In a wildly speculative Tuesday editorial, the Washington Post worried that global warming “could” make the spread of the Ebola virus worse as time goes on.
In its August 5 Capitol Weather Gang blog post, the Post helpfully reported that Ebola is “out of control” and then goes on to wonder: “Could climate change hasten the spread of the deadly virus?”
The Post answers, quite unironically: “Perhaps, but the linkages are complicated, according to limited scientific literature on the topic.”
The paper’s blog post goes on to recite several facts–such as scientists’ ignorance as to what causes Ebola or how to cure it–then notes that some other diseases “might” be affected by global warming.
The Post next claimed that a drop in rainfall increases the possibility of transmitting the Ebola virus. The paper based this prediction on one 2002 study published in the Journal of Photogrammetric Engineering and Remote Sensing.
The paper then insists, “as the globe warms, precipitation extremes are projected to increase.” “Presumably,” the Post speculates, this would make Africa “most vulnerable to Ebola outbreaks.”
But “presumably” is the key term in this article, and words like it fill the piece.
Readers are told that “perhaps” climate change could make Ebola worse. The paper says that “warming may expand the range” of diseases and that guessing scientists have “expected” to see diseases expand because of it.
But the Post warns that it is hard to say for sure. “However,” the paper notes, “the connection between climate and Ebola is more complex,” even as it claims droughts are “expected.” Yet the authors of the article admit, “projecting future changes in precipitation on the regional scale is difficult.”
And as the paper wraps up its wild speculation, it finally admits, “Given the mixed-bag forecast, it remains unclear whether we will see an increase or decrease in Ebola outbreaks.”
So, what did the Washington Post know for sure about all this? It appears that nothing at all is really known for sure. It’s all just “perhaps,” or “expected,” or a “mixed bag.” But hard facts are hard to come by, at least in this scaremongering article.
Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston or email the author at firstname.lastname@example.org