By Karen Savage
Climate change-driven heat waves have shattered records across the United States over the past several weeks. Globally, June 2020 was tied with 2019 for the warmest June ever recorded.
The extreme heat is doing more than just making us sweat. It has hampered efforts to contain the COVID-19 crisis and endangered our health. Both the extreme heat and the pandemic are disproportionately affecting communities of color.
But if you’re one of the millions of Americans who get their news from three major networks—ABC, CBS and NBC—you’d never know it, according to research published last week by Media Matters, a non-profit media watchdog group.
Its researchers analyzed 40 separate broadcast segments aired by ABC, CBS and NBC between July 12 and July 19 and found that none of them connected the extreme heat to climate change. Fox News was not included in this research, however the network’s attacks on climate science and climate advocates, as well as its outright climate denial, is well-documented.
Of the networks analyzed, only three aired segments connecting the heat to the COVID-19 crisis and none mentioned the disproportionate impact all three are having on communities of color.
“Sometimes they talked about it in the kind of terms that you think would suggest climate change, saying extreme heat, saying record temperatures, saying all of these things that are signals that this is a climate moment—and then not going to extra step to say, ‘and this is what is expected in a warming climate,’” said study co-author Allison Fisher, director of Media Matters’ climate and energy program.
“Those few words take two seconds to add on, so it’s not a question of they don’t have the time. It seems almost intentional and to have no one draw the connection was a little bit baffling and quite disappointing,” Fisher said.
The lack of major media coverage of the climate crisis has long played a role in the public’s clouded understanding of the issue. Investigative reporting by InsideClimate News and others has uncovered a decades-long effort by the fossil fuel industry to cast doubt on climate science. Many of the nearly dozen climate change-related lawsuits filed against fossil fuel companies by municipalities across the country include claims related to those disinformation campaigns. Still, the reluctance of television networks to report on climate change—and the current litigation—persists and has a direct impact on communities trying to hold the industry accountable for that deception and for its role in climate change itself: the public can’t support what it doesn’t understand.[Read more…]