The sheer volume of cable news segments on Green New Deal (you can just review @_waleedshahid’s timeline to see most of them) over the past few days must amount to a combined five years’ worth of climate coverage on TV. That alone is a remarkable shift. https://t.co/fnxZzROMl5
— Alexander Kaufman (@AlexCKaufman) February 26, 2019
For many of us who have spent our careers in the environmental world, it’s been incredibly frustrating to watch climate change persistently score so low on polls of national voting priorities. This is in large part due to the fact that most Americans aren’t exposed to scientists and climate change isn’t a topic of daily conversation. The fact that broadcast news has had a historically dismal track record about covering climate issues also plays a role–if people never hear about the underlying facts of climate change they’re probably not going to care much about it. That’s why this tweet from HuffPost’s Alexander Kaufman this week is significant, for the first time (maybe ever) climate change is being earnestly discussed on tv.
This certainly hasn’t been the case in recent years as an analysis conducted in 2017 by Media Matters for America shows that, of 127 TV broadcast segments on NBC, CBS, and ABC about extreme heat waves, only one mentioned climate change. Historically, tv media has not connected the dots to the American public between the news stories they’re covering and how climate change is shaping them. This became evident when academic Jennifer Good analyzed two weeks of Hurricane Maria coverage during the height of hurricane season in 2017 on eight major TV networks, and found that about 60% of the stories included the word Trump, and only about 5% mentioned climate change.
Why This Matters: Americans still get most of their news from tv, so when tv networks aren’t covering climate change it’s not being elevated to the level of urgency amongst the public that it warrants. When your primary news source doesn’t cover climate then you’ll likely shape your understanding of the issue from a less credible source like your peers or social media. It looks like cable news networks are finally deciding to stop pondering if climate change is a “ratings killer” and are giving air time to an issue that’s (finally) seriously entering our national discourse thanks to lawmakers like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Ed Markey who recently introduced the Green New Deal resolution. This will (hopefully) create a feedback loop in that the more people see climate change on the news the more they’ll talk about it and the more it’s talked about publically the more tv will cover it.
Go Deeper: Renowned climate scientist, Dr. Katharine Hayhoe, was on CBS This Morning this week to talk about how her faith shapes her view on climate change. We need more of this!