A recent segment on CNN has now added another example to the list of ways the news cycle has let us down on climate change coverage.
Last Monday, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published the most stern report to date, warning that irreversible climate catastrophe is likely to arrive sooner than we previously thought.
That very evening, the three broadcast nightly news shows in the US – including ABC, CBS and NBC – spent three minutes discussing the report and its consequences for the world.
Come Thursday, however, those three measly minutes were quickly upstaged by Kanye West’s visit to the White House, which received double the amount of coverage, according to CNN.
“Coverage of climate change drops out because I think the media thinks about climate change as a story for the science section, for the environment section,” Genevieve Guenther, the founder of EndClimateSilence.org, explained on the program.
“There’s not sustained attention to it,” she added.
It looks like that lack of attention isn’t ailing just nightly news, either. Last Monday, 28 of the top 50 US newspapers failed to mention the IPCC report on their home pages. By Tuesday, the news had all but disappeared.
“The irony is that, in fact, the media is reporting stories about climate change every day,” Guenther continued.
“Every day there are stories about drought, about wildfires, about typhoons and hurricanes, about heat, about all sorts of effects. And very often these stories will appear without the media even mentioning climate change, even once.”
For instance, there is robust and overwhelming scientific evidence to suggest that human-caused climate change is impacting both the frequency and the intensity of heat waves.
This problem is not new; TV networks have been perpetuating “climate silence” of this sort for years.
A Media Matters study from 2017 found that over a two-week period during hurricane season, ABC and NBC failed to run even one segment on the link between climate change and hurricanes.
What’s more, during the height of hurricane season, 60 percent of the stories on eight major TV networks included the word Trump, and only about five percent mentioned climate change, despite the fact that warmer waters have increased the speed at which hurricanes intensify in recent years.
Instead of placing the blame on consumers of news, Guenther is holding the media to a higher standard.
The climate activist argued on the program that it was easy for Americans to disregard climate change when the news is not informing you how it is already affecting the world.
“The idea isn’t necessarily to do more discrete stories on climate change, but actually to mention climate change in the stories that the media is already reporting,” argued Guenther.
“Because, in fact, that is part of the story. That is the context for these stories and right now the media is silent on that context.”
For now, it almost looks like we need to look to satirical news to get the climate change coverage humanity needs.
The Weekend Update on Saturday Night Live gave Kanye’s visit to the White House a cursory point of the thumb, before carving out two whole minutes for depressing climate change jokes.
“This was pretty crazy,” said comedian Colin Jost, referring to a picture of Kanye shaking President Trump’s hand.
“But, look, it’s not the end of the world, okay? Because this is the end of the world,” he added, pointing to a headline about the IPCC report.
“That’s right, scientists basically published an obituary for the Earth this week, and people were like, yeah, but like what does Taylor Swift think about it?”