A Red Hot Summer and the Climate Connection

A number of news outlets have done an excellent job of making the climate connection in their coverage of the record heat now scorching the Pacific Northwest. Others, less so.

Extreme heat danger signage stands as visitors walk along sand dunes at sunset inside Death Valley National Park in June 17, 2021 in Inyo County, California. (Photo by PATRICK T. FALLON/AFP via Getty Images)

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You almost don’t need to ask anymore. Of course climate change is partly to blame for the record heat now scorching the Pacific Northwest. Of course climate change may have contributed to the horrific building collapse in Surfside, Florida. And of course ExxonMobil is still doing all it can to block solutions, as an ExxonMobil lobbyist incautiously revealed during a Greenpeace sting operation, first reported by British broadcaster Channel 4—see below for more on this must-watch scoop.

In the case of the heat, the climate connection is relatively direct. Temperatures nearly everywhere on earth are on the rise, bringing record-breaking highs and longer, more punishing heat waves. Meanwhile, warmer oceans due to climate change  increases tropical cyclone activity in the Pacific, which contributes to high-pressure weather systems, like the one hovering over the Northwest US and parts of Canada. Climate change is not exclusively to blame for the heat; but it certainly makes the heat more likely, and worse.

As for the Surfside condo building collapse, the role of climate change is less certain—the cause of the disaster is still under investigation—but nevertheless pernicious. Because of rising sea levels, salt water intrusion has become commonplace in South Florida. Water pushes upwards through the hyper-absorbent limestone underfoot in the area, flooding streets and threatening structures not designed to withstand it.

A number of  news outlets have done an excellent job of making the climate connection in their coverage of extreme weather. Others, less so. Too often, newsrooms seem stuck on the question: What did climate change have to do with this weather event? It’s a fair question, and the science is now clear on the answer. As Texas A&M scientist Andrew Dessler put it last week in a tweet, regarding the Western heat: “Dear reporters: At this point, you should assume that every severe heat wave has been made worse by climate change. … If someone wants to argue that climate change played no role, the burden of proof is on them.”

**Coverage of the heat may be hit-or-miss, but plenty of journalists are doing exceptional work—explaining the climate connection in crystal clear terms and exploring the social, and even personal, dimensions of the story. Here are just a few of the pieces we’ve loved: 

P.S. Proud of your heat and/or extreme weather coverage? We want to see it! Send it to mekdela@coveringclimatenow.org.


The Guardian launches “Climate Crimes” series in collaboration with CCNow. On Wednesday, The Guardian kicked off a yearlong series investigating the most consequential corporate deception campaign in history—the fossil fuel industry’s decades of misleading the press, the public, and policymakers about climate science—and examining efforts to now hold  the industry accountable. Stories from the series will regularly be available for publication by CCNow partners, beginning with a news piece by Guardian investigative reporter Chris McGreal and a commentary piece by CCNow executive director Mark Hertsgaard. Copy and relevant assets for the series will all be available in this Google Drive folder…

For now, don’t miss Chris’s intro: Big oil and gas kept a dirty secret for decades. Now they may pay the price

And Mark’s op-ed: The climate crisis is a crime that should be prosecuted

These pieces are just the beginning—so stay tuned!

Extreme weather “Talking Shop” webinar. Good journalism will not only inform people how to stay safe amid extreme weather this year, but also make the climate connection to explain what’s driving the dangers at hand. To learn more about covering heat, wildfires, drought, and more, join CCNow for our next Talking Shop webinar, Thursday, July 8, at 1 p.m. US Eastern Time/10 a.m. Pacific. Panelists include Sammy Roth, energy reporter for the Los Angeles Times, and Adriene Hill, managing editor of NPR’s California Newsroom. CCNow’s Mark Hertsgaard will moderate. Learn more and RSVP here… 


  • Shocked, I tell you, shocked! Told he was being interviewed by a job recruiter, who in truth worked for Greenpeace’s investigative outfit Unearthed, Keith McCoy, one of the Exxon’s top lobbyists in Washington, revealed that the company doesn’t truly support a carbon tax, has worked with “shadow groups” to question climate science, and pressured members of Congress to weaken the Biden administration’s climate legislation. The UK’s Channel 4 was first to air the footage, and the 8 minutes and 52 seconds are worth watching in their entirety. From Channel 4…

  • Eastern Europe, burning. In Eastern Europe, too, heat waves are rocking countries unaccustomed to them. Last week, Moscow recorded its highest temperature since 1901. In Serbia, people flocked to pools and rivers to beat the heat, leading to a spate of drownings. From Bloomberg Green…

  • No new coal. In Bangladesh, the government has scrapped plans for 10 new coal-fired power plants. The move comes amid efforts to meet emissions targets laid out under the Paris Agreement, even as much larger countries, whose emissions contribute much more to global heating, have hesitated to take similar action. From the Thomson Reuters Foundation…

    **Separate but related: On July 8, Bangladesh will host the “V20” Climate Vulnerables Finance Summit. The event will bring together leaders from nations who contribute little to climate change but often bear the brunt of effects, including Samoa, Colombia, Ethiopia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, and more. UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, US climate envoy John Kerry, and other high level guests will also participate. Learn more here and consider covering!**

  • Lending an ear. Climate solutions, when they’re implemented at all, are often imposed top-down by governments. But in East Palo Alto, the nonprofit group Climate Resilient Communities is both teaching at-risk area residents about climate change and involving them in planning efforts around mitigation. From KQED, in San Francisco…

  • Chamber of secrets (sorry, couldn’t help it). The US Chamber of Commerce today stakes out ostensibly constructive ground on climate, but for decades beginning in 1989, a formative period for US climate policy, the business group helped scuttle legislative action and sow doubt around climate science in the public discourse, according to a new study. From Inside Climate News…

  • Crash course. Humanity faces an existential threat in climate change, yet the explosion of misinformation that social media has enabled is stymying our ability to fight back. The consequences of misunderstanding technology’s role in hampering our response to climate change are so great that some experts are calling for a new field of study focused on the “digital-misinformation pandemic.” From Bloomberg Green…


The following stories deserve special consideration for republication by CCNow partners:

For partner outlets: to submit stories for sharing, please use this form. As always, instructions for republishing and the full list of stories available for republication can be found in our Sharing Library.


Lots of jobs. The Washington Post is hiring an anchor & reporter for its Climate 202 newsletter. The Buffalo News is hiring a climate & green energy reporter. Nexus Media News is hiring an editor-writer. The Los Angeles Times is hiring a transportation reporter (major climate connections!). Southern California Public Radio is hiring a “climate emergency” reporter. And Science Feedback is hiring a climate science editor. Woot!

If you have any feedback on this newsletter, or know of information that should be included here, shoot us a note at editors@coveringclimatenow.org.