Guest essay by Eric Worrall
If you think you are being continuously bombarded with nonsense climate scares, think again – Guardian author Lisa Hymas wants more climate stories in the press. She has also accused President Trump of distracting her fellow journalists from reporting about climate disasters.
Climate change is the story you missed in 2017. And the media is to blame
Some of Trump’s tweets generate more national coverage than devastating disasters. As the weather gets worse, we need journalism to get better.
Which story did you hear more about this year – how climate change makes disasters like hurricanes worse, or how Donald Trump threwpaper towels at Puerto Ricans?
If you answered the latter, you have plenty of company. Academic Jennifer Good analyzed two weeks of hurricane coverage during the height of hurricane season on eight major TV networks, and found that about 60% of the stories included the word Trump, and only about 5% mentioned climate change.
Trump doesn’t just suck the oxygen out of the room; he sucks the carbon dioxide out of the national dialogue. Even in a year when we’ve had string of hurricanes, heatwaves, and wildfires worthy of the Book of Revelation – just what climate scientists have told us to expect – the effect of climate change on extreme weather has been dramatically undercovered. Some of Trump’s tweets generate morenational coverage than devastating disasters.
Good’s analysis lines up with research done by my organization, Media Matters for America, which found that TV news outlets gave far too little coverage to the well–documented links between climate change and hurricanes. ABC and NBC both completely failed to bring up climate change during their news coverage of Harvey, a storm that caused the heaviest rainfall ever recorded in the continental US. When Irma hit soon after, breaking the record for hurricane intensity, ABC didn’t do much better.
Coverage was even worse of Hurricane Maria, the third hurricane to make landfall in the US this year. Not only did media outlets largely fail to cover the climate connection; in many cases, they largely failed to cover the hurricane itself.
If we are to fend off the worst possible outcomes of climate change, we need to shift as quickly as possible to a cleaner energy system. We could expect more Americans to get on board with that solution if they more fully understood the problem – and that’s where the critical role of the media comes in. As the weather gets worse, we need our journalism to get better.
Lisa Hymas is the climate and energy program director at Media Matters
What a shocker – normal people find President Trump’s efforts to make America great again more interesting than yet another climate warning.
Here’s a hint Lisa – If you want to generate interest, make an effort, try to find something new to say about the climate. Trying to paint every photogenic storm as a sign of the end times is lazy journalism. Repeating the same tired climate claims every time the wind blows a few trees down tries the patience of normal people.