The Australian Open, ESPN, And Selective Climate Change Coverage


Tennis Star In Heat Via ESPN

ESPN announcers recently used a cold spell to mock global warming in their live commentary, mainstreaming the conservative myth that cold weather disproves global warming. But during coverage of the Australian Open, which saw dangerous, record-breaking heat, commentators remained silent on the issue -- a trend more akin to Fox News.

During an Arctic chill on January 7, ESPN commentators Jimmy Dykes and Brad Nessler interjected their sports coverage with climate denial. Dykes mentioned that he had watched a national television debate over "whether or not global warming was still taking place," saying he "listened to about 30 seconds of it, but the guy saying no it has not, I think he won the debate." Nessler laughed in agreement, adding, "It's about 50 below wind chill [in Minnesota] so there's no global warming in that part of the country." In response to criticism, Dykes tweeted, "God is in control of our climate. He does not make mistakes. Plus it's 3 degrees where I stand right now : )"

However, as Melbourne experiences record-breaking heat during the Australian Open -- including the worst heat wave Melbourne has suffered since 1908 -- ESPN commentators have been mum on climate change one way or the other. Instead, they have opted to make light of the dangerous temperatures; after one tennis player hallucinated that he saw Snoopy before fainting, a commentator joked, "I wonder if Snoopy had a racket."

The extreme heat had a significant effect on the Open -- at one point, officials were forced to enact the Extreme Heat Policy and suspend outside play. And players suffered "inhumane" temperatures during matches, causing water bottles and sneaker soles to melt and players to vomit. The heat wave in Melbourne is emblematic of a "new normal" of extreme heat in Australia. A report from the Australian Climate Council found that the number of hot days across Australia has "more than doubled," and predicts heatwaves will last an average three days longer in the future. Last year, the Australian Bureau of Meteorology had to add new colors to capture temperatures of over 122 degrees Fahrenheit that exceeded the limits of the previous scale.

Global warming poses a unique threat to sports and athletes. A recent study found correlation between global warming and heat deaths, which nearly tripled in high schools nationwide. Meanwhile, senior sports officials are speaking out on the need to address climate change. ESPN should be directing its announcers to these developments, rather than mainstreaming climate denial.

Posted In
Environment & Science, Climate Change
We've changed our commenting system to Disqus.
Instructions for signing up and claiming your comment history are located here.
Updated rules for commenting are here.