogenic climate change.
Sure, the article does address the problem…
in an off-handed, cursory way…
using an indirect statement instead of a quote…
after 95% of the article…
which was spent pointing out every conceivable way the cyclones differ…
as well as how natural the large typhoons, especially in tropical Asia…
…and only mentions burning fossil fuels as a factor causing warming seas (a point so easily brushed aside by deniers that it might as well not be put in there).
It reminds me of the following exchange between Mr. Prosser & Arthur Dent in The Hitchhicker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams:
“But the plans were on display…”
“On display? I eventually had to go down to the cellar to find them.”
“That’s the display department.”
“With a flashlight.”
“Ah, well, the lights had probably gone.”
“So had the stairs.”
“But look, you found the notice, didn’t you?”
“Yes,” said Arthur, “yes I did. It was on display in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying ‘Beware of the Leopard.”
Let me emphasize this again.
Typhoons & Hurricanes like Mangkhut and Florence will not be the last of such intense storms to affect us.
This will slowly become our new normal.
We aren’t at the point where we can consider reversing climate change or even stopping in its tracks.
We are still trying to convince people that maybe – just maybe – it might be a good idea to ease the pressure we have on the gas pedal as we dive headfirst toward the Cliff of Runaway Global Warming.
Change needs to happen:
- Not a couple of decades…
- Or a few years…
It needs to happen now!
Stop hanging leopard signs over the issues.
Don’t put in a throw-away line about global warming at the end of your article and pretend like it was the focus of your piece when you have spent the preceding paragraphs undermining the issue.
Just as democracy is only as good as the information people get, information can only be as good as people’s ability to access it. I’m worried that this is the road media will continue to take in the future, not as a means of conveying impartial information, but as a mechanism to propagate a certain ideological stance.
True, it has been happening for a while now, but it scares me how subtle it has gotten.
I genuinely hope this was just a case of Halon’s razor:
“Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity/ingorance”
But honestly, I’ve been burned too many times before.
This post has honestly gone on for a while, so even though I have much more to say, I am going to give it a rest for now.
If you like these long-form posts, let me know! I’ll be trying out a couple of new things on this site and seeing what sticks.
Stay safe HKers – hopefully, there won’t be work/school tomorrow!
Update 17 Sept: So even though the T10 weather warning was taken down before today, there is no school/work due to clean up. Which just goes to show how crazy intense the typhoon was this time around, since usually the moment the warning goes down, it is back to business as usual.
Also while editing this post, I noticed that Fox changed the name of the article to:
Like it is word-for-word the same article, by the same person, just the name has been changed and it has been given a new link so this version is the only one you see on the front page.
Not exactly sure why, but the new title is less infuriating than the old one, so I guess it’s slightly better?
Still doesn’t address the underlying point I made – in fact it might make it stronger since it shows that they are trying to highlight the superficial differences between the tropical cyclones to undermind how connected they are to climate change…
Or maybe they just thought the new title sounded better, who knows. Going to Halon’s Razor this one since I’ve got bigger issues to deal with right now…