NBC Shows How To Report On The Economic Costs Of Climate Change

Reporter Connects Global Warming To “The New Price Of Fighting Fires”


Climate change comes with a steep price tag for the economy, and mainstream media outlets are starting to get the message: NBC illustrated this by connecting “the new price of fighting fires” in California to global warming.

The July 29 edition of NBC's The Today Show reported on the extreme costs of fighting the dozens of wildfires currently burning in Yosemite National Park and across California, and how they are connected to climate change. The fires, taking place during Yosemite's driest year on record, have destroyed 20 homes and forced over 1,200 people to be evacuated. NBC correspondent Miguel Almaguer stated that the dozens of California wildfires are “costing big money,” expanding that the state of California will spend $1 billion to fight wildfires this year. Almaguer also highlighted how global warming has had a direct impact on the fire, citing firefighters who are working on “the front lines of climate change”:

MIGUEL ALMAGUER: Firefighters say this is the front lines of climate change.

FIREFIGHTER: The days are continuously longer, warmer, hotter periods during the summer, which helps dry the fuels out.

ALMAGUER: With record-setting wildfires in Washington and Oregon, 300-plus homes destroyed, this is the season of megafires. These massive blazes burning bigger, hotter, faster than ever before. In California where nearly 5,000 wildfires have burned this year, they'll spend $1 billion to fight flames. The price tag for a single retardant drop from a DC-10: $60,000.

FIREFIGHTER: It is not a cheap venture. Absolutely. It costs money to make these things happen. We are in unprecedented conditions.

ALMAGUER: The new cost of fighting fires to protect what is priceless in a season like no other. 

The broadcast aired the same day that the White House Council of Economic Advisors released a report detailing the economic costs of not acting on climate change. The report found that the nation will suffer $150 billion in economic damages each year if we fail to prevent global temperatures from increasing two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. Another recent report released by the Risky Business Project determined that a “business as usual” approach to climate change will cost the nation up to $507 billion in property damages by 2100. And the National Climate Assessment recently found that the United States is already paying an economic price for climate change. These findings illustrate why it is necessary to act on climate change as soon as possible; further delay may make the problem unavoidable

By connecting the economic damages from California's wildfires to climate change, NBC is leaps ahead of most media; Media Matters analyses have found that media outlets often don't connect the state's record blazes to global warming at all. Yet many scientists and federal reports have connected the Western fires to climate change due to increased average temperatures and worsening drought. Bloomberg News highlighted data from the National Interagency Fire Center, which shows how wildfires across the country have been increasing in severity and costs: 

Acres Burned

Fire fighting costs

Media should take note from NBC: catastrophic, man-made climate change is inherently an economic issue, and should be reported as such. 

Charts via Bloomberg News, Data via National Interagency Fire Center