Our major news outlets are taking an ostrich approach–head in the sand–to global warming despite the hottest decade on record. And this is having a profound effect on public opinion.
2010 marks the least number of mass media stories about climate change since 2005. So great is the crisis, and so inadequate is media coverage, that Climate Progress dubs it “The Silence of the Lambs”:
We had jaw-dropping science in 2010 (A stunning year in climate science reveals that human civilization is on the precipice). We had gripping climatic disasters (Masters: “The stunning extremes we witnessed gives me concern that our climate is showing the early signs of instability”; Munich Re: “The only plausible explanation for the rise in weather-related catastrophes is climate change”). And we even had major political theater — domestic (The failed presidency of Barack Obama, Part 1 and Part 2) and international (see The Cancun Compromise).
But news coverage of these dire events, containing potential to irrevocably change everyone’s lives, didn’t make a single front-page lead headline in the New York Times. Other news outlets, broadcast and print, followed suit. At Daily Climate, Robert Brulle, a professor tracking nightly news broadcasts, says that
Coverage of December’s United Nations climate talks in Cancun is Exhibit A: Total meeting coverage by the networks consisted of one 10-second clip, Brulle said. By contrast, 2009′s Copenhagen talks generated 32 stories totaling 98 minutes of airtime. “I’m trying to check it again and again,” Brulle said of the 2010 data. “It’s so little, it’s stunning.”
It’s not only America’s “paper of record” or major news networks–the trend seems to be global. Australia’s Rupert Murdoch-owned press does a poor job despite the island nation’s exposure to extreme weather and tide patterns in the southern Pacific ocean. The Center for Science and Technology Research surveyed 50 newspapers from twenty countries, and their trends mirror American ones.
Part of the difficulty in getting the truth about global warming lies with calculated directives to news reporters to minimize or ignore climate science. Recall how FOX told its news readers how to report on the United Nations’ World Meterological Association finding that 2000-2009 is the warmest decade on record: a FOX executive flat-out said employees had to cast doubt on global climate crisis by giving the views of global warming deniers.
So there’s immense resistance to the proper reporting of climate science and the real consequences of the fossil-fuel burning status quo. The other half of the problem is reduced reporting on our collective responses to the facts as we know them–legislation designed to promote energy efficiency, and curb oil and gas consumption and regulate its production.
All of which leads oil and gas industry lobbyists to choke news off at its source: astroturfing popular resistance to climate change laws, supplying lawmakers with industry-friendly language for bills, and funding internet trolls who repeat climate denier talking points and shout down civil debate.
Look at the effect less news on climate change has had: a 2010 Gallup poll says that an increased number of people in America feel that global warming is not the threat scientists say it is, or that scientists themselves disagree. (Patently FALSE, the latter; reputable science on climate change is unanimous. There is no disagreement among scientists.)
So what can we all do? Keep pointing your friends and associates to reliable resources on climate science. Here’s a list of all the most common questions, knowledge gaps, and doubts people have, complete with facts and rejoinders.
You are also a news source, and you may have more influence on friends and family than you think. Besides that, what are some other actions to take? Sound off in the comments.
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