The Mainstream Media Is Failing The Public On Climate Change Coverage (Video)

Did you enjoy the brief respite last week from the two-week polar vortex that touched down on Christmas?

The Northeast and Mid-West saw temperatures struggle to reach above freezing.

Meanwhile, after historic wildfires ravaged the state, California faced another crisis–mudslides.

From hurricanes Maria, Irma, and Nate; cyclones; tornadoes; floods, to Southern freezes, 2017 saw some of the most destructive weather this country has ever experienced.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) cites 2017 as “a historic year of weather and climate disasters.”

Record-breaking hurricanes, unprecedented wildfires, and extreme droughts scientists confirm climate change is exacerbating are becoming the “new normal.”

And they intensify with each passing year.

So why are the words “climate change” kryptonite to the mainstream media?

Considering it’s the most existential crisis humanity has ever faced, one would assume the press would be doing its due diligence in alerting and educating the public, right?

A new report by Public Citizen‘s climate program director David Arkush, titled “Carbon Omission: How the U.S. Media Underreported Climate Change in 2017,” analyzes more than a dozen prominent newspapers and television networks’ 2017 weather coverage, from the New York Times to the Denver Post to the Fox News Network.

Arkush writes:

“Given the gravity and urgency of the climate crisis, as well as a surfeit of relevant, newsworthy developments, one would expect U.S. media to report on climate and clean energy issues daily.”

But it’s not.

There was no shortage of coverage of major weather events, but the link those events had to climate change got little to no mention.

Arkush states:

“The proportion of pieces that mentioned climate change in climate-relevant contexts was decidely low.”

After scouring news coverage and conducting “a separate targeted search of major outlets,” Arkush discovered:

“Pieces on record heat were most likely to mention climate change, and even there the rate was just 33 percent; pieces on record or historic drought mentioned climate 24 percent of the time; news articles on ‘historic rainfall’ mentioned climate a mere 10 percent of the time; articles on record or historic wildfires or floods mentioned climate just nine percent of the time; just eight percent of stories discussing growing mosquito populations mentioned climate change, including 12 percent of pieces from major outlets; despite the historic nature of 2017’s hurricane season, only four percent of pieces discussing Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Maria, or Nate made the connection to climate change”; and just nine percent of stories mentioning climate change also mentioned mitigation or solutions.”

James Temple published a piece in the MIT Technology Review titled “The year climate change began to spin out of control,” singling out 2017 as the most historically destructive in human history.

In spite of this fact, Arkush argues:

“Most Americans report that they rarely hear about climate change in the news, and rarely discuss the issue with friends or family. We can’t fix the climate crisis if we aren’t talking about it.”

Sadly, the most mention climate change received from the mainstream media came from coverage of Donald Trump’s tweet:

“In the East, it could be the COLDEST New Year’s Eve on record. Perhaps we could use a little bit of that good old Global Warming that our Country, but not other countries, was going to pay TRILLIONS OF DOLLARS to protect against. Bundle up!”

In the year since Trump’s inauguration, we have seen the media push back somewhat against attempts to delegitimize it, brand it “fake news,” and threaten to “open up our libel laws” against it.

With a president and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) aggressively working to undermine the overwhelming scientific consensus on human-caused climate change, dismantling safeguards against its devastation, Arkush concludes it is “critical that the media start reporting on the crisis with the quality and quantity it merits.”

He writes:

“We’re talking about the greatest challenge of our time.”

We are not being silent on anything else; let’s raise our voices a little louder for our planet’s future.

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Ted Millar is writer and teacher. His work has been featured in myriad literary journals, including Better Than Starbucks, The Broke Bohemian, Straight Forward Poetry, Caesura, Circle Show, Cactus Heart, Third Wednesday, and The Voices Project. He is also a contributor to The Left Place blog on Substack, Liberal Nation Rising, and Medium.