We shouldn’t be sunbathing in February – is global warming glorified by the media?

By Emma Lucia Felisi

Earlier this year, Durham and the rest of the U.K. were hit by record-setting high temperatures during the late February heatwave, which was seen as a welcome change to the usual cold and grey of that time of year. Everyone hurried out to enjoy the weather while it lasted, and the media encouraged us to do so. The official Instagram profile of Durham University encouraged people to send in pictures of them enjoying the sunshine, gushing over the stunning weather. 

The Tab Durham welcomed recent reports of an April heatwave, anticipating temperatures as high as 26C, by saying ‘it’s coming home’, further glorifying temperatures way above average. Student newspapers are not the only ones to partake in this – media outlets across northern Europe have encouraged readers to ‘hurry out and enjoy while it lasts’.

Everyone hurried out to enjoy the weather while it lasted, and the media encouraged us to do so

But how can we enjoy ourselves when the warm weather is a sign of our earth heating up before our eyes and climate change reaching worrying heights? The media should be framing these heat waves as scary, terrifying even. It should be a reminder of how action needs to be taken now, as the change in the world’s climate has reached the point where its effects are felt on a daily basis.  

Awareness of climate change and its consequences should be highlighted by the media. After all,  the job of the media is to spread information which national governments and politicians neglect to focus upon. But instead, they are clouding people’s judgement through their positive framing of weather events, rarely mentioning the negative consequences of global warming.

The media should be framing these heat waves as scary, terrifying even

Last year the UK had its hottest summer ever. Back in January, Australia experienced their hottest month on record, averaging 30C, and extreme droughts in California have caused devastating wildfires. However, when the media reports on these cases, often no mention is made of their connection to climate change. The weather and climate change are seen as separate phenomena. The media neglect to recognise that climate change is not going to be one major catastrophic event like in the disaster movies 2012 or The Day After Tomorrow. Climate change happens gradually, meaning separate natural disasters are part of a larger pattern of climate change.

If the effects of climate change are continuously framed in the media as being positive and enjoyable, it will adjust people’s thinking to see these extreme weather events as the new normal, as acceptable and unavoidable.

Climate change doesn’t happen with a bang: it’s crucial to focus on the atypical weather phenomena that happen now and recognise them as being a part of the larger event of climate change. Understandably, politicians and the media may not want to cause mass hysteria by mentioning how the hot summer day that you enjoyed on the beach recently in April is a sign of the world’s accelerating death, or how the number of climate refugees coming from the southern hemisphere is growing with a worrying speed as a consequence of water scarcity, sea levels rising and extreme droughts.

But maybe this is what it takes to make people recognise that we need to take action. It has to be mentioned repeatedly by the media, to ensure that awareness of climate change and the different ways it’s manifested people’s daily lives are recognised and evoke fear and worry, rather than glorifying rises in temperature, and normalising climate change as a result.

Sunbathing in February in the U.K. should not ever be possible

In Northern Europe, 20 degrees in February is not a natural phenomenon. Sunbathing in winter in the U.K. should not ever be possible. Is it not our job as students at one of the best universities in the country to spread awareness instead of feeding into this normalisation of extreme weather created by the media? Is the short-term pleasure of sunbathing in February more desirable than the long-term enjoyment of saving our planet?

Photograph: Harrison Moore via Unsplash


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