Study: News networks largely ignored climate change during hottest month ever

By Stephen C. Webster
Thursday, August 16, 2012 12:40 EDT
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A very sweaty man. Photo: Shutterstock.com, all rights reserved.
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Even amid July’s record-breaking heat wave, America’s most-watched news networks largely ignored the subject of climate change, according to a study by the liberal watchdog group Media Matters.

Media Matters found that ABC and CNN were the worst offenders, with just 2 percent and 4 percent of their extreme weather coverage carrying any mention of climate change, respectively. The left-leaning network MSNBC was the only network to discuss climate change in almost all of its segments on extreme weather during the month of July, the study added.

Surprisingly, the right-leaning Fox News Channel came in second place, but that’s not saying much: only 16 percent of the network’s extreme weather coverage mentioned climate change. CBS and NBC placed third and fourth, at 15 percent and 11 percent.

Overall, Media Matters said that just 6 percent of television segments that actually mentioned climate change touched upon the indisputable fact that human activity is changing the carbon composition of Earth’s atmosphere.

A previous Media Matters analysis also found a significant decline in climate news coverage on broadcast networks between 2009 and 2011, representing a drop of more than 80 percent. The Sunday morning news programs saw the most precipitous dropoff, going from devoting a total of 21 minutes in 2009 to just 9 minutes in 2011.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said that July 2012 was the hottest month in recorded history, with Americans suffering under a heat wave that actually eclipsed the worst year of the nation’s “dust bowl” period of the 1930s, when heat, drought and wind joined forces to frequently cover most of the country in massive dust storms.

Dr. James Hansen, NASA’s top climate scientist and a committed activist who’s previously been arrested committing civil disobedience at the White House, warned in a new study released earlier this month (PDF) that unless humanity begins taking dramatic steps to reduce emissions and transition to clean, renewable energy in the near term, a rise in global average temperatures of just 3°C by the end of the century will cause up to 50 percent of all species on Earth to go extinct.

Despite the growing threat, U.S. climate negotiators last week called for additional “flexibility” on carbon reduction goals, sparking outrage from their counterparts representing Europe and many small island nations, some of which are presently threatened by gradually rising sea levels.

Photo: Shutterstock.com, all rights reserved.

Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster is the senior editor of Raw Story, and is based out of Austin, Texas. He previously worked as the associate editor of The Lone Star Iconoclast in Crawford, Texas, where he covered state politics and the peace movement’s resurgence at the start of the Iraq war. Webster has also contributed to publications such as True/Slant, Austin Monthly, The Dallas Business Journal, The Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Weekly, The News Connection and others. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenCWebster.
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