Reporting on a potentially deadly heat wave that is affecting more than 150 million Americans through the weekend, meteorologist and CBS weather contributor Jeff Berardelli noted the link between climate change and extreme heat waves on the July 18 episode of CBS This Morning. That's an all-too-rare occurrence on broadcast TV news.
The science linking human-caused climate change and extreme heat is very strong. Climate change has increased the frequency, size, and duration of extreme heat events. Unless we dramatically reduce carbon emissions, one study found that precedent-setting monthly heat records in 2040 could “become approximately 12 times more likely to occur than in a non-warming world.”
Berardelli pointed to a new study produced as both a research article and a longer report by the Union of Concerned Scientists that found we can expect more extremely hot days in the future. The number of days in the U.S. with a heat index of at least 105 degrees will nearly triple to three weeks by midcentury. These rising temperatures will greatly affect lower-income people, especially those without air conditioning.
Since the start of the heat wave, CBS has been the only broadcast network to mention the science connecting heat waves and climate change. In addition to Berardelli’s segment, another mention came on the July 16 episode of CBS Evening News. In only her second day as host of the program, Norah O’Donnell reported on the heat wave and stated, “Extreme heat, which scientists link to climate change, kills more than 600 Americans a year, making it deadlier than all other severe weather events combined.”
Neither ABC nor NBC has done a segment yet this week on climate change and heat waves. During last summer’s heat dome, the broadcast networks almost completely ignored the impact of climate change on extreme heat: Out of 127 segments the networks aired on that heat wave, only one mentioned climate change -- a segment on CBS This Morning.
From the July 18 episode of CBS This Morning:
GAYLE KING (CO-HOST): I’m Gayle King, with Anthony Mason and Tony Dokoupil. Officials are warning tens of millions of Americans to take extra precautions as a dangerous heat wave hits about two-thirds of this country. Heat alerts are in effect from New Mexico to New Hampshire -- that’s a large area. The heat has already proven deadly. Maryland officials say two people suffered heat-related deaths this week. CBS News climate and weather contributor -- that’s Jeff Berardelli -- is here. Jeff, the question now: How long can we expect these sweltering temperatures to last?
JEFF BERARDELLI (CBS WEATHER CONTRIBUTOR): The worst of it, Gayle, is going to be through Sunday or so, and then a major relief is on the way for the Northeast especially. So just hold out for a few days, things will get better. But in the meantime, remember, dangerous oppressive heat is on the way. And, you know, you’ve heard the term, it’s not the heat, it’s the humidity. It’s never been more true than it will be over the next few days. Dew point measures how much moisture is in the atmosphere. In Miami, the highest dew points we ever see are in the low 80’s. We’re going to see that all the way up to Iowa and Minnesota and places like Omaha, Nebraska. Even though high temperatures will only be around 90, 92, 93 degrees, feels-like temperatures will be as high as 115 to 120 degrees. On Saturday, that heat shifts to the east. Take a look at Washington D.C., New York, and Raleigh. We’re talking heat indices again, up to around 110, maybe as high as 115. So limit your time outdoors.
Now there is a direct connection between more extreme heat and climate change. In fact, it’s the most direct connection when you talk about climate change. A new study came out from the Union of Concerned Scientists, and let me tell you, that’s a serious science organization. This is what they found: By 2050, we’re going to see 105 heat index temperatures triple. So triple the amount of heat index days above 105. By late century, the heat index numbers may be incalculable, so we may have to redo the scale. And last, by 2100 Boston may have as many extreme heat days as Columbia, South Carolina. So it’s going to get worse unless we stop our emissions.
ANTHONY MASON (CO-HOST): All right, Jeff. Thank you very much.