Climate Change And The Media: That Which Must Not Be Named
September 12, 2017

Climate change, as far as the media's concerned, is always the dog that didn't bark. What with all those expensive ads from energy companies, the very thought of putting these superstorms in context seems almost rude! (EPA head Scott Pruitt called a climate change question "insensitive.") From Jeremy Deaton via Quartz:

Will the major broadcast networks report on the role of climate change in shaping this storm? If Hurricane Harvey is any indication, the answer is ‘probably not.’ But by ignoring climate science, they are missing an opportunity to tell a great story.

Last week, Harvey tore through Texas, killing dozens of people and displacing more than a million. The National Weather Service described the storm as “beyond anything experienced.” The agency had to add new colors to its maps to portray the unprecedented volume of rainfall. Brock Long, the head of FEMA, said, “You could not dream this forecast up.”

Climate change is taking us to uncharted territory, fueling storms that were previously unimaginable. Warm water, humid air and rising seas conspired to make Harvey an uncommonly destructive storm. Pennsylvania State University climate scientist Michael Mann said that climate change “worsened the impact of Hurricane Harvey.” Kevin Trenberth of the National Center for Atmospheric Research told The Atlantic, “The human contribution can be up to 30% or so of the total rainfall coming out of the storm.”

Despite the considerable evidence that human hands made Harvey more severe, climate change received limited mention in the news coverage. Some outlets — including The New York TimesThe Washington PostNPRThe AtlanticPoliticoVox, and ThinkProgress — noted the human fingerprint on Harvey. TV news programs on CNNMSNBC, and PBS also discussed the climate link. But the major broadcast networks paid scant attention to the role of climate change in the worst rainstorm in US history.

An analysis from Media Matters found that over the last two weeks only one of the three major networks discussed climate change. While CBS touched on the issue in interviews with experts on CBS This MorningCBS Evening News and CBS Morning News, ABC and NBC made no mention of climate science.

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