In the face of last month’s record heat wave in the U.S., the media watch dog found major broadcast newscasts only mentioned climate change in 8.7 percent of their stories on the extreme temperatures. Major print media did a little better — 25.5 percent.
The caveat here is that the analysis was based on searches of Nexis and Factiva for heat wave stories between July 1-31 for major print and broadcast media — the networks, CNN, Fox and MSNBC, as well as the New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, USA Today, the Associated Press and the Wall Street Journal.
Some of the findings –
– Leaning forward, MSNBC was the broadcast leader, mentioning climate change in 88 percent its heat wave-related stories versus ABC, which only mentioned it in two percent. Fox’s 16 percent is initially surprising, but represents one of only six stories the network did.
– On the print side, Media Matters found –
The New York Times led the pack, mentioning climate change in more than half of its coverage (54.5%), and the Washington Post mentioned it in 26% of articles on July heat. But the Associated Press, the Los Angeles Times, and USA Today mentioned it in less than 15% of coverage. The Wall Street Journal didn’t mention climate change at all, although the paper had significantly fewer stories on extreme heat.
– Mentioning climate change is one thing, connecting it to human-generated fossil fuel emissions is another. Only 6 percent of the broadcast stories and 12 percent of the print stories did that.
And, just to show that there are few excuses for major media’s failures to make such connections, Media Matters followed up the figures with a list of studies over the past few years, all linking rising temperatures to fossil fuel-related climate change.
One example, a study from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, aka NASA, arguing that the higher temperatures are the result of global warming.
The NASA report included this chart showing the shift:
[NASA, August 2012]
And, to follow up on my previous post on sources for scientific information on climate change — the National Academy of Sciences has produced a booklet and series of YouTube videos entitled “Climate Change: Lines of Evidence,” which provides the history of how scientists have determined the climate is warming, the link to fossil fuels and impacts.
The mounting number of online efforts aimed at educating people about climate change seem to indicate a couple things — first, obviously, scientists and policy makers’ efforts to use multimedia, online materials to reach people and make the information accessible, without dumbing it down, and, perhaps, their mounting concern about the lack of action in the face of the evidence.
The conclusion of the National Academy of Science booklet provides a way forward, scientifically at least, acknowledging that policy development and deployment, like science itself, is a constantly changing process.
The challenge for society is to weigh the risks and benefits and make wise choices even knowing there are uncertainties, as is done in so many other realms, for example, when people buy home insurance. A valuable framework for supporting climate choices is an iterative risk management approach. This refers to a process of systematically identifying risks and possible response options; advancing a portfolio of actions that are likely to reduce risks across a range of possible futures; and adjusting responses over time to take advantage of new knowledge, information, and technological capabilities. (Original emphasis.)
Any course of action carries potential risks and costs; but doing nothing may pose the greatest risk from climate change and its impacts.