Media Reports on Climate Crisis at a 5 Year Low

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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Earth image: NASA


Bob W.
Bob W8 years ago

"Will you tell 5 people today about global warming?"

No, but I will tell 5 people that MMGW is a bunch of hooey. I have still seen no convincing evidence that man is causing climate change. Climate changed without man's help for millennium. Glad that the media has laid off on this chicken little harping.

Barbara Erdman
Barbara E8 years ago

Thanx for post

Michael Cunningham

Dan left a comment

Gene W,

"It does not surprise me to see that you support cowardly causes like the right to bear arms,"
EXCUSE ME! How is supporting anything in the Constitution cowardly?

"something you probably see as constitutional yet don't fully understand."
So we all understand why don't you elucidate!

The scientific consensus on global warming was reached a while ago. The fact that about 1% of climatologists disagree with it does not rock that consensus.
That level of "consensus" was never reached. Further the "consensus has fallen off, especially with the breakdown in the data.

"People like you do staggering amounts of damage to the world."
Two questions. People like what? What "staggering amounts"?

"What is really sad, is that the 11/2009 climategate crisis got people to think the scientists were frauds. When the smoke cleared, it was determined that the scientists did not alter any data, and that climategate was false."
WRONG! Actually there can be no determination as the "data" does not exist!

"I guess I should be thankful that 5 panels looked at the data, and saw the truth."
Which panels were these and what "truth" did they see

Doug G.
Doug G8 years ago

One thing I believe is absolute. The damage man has/is doing to the environment will be reflected in the future, one way or another. If that spells human extinction, so be it. It will be the only way to deal with the arrogance and other dysfunctional mindsets of this species.

April Gray
April Gray8 years ago

it's a shame humans evolved to the point of invention, the world would be so much better off if we had remained primitive & not found ways to ruin the planet. i know the earth naturally goes through climate changes & i don't believe mankind is completely responsible for the global warming we're experiencing now, but we sure are helping the changes come on more quickly. changes that took decades or centuries in the past are now taking years. i have to agree with agent Smith from the Matrix movies, humans are a parasite.

A W.
Angela Weber8 years ago

I DETEST so many of our news agencies. They must all be owned and operated by big business because they rarely report on important news which really impacts the planet and our long-term survival as a species. Everyday there should be reports of climate change, natural disasters, how overweight and obese people and smokers are going to cost our health care system so much money that we will run out, how our food is grown with pesticides (as well as the affects of GM food), how food animals are treated while on 'farms' and then the torturous process of being taken to the slaughtering factory and killed and processed, the amount of rain forest that is being destroyed and the repercussions of this on the animals, people, and planet, the number of animals that are becoming endangered, the number of animals that are tortured by experiments, the number of toxins that products contain and consumed or used by unknowing consumers, . . . The list is endless, but rather than reporting on these important issues they focus their energies on a house fire or a robbery. Yes these are important issues to a small number of people, but the vast majority of the population is unaffected. I feel that the media purposely keeps us uninformed, so the minority of rich people can continue to get richer and poor poorer and working themselves into the ground. Thank goodness for care2 where we can read about things never mentioned on tv news.

Helen Douglas
Helen D8 years ago

With all the debate about global warming -- pro or con -- it seems that we do not necessarily need the standard media outlets telling us what to believe.
I, for one, am very suspicious of "mass market" news, and rarely watch it.

Kelli A.
Kelli A.8 years ago

The news hardly ever covers important issues. If it is controversial in any sense then the country "doesn't need to hear it." It all starts in the schools and universities, and until critical cooperative dialogue begins, people will continue to be ignorant of the climate crisis. Read this book and tell everyone you know! Differing Worldviews in Higher Education:
Two Scholars Argue Cooperatively about Justice Education
By Four Arrows and Walter Block
A Dialogue for Our Divided World
Two noted professors on opposite sides of the cultural wars come together and engage in "cooperative argumentation." One, a "Jewish, atheist libertarian" and the other a "mixed blood American Indian" bring to the table two radically different worldviews to bear on the role of colleges and universities in studying social and ecological justice. The result is an entertaining and enlightening journey that reveals surprising connections and previously misunderstood rationales that may be at the root of a world too polarized to function sanely.
ISBN 978-94-6091-351-8 hardback USD99/EUR90
ISBN 978-94-6091-350-1 paperback USD39/EUR35
Or Buy this book at Barnes and Noble, paperback | hardback or Amazon or Amazon International.

Donald MacDonald
don MacDonald8 years ago

" You cannot currently send a star to Jack because you have done so within the last week. "

Thats it exactly Jack.


Robert Shaffer
Robert Shaffer8 years ago

Thanks for the post.