Opinion by Kip Hansen – 17 June 2022
Reuters is one of the largest news organizations in the world. It is considered to be a reliable news source and is often quoted by other news agencies – the ubiquitous “according to Reuters” tag line. Back in 2013, Reuters was attacked by the infamous Joe Romm and Stefan Rahmstorf for writing well-balanced climate stories. [ source ] Those two critics can rest easy now, Reuters is fully onboard with the climate change crisis reporting gig.
How much penetration does Reuters have in the news world today? Here’s a tiny example using this climate-alarm story from Reuters:
To check penetration, a simple web search on the article’s title is revealing: over 1,600,000 hits with the first three pages of Google Search results showing news outlets that did simple copy-and-paste re-prints of the Reuters original story, plus hundreds more that re-wrote the story and quoted Reuters. One news outlet used a tagline of “climate change is killing women.”
Here’s is the Reuters lede:
“JACOBABAD, Pakistan, June 14 (Reuters) – Heavily pregnant Sonari toils under the burning sun in fields dotted with bright yellow melons in Jacobabad, which last month became the hottest city on Earth.
Her 17-year-old neighbour Waderi, who gave birth a few weeks ago, is back working in temperatures that can exceed 50 Celsius (122 Fahrenheit), with her newborn lying on a blanket in the shade nearby so she can feed him when he cries.
“When the heat is coming and we’re pregnant, we feel stressed,” said Sonari, who is in her mid-20s.”
These women in southern Pakistan and millions like them around the world are at the searing edge of climate change.” [ original story link – repeated ]
If we were to do a real Fact Check – that is, actually check statements in the article to see if they are true – we would be in for a few surprises.
1. “….Jacobabad, which last month became the hottest city on Earth.” Jacobadad is hot – even by Pakistani standards. But the claim to be the ”hottest city on Earth”? Using Duck-Duck-Go and Yahoo! searches, the first half dozen sites listing “hottest cities on Earth”, none list Jacobadad in the top ten. Actually, the “hottest city on Earth” quip is a Reuters self-reference in the same article: ”…on May 14, the day temperatures in Jacobabad hit 51 C, making it the world’s hottest city at that time.”
What is really the “Hottest City on Earth”? The Triple A (AAA) says it is Ahvaz, Iran with an Average High of 116 degrees F (46.6°C) and a Record High of 129 degrees F (53.8°C). Maybe…. Ahvaz is mentioned on several lists, but not all.
2. “These women in southern Pakistan and millions like them around the world are at the searing edge of climate change.” Is the climate changing in Jacobadad? Even if it isn’t the “hottest city in the world”, is it hotter there now than it was before?
No. Yes, it is that simple. It is not hotter there now than in the past.
From the best records, it appears that Jacobadad is always hot, hot and hot. These are 30-year averages. The hottest days of June average around 120°F – that means that it has hotter than that half the time on June’s hottest days. Being incredibly hot in Jacobadad is their normal climate, from April through October, every year.
Don’t like “modelled” temperature charts? Then look at the chart taken from NOAA data:
Amusingly, summer daily high temperatures are literally “off the chart”, April through September, dropping down to a more comfortable High 80s (31 °C) in the depths of winter. Oddly, at only 28 °N and at an elevation of less than 200 feet (60 meters) daily lows in the winter months are near freezing.
Reuters’ reporters add in a death of a woman, just to give emotional weight to their mostly fact-less story:
“Nazia, a young mother of five, was preparing lunch for her visiting cousins. But with no air conditioning or fan in her kitchen, she collapsed and was taken to a nearby hospital, where she was pronounced dead from a suspected heat stroke
District health officials did not answer requests for comment about Jacobabad’s record of heat-related deaths in recent years, or more specifically about Nazia’s case.”
Of course, they have no idea if the woman died from the heat or a heart attack or complications from her last birthing.
This is not journalism, this is propaganda using emotional coercion – and the skipping of all those annoying aspects of a reporter’s job, like actually checking facts, writing well-rounded stories, presenting an issue from more than one side.
The real horror of this story is not the fact that it is HOT in Jacobadad – which it is every summer for months at a time. The story is that Pakistan’s people are so poor, have so little access to simple dependable electrical power that homes and kitchens don’t have even a single electric fan.
It is true that the profoundly poor suffer more when weather or climatic conditions are harsh, storms roll in or unexpectedly high and low temperatures hit. It is not a matter of climate change, it is an issue of extreme poverty that has been allowed to continue to exist while the rest of the world advances. India and Pakistan have had a literate civilized culture for far longer than Europe and North America – and yet still suffer from almost prehistoric poverty. And the Davos crowd turn their heads and look away…..
Reuters does highlight the depth of these people’s poverty, but then promotes action to fight climate change action as a solution: “climate change policies in the future needed to address the specific needs of women”.
Reuters ought to tell the real story.
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In recent times I have dealt personally with extreme poverty in the Dominican Republic (DR) — especially among Haitian immigrants, many of whom do not even own their personal identity – having no birth certificates or other official proof of existence. My teenage son, traveling with us at the time, visited a Haitian batey with his school and remarked, “But Dad, these people have nothing!…really, nothing!” And that is the truth.
In the DR, rural people still cook over wood or charcoal fires, inside their homes. Just like they do so in Pakistan and many other places as well. I have had many a meal in such homes – hot, often full of smoke, and these homes are some of the friendliest places I’ve ever been.
And, yes, when natural disasters strike, the poor take the hardest hit – when they have nothing, it is easy to lose everything.
Thanks for reading.
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