Coming soon to a local newspaper near you – your own customised climate catastrophe story. All those much loved local landmarks, weep as they disappear beneath the waves within 30 years.
Last month the Wiltshire Times reported that vast areas of south west England could be under water by 2050 due to global warming. Among the sites that could be lost is Gloucester Cathedral, sited at an elevation of 19 metres. Last year it was turn of the Dorset Echo to inform its readers that the waters would soon be lapping around the village of Lytchett Minster, a mere 17 metres above sea level. Measuring sea level rise is a difficult task, not least because land also rises and falls. Satellite data has helped but estimates still vary around a 1-2mm annual increase. Even at the higher rate, it would take over 8,000 years to lap the steps of these two sites.
Of course fear-inducing stories like these do not just suddenly appear. Behind them is a seemingly well-funded American green agitprop operation called Climate Central. Based in Princeton, New Jersey, it claims to work with news outlets “to produce compelling and scientifically accurate feature stories”, helped by its own research. On the flood stories, it supplies a free interactive map and web tools that can be used by often cash-strapped local media to produce catastrophe-laced stories, based on what are obviously wildly improbable sea level rises.
But it is not just local papers that take the Climate Central feed. Last year the Guardian, in “partnership” with Climate Central, ran a story titled, “’We dread summers’: dangerous ‘fire weather’ days are on the rise in northern California”. Published last November, it claimed that drought and fire weather were simultaneously overtaking regions across California. A month later, the L.A.