Washington Post’s Capital Weather Gang: Networks’ Lack Of Climate Coverage Is “Bad News For Science” And A Disservice To Viewers

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Angela Fritz of The Washington Post’s Capital Weather Gang questioned why the major TV networks are turning a blind eye to climate change given that a majority of Americans are concerned about the issue, calling the “shockingly small number of minutes” the major networks devoted to climate change in 2016 “bad for science.”

Fritz was referencing a Media Matters study that found that in 2016, the evening newscasts and Sunday shows on ABC, CBS, and NBC, as well as Fox Broadcast Co.'s Fox News Sunday, collectively decreased their total coverage of climate change by 66 percent compared to 2015.

In her March 30 column, Fritz wrote that the study’s findings are “shocking because, as a recent Gallup poll shows, a majority of Americans are crossing the divide between those concerned about climate change and those who think it’s baloney.”

Fritz added that Media Matters’ report “is important right now, when Congress and the White House actively seek to limit the role of science in policymaking.” She noted that, during the week she wrote her column, the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology held a hearing “to (ostensibly) debate the scientific method” that “devolved into finger-pointing, name-calling and one Republican congressman yelling at Democrats and a leading climate researcher” and Congress voted “to limit which scientific studies the Environmental Protection Agency can use to create regulations.”

She concluded: “The media have a responsibility to report the facts. If scientists agree an extreme weather event was made worse by climate change, viewers need to know that, not just because it is true, but because people do think it’s a problem. I don’t know whom network news and Congress are serving by turning a blind eye to climate change, but according to these poll results, it’s not the voters.”

From Fritz’s column:

It’s not that there isn’t enough climate change news to cover. 2015 was the hottest year on record at that point, the Paris agreement was signed by dozens of nations, and California was in its worst drought in perhaps millennia. But if you get your news from the networks, there’s a good chance you didn’t know any of this was going on.

Stories about climate change on network news — ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox (the network, not Fox News) — dropped 66 percent, according to research by Media Matters.

If you break it down into actual time spent, network news is devoting a shockingly small number of minutes per year on climate change. It’s shocking because, as a recent Gallup poll shows, a majority of Americans are crossing the divide between those concerned about climate change and those who think it’s baloney.

[...]

This report is important right now, when Congress and the White House actively seek to limit the role of science in policymaking.

On Wednesday, the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology held a hearing to (ostensibly) debate the scientific method. It devolved into finger-pointing, name-calling and one Republican congressman yelling at Democrats and a leading climate researcher. In one down-to-Earth moment, Suzanne Bonamici (D-Ore.) asked the panel of scientists what Congress could do to advance science, “instead of holding this unproductive hearing.”

Later that afternoon, Congress voted to limit which scientific studies the Environmental Protection Agency can use to create regulations. If signed, the law would be entirely subjective — the EPA will be able to use only “the best available science.”

[...]

Here’s the truth, though: Despite the lack of coverage in 2016, half the country thinks climate change is caused by human activity and believe it’s a problem. Less than a quarter of our population think climate change is either not happening or is no big deal.

The media have a responsibility to report the facts. If scientists agree an extreme weather event was made worse by climate change, viewers need to know that, not just because it is true, but because people do think it’s a problem. I don’t know whom network news and Congress are serving by turning a blind eye to climate change, but according to these poll results, it’s not the voters.

Posted In
Environment & Science, Climate Change
Network/Outlet
ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX Broadcasting Company
Show/Publication
The Washington Post
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