Dec 18 2013

TV News and Extreme Weather: Don’t Mention Climate Change

HartChartDramatic weather-related disasters are ready made for TV news. But what’s not on the screen? The human-made climate change that is affecting, and in some cases exacerbating, that extreme weather.

A new FAIR survey of the national network newscasts (CBS Evening News, NBC Nightly News, ABC World News) finds that extreme weather is big news. In the first nine months of 2013,  there were 450 segments of 200 words or more that covered extreme weather: flooding, forest fires, tornadoes, blizzards, hurricanes and heat waves.

But of that total, just a tiny fraction–16 segments, or 4 percent of the total–so much as mentioned the words “climate change,” “global warming” or “greenhouse gases.”

So in what was an unusually active weather year in the United States–a massive tornado in Oklahoma, deadly flooding in Colorado, massive wildfires across several Western states and bouts of unseasonable temperatures across the country–96 percent of extreme weather stories never discussed the human impact on the climate that is contributing to these outcomes.

It’s almost as if the altered climate and the weather were happening on two different planets.

The FAIR survey appears in the December 2013 issue of FAIR’s magazine Extra!.