Guest essay by Eric Worrall
Michael Mann, inventor of the iconic Hockey Stick Graph, is concerned that TV networks might have been “compromised” into downplaying the climate crisis.
Why has climate change been ignored in the presidential debates?
While we rake over Clinton’s emails and Trump’s late-night tweets, climate has been the elephant in the room, leaving scientists and campaigners asking why there hasn’t been a single direct question about the crisis.
“I’ve been shocked at the lack of questions on climate change. It really is fiddling while the world burns,” said Kerry Emanuel, a leading climate scientist. “This is the great issue of our time and we are skirting around it. I’m just baffled by it.”
Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton have yet to face a moderator question on climate change during two debates in which time was found to grill Clinton repeatedly over her use of emails and to ask Trump about a series of late-night tweets he sent about a former Miss Universe’s sex tape. Lester Holt, the moderator of the first debate, was reportedly set to ask a climate question but ran out of time.
“It’s like a sort of collective cowardice,” said Emanuel of the omission. Michael Mann, another prominent climate scientist, added: “One has to wonder if television networks are compromised by the millions of advertising dollars they take from fossil fuel interests.”
Mann is not alone in wondering whether the media have been bought off – high profile British climate commentator George Monbiot asked the same question back in August.
Like many climate hypothesis, this conspiracy doesn’t hold water when you examine the evidence. There are plenty of hardcore greens in the media, including high profile presenters who have no qualms about embracing green extremism, who would vehemently reject any attempt to buy them off on climate issues. For example, back in 2014 MSNBC seriously discussed forced reeducation courses for “deniers”.
The real reason climate doesn’t attract more media attention is rather mundane, not nearly as exciting as Mann’s dark criminal fantasies. Back in 2014, senior NBC executive Patrick Burkey offered the following explanation.
“Weather coverage can drive ratings,” Burkey said, but “you have to be careful that you’re not covering weather stories that aren’t real news every night. It’s an easy way to lose the trust of the audience about what is really an important weather story.”
Bottom line, if climate advocates want more airtime, they need to make an effort to say something newsworthy.