Right, FreePress, the Mainstream Media Should Stop Falsely Blaming Air Turbulence on Climate Change

A May 23rd article by Rupa Subramanya in the FreePress.com (FP) had this bold headline: Stop Making Plane Turbulence About Climate Change. The story accurately describes how the mainstream media (MSM) used the severe turbulence encountered by Singapore Airlines flight, resulting in one death and multiple injuries, to promote a false climate alarm narrative. A story CNN published just a week earlier claiming Climate change could be about to make flight turbulence a lot worse, serves as an example of the kinds of stories Subramanya is rightly critiquing.

Subramanya is right, as even longtime former New York Times climate advocate Andrew Revin agreed in a post on Twitter:

Glad to see @simon_sat push back against the rush to #climatechange conclusions around the turbulence tragedy on the Singapore airlines flight. This pattern is all too frequent in climate reporting. More from journalist @rupasubramanya : https://thefp.com/p/turbulence-singapore-airlines-climate-change

Subramanya had this to say in her article on FP:

Within hours of reporting the incident, major news organizations were wondering: Will this be the new normal, in the age of global warming? “Is climate change making turbulence worse?” asked the BBC. Yes, reported Nature, with the headline “Why climate change is making flights rougher.” Bloomberg and CNN both ran similar stories.

It’s disturbing that journalists jumped to conclusions about this incident. People are afraid of both climate change and flying—but instead of playing on those fears, the media should be giving us the facts.

Last week, my colleague H. Sterling Burnett wrote an incisive piece excoriating CNN for its “disgusting” article: CNN’s Attempt to Link the Singapore Airlines’ Turbulence to Climate Change Is Disgusting.

Burnett wrote then:

Sadly, almost every time a flight encounters serious turbulence, especially if it results in injuries, the mainstream media is quick to claim climate change is making flying more dangerous. Citing real-world data, Climate Realism has debunked this pathetic attempt to tie greenhouse gas emissions to in-flight turbulence several times in the past, including our rebuttal to the BBC last year. Repeating the same lie over and over again, even if one thinks it is in a good cause, like preventing a purported climate crisis, does not make it the truth.

The facts about trends in turbulence amidst modest warming is that there is no increasing trend. A 2021 report by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) plotted accident data related to turbulence, finding no statistically significant increase since 1989, despite a tremendous increase in passengers and miles flown. See Figure 1 below:

If turbulence had increased due to climate change as CNN’s story implies, there would be a clear upward trend demonstrated in the graph. Instead, turbulence related aircraft accidents have held steady since about 1995, even as the number of people travelling and the number of airline miles travelled has increased dramatically globally.

It is despicable that the MSM jumped to conclusions to make click-bait headlines blaming climate change, rather than doing real research. Just fifteen minutes of time (or less) on Google is all that would be needed to discover the premise of linking turbulence to climate change is unsupported and wrong.

Climate Realism has posted multiple articles, referencing real-world data, refuting the false “climate change is causing turbulence” claims. However, the MSM seems incapable of doing even the most basic tasks of journalism, like checking the facts, instead preferring to scare people about air travel instead. They’d do more service to their readers simply by advising them to keep their seatbelts fastened at all times during flight.

Kudos to FP and Rupa Subramanya for publishing the truth.

Anthony Watts
Anthony Watts
Anthony Watts is a senior fellow for environment and climate at The Heartland Institute. Watts has been in the weather business both in front of, and behind the camera as an on-air television meteorologist since 1978, and currently does daily radio forecasts. He has created weather graphics presentation systems for television, specialized weather instrumentation, as well as co-authored peer-reviewed papers on climate issues. He operates the most viewed website in the world on climate, the award-winning website wattsupwiththat.com.

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