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Climate Coverage

[ 98 ] January 17, 2014 |

It’s no wonder that we are doing nothing on climate change given that it gets almost no coverage in the national media. And it’s not like climate change is the most important problem faced by humans or anything.

Climate change got more coverage on broadcast news in 2013 than in the previous few years, but the issue still didn’t get nearly as much attention as it did in 2009, Media Matters found in a new analysis.

ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox together featured more coverage in 2013 than they did in 2012. The amount of airtime granted to climate change on both the Sunday shows and the nightly news was up, too — to a total of 27 minutes, and an hour and 42 minutes, respectively, for the entire year. The progressive media watchdog group Media Matters totaled the time broadcasters devoted to climate change for a new report released Thursday.

Up to 27 minutes on the Sunday shows! Well then! Surely John McCain must have something to say about this. And interviewing 2 climate scientists on the major networks over the last 5 years seems like 2 too many. James Inhofe really should have enough to say without them, plus his beliefs support America.

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  1. Look, if any of the Sunday “Meet the Republican” bloviation festivals ever did mention climate change, you can bet it would be blamed on President Obama.

    Everything, and I mean EVERY THING, was fine – until he and ACORN stole two elections!

  2. There’s no mystery as to why this is. Watch the commercials on the Sunday shows, any of the cable “news” networks, or the nightly network news. All of them have ads from Chevron (whose “we agree” campaign is particularly despicable), Exxon (they want solutions that involve better teachers), BP (which is always committing to the Gulf) and lots of down home Americans who favor fracking. Straight cash, homey, that’s all it’s about.

    • Grumpy says:

      There’s got to be more than one reason the networks don’t cover climate change, and actually I think fear of losing oil company sponsorship is not at the top of that list. TV shows want eyeballs to sell to advertisers, and if the news shows thought climate change would get viewers, they would cover it–so what if BP and Chevron pull their advertising? Get enough viewers and some other advertiser will take their place.

      The bigger problem is that climate change is not an exciting, pulpy, easily digestible Us v. Them story of the sort people like best. It’s about long-term decision making, large-scale institutional failures, the sorts of shit people cannot stand hearing about.

      This is the same reason, for example, networks don’t like running lots of coverage of large-scale racial inequality, poverty, and mass incarceration.

      • Agreed on there being a multitude of factors, and climate change not being sexy is definitely near the top of the list. But I must disagree with this:

        “TV shows want eyeballs to sell to advertisers, and if the news shows thought climate change would get viewers, they would cover it–so what if BP and Chevron pull their advertising? Get enough viewers and some other advertiser will take their place.”

        Television news viewership is plummeting in general (http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2014/01/09/who-is-this-man-many-americans-dont-recognize-top-news-anchor/), and they don’t have the luxury to think long term or strategically about ‘we’ll get other advertisers’. The guys running the network news and the non-FOX cable news need ratings and advertisers N-O-W because their precious news divisions with their august Cronkite-Murrow-Etc heritages are just line items on massive corporate earnings statements. NBC News is a tiny pimple on Comcast’s ass, ditto ABC on Disney and CNN on Time Warner, and if you lose advertisers for a quarter or less, you are gone and replaced by someone who will sell anything.

        Add in the fact that the demographics for those shows skew massively older, which makes them cheap and undesirable, and you have shows that cannot afford to take any risks. Exxon, Chevron and the like know that, which is why they buy big 60 and 90 second ads that cost them basically nothing but are a lifeline for those for-profit news divisions.

        Climate disruption is a tough topic to make interesting, but the structure of modern television news basically guarantees that they can be bought cheap by oil and gas companies, and so they will. (And we haven’t even gotten in to all the politicians and connected people who would scream at, withhold guests and sources, and otherwise make life unpleasant for any news outfit that found religion on the subject.)

    • Crunchy Frog says:

      In addition, the fossil fuel companies have borrowed a page from Monsanto in terms of media influence.

    • GoDeep says:

      News broadcasting is finite. Given the #1 issue for the great majority of Americans is the economy, and given that we still have one war going on, this is hardly surprising to me. That being said, the majority of Americans are still concerned abt global warming: From 2010 to 2013 the %age of Americans concerned with global warming rose from 52% to 58%.

      Even farmers are concerned:

      In the swing state of Iowa, recent extreme weather has convinced more people that the science behind climate change is real. In an Iowa State University annual poll of farmers — a traditionally conservative set — the share who believed in climate change last year was 74.3 percent, a significant jump from 67.7 percent in 2011, when the question was first asked.

      So as I see it both the media & public attitudes are appropriately focused on the climate change issue.

    • GoDeep says:

      News broadcasting is finite. Given the #1 issue for the great majority of Americans is the economy, and given that we still have one war going on, this is hardly surprising to me. That being said, the majority of Americans are still concerned abt global warming: From 2010 to 2013 the %age of Americans concerned with global warming rose from 52% to 58%.

      Even farmers are concerned:

      In the swing state of Iowa, recent extreme weather has convinced more people that the science behind climate change is real. In an Iowa State University annual poll of farmers — a traditionally conservative set — the share who believed in climate change last year was 74.3 percent, a significant jump from 67.7 percent in 2011, when the question was first asked.

      So as I see it both the media & public attitudes are appropriately focused on the climate change issue.

  3. Matthew Stevens says:

    I can’t blame the media, what are they supposed to say?

    “What’s new with climate change? We’ve got Rob on a glacier with our latest report.”
    “We’re still fucked, and our leaders aren’t doing shit. Back to you, Jane!”
    “Thanks Rob!”

    • UserGoogol says:

      Yeah, basically. The news is set up to report events as they happen. Global warming is not an event but an ongoing process, so it is simply not the sort of thing they cover.

  4. libarbarian says:

    Ha!

    The MOST important issue problem faced by humans is the existence of the tyrannical Gynocracy that rules from the shadows via fear and terror. Wake up! Take the Red-Pill!!!! Wooooo!!!!!

  5. libarbarian says:

    No coverage?

    What about Captain Planet reruns?????

  6. aimai says:

    I’m just so depressed about this shit I can hardly get up in the morning. Between this and the decline of the ability of people to earn a living wage (at the lowest end) or fully explore their intellect and their gifts for the benefit of humanity (at the upper end), or have safe and clean and wonder filled childhoods at all, my heart is just overwhelmed by despair.

    • Manta says:

      “Between this and the decline of the ability of people [..] to have safe and clean and wonder filled childhoods at all, my heart is just overwhelmed by despair.”

      What the heck are you talking about?

      “In 2011, the world average was 51 (5.1%), down from 87 (8.7%) in 1990″
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Child_mortality

      USA: 7/1000 in 2012, down from 15/1000 in 1980
      http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SH.DYN.MORT?page=6

      • Manta says:

        Ops, the data are about child mortality.

        • aimai says:

          I’m not talking about world wide infant mortality. I’m talking about the ability of children IN THIS COUNTRY to attend the best schools available without worrying about being shot, or their teachers being fired, or having no supplies for school, no art, no phys ed, no futures.

          • Manta says:

            I gave you the data in USA too.

            • aimai says:

              I’m not talking about mortality. Whats your point? Do you deny that our massive problems with income inequality, the near permanent recession, and the deskilling and temping of hte work force has had dire consequences both for our children’s schools (which are suffering) and for our children’s futures?

              • Manta says:

                Yes, they have some bad consequences; however, the country has also got richer, and that has good consequences.
                On the whole, it seems that children have a much better life today than 30 years ago.

                However, you have data making your point, show them.
                If not, the obvious conclusion is that you suffer from the usual “in my youth the sky was bluer and grass greener” syndrome.

                • aimai says:

                  Oh, no, I don’t think things were ever any better. I just think they are worse than they should be given how much money the country has that it pisses away on things that don’t matter, like the military.

                • Manta says:

                  On that we agree: we surely don’t live in a perfect word.

                  However, you explicitly talked about decline, while it’s quite clear that, at least as far as children are concerned, things have got better.

                • aimai says:

                  Oh, no. Decline in my original sentence referred to people’s ability to make a living wage and also for people at the upper level of education to fully use their gifts/skills. I am guilty of a run on sentence and a lack of parallelism in my construction. I don’t think–or care whether it is relevant to your opinions-that the situation of children has “declined” from some previous good state. I am merely expressing my horror that children in this country specifically are having their presents and futures destroyed because of a general societal unwillingness to pay what is necessary for them to have safe and, indeed, wonderful, childhoods. Children in large parts of this country to go school every day through terrible poverty, and their schools, since they are paid for by property taxes, are not able to make up the difference and don’t even try. I don’ tthink this is a decline and I’m not talkign about the kind of “Schools are failing” right wing shit–the cure is not charter schools or more testing. The cure is pouring money into all public schools to bring them all up to the level of the finest private schools. The cure is realizing and advocating for high cost education. Education should cost alot. Schools should cost a lot. Because what they need to do does cost a lot.

                • njorl says:

                  The country is richer, most people are poorer.

                  GDP per capita 1999 $38400
                  GDP per capita 2013 $45300

                  Median household income 1999 $56000
                  Median household income 2013 $51000

                  Net us wealth 1999 $39 trillion
                  Net US wealth 2013 $77 trillion

                  Median household wealth 1999 $84,000
                  Median household wealth 2014 $61,000

                  All in inflation adjusted dollars.

                • Erik Loomis says:

                  Christ, those are depressing numbers.

                • Anonymous says:

                  Say what? Net US wealth doubled in real terms in less than 15 years?

                  That’s incredible. And, as Erik says, horribly, horribly depressing when you look at the median figures.

                  Anyone have any ideas for how we do the political stuff that needs doing to reverse the distribution trend? Am I right in thinking that marginal tax rates / CG tax rates can do much of the heavy lifting here?

                • sibusisodan says:

                  Anonymous was me.

                • DrS says:

                  Higher marginal rates/capital gains should be part of it. Slashing them at the top is a good part of the reason that those numbers are as fucking depressing as they are.

                • Cheap Wino says:

                  Wow. I knew it was bad but didn’t realize it was that bad. Total wealth doubled yet median wealth down 28%. Could not be a more stark illustration of how fucked up our country is.

                  Back in my listen to a lot of Hannity and Limbaugh days I would hear Hannity gleefully proclaim that average income was higher than it had ever been, take that you Bush-hating libtards. Makes me angry still.

                • Manta says:

                  Thanks, njorl: I didn’t know things were that bad: median household income in free fall.

                  Is it a “temporary” thing (i.e.: a big hit after the start of recession), or did it start before?

                  Do you have a link where to find these kind of data easily?
                  (I would be interested for other countries).

                • DrS says:

                  Is it a “temporary” thing (i.e.: a big hit after the start of recession), or did it start before?

                  I’d really caution against calling anything “temporary” just cause it came with the recession.

                • Manta says:

                  Ah, sorry Aimai for misreading your point.

                  I think that the recognition that many things (in US and in the word) are better today than, say, 30 years ago (for poor people too) is necessary if we want to keep contact with reality and hence be able to change it.

                  Many other are worse though, as njorl pointed out: keeping distinct which is which is important.

                • GoDeep says:

                  Whether its a temporary thing or not is the big question, Manta. Is the country facing structural unemployment or is high unemployment just the result of a weak business cycle? HuffPo has a great graphic indicating the long term trend of median income from 1960-2012. (Handily it also breaks it out by race).

                  The thing is 1999 was a record year for US median income & it was seriously turbo-charged by Greenspan’s EZ money policies & the dot-com bubble. Median HH incomes are now where they were in ’96. It *seems* to me that economic & employment growth will improve in 2014 but its debatable.

                • njorl says:

                  The “Total Wealth” number can be misleading. First, it isn’t per capita (couldn’t find that number) second, (and much more importantly) it’s very volatile. The poorer half of the population have wealth in real estate. The richer half have wealth in financial instruments. This means the average can fluctuate wildly while the mean changes modestly.

                  Regardless, I think it is still a telling stat.

                • DrS says:

                  Whether its a temporary thing or not is the big question, Manta. Is the country facing structural unemployment or is high unemployment just the result of a weak business cycle? HuffPo has a great graphic indicating the long term trend of median income from 1960-2012. (Handily it also breaks it out by race).

                  It’s not really a question if we’re facing structural or cyclical unemployment except among those who have a vested interest in keeping unemployment high and of course the ‘moderate’ fluffers who love them some #slatepitch and pleasing their masters.

                  The real question is if our cyclical unemployment will, by lasting such a long time, touch off structural unemployment.

                • GoDeep says:

                  Whatevs, DrS…I lean toward the view that we’re facing some amount of structural unemployment…I just hope I’m wrong…

                • DrS says:

                  Whatevs, DrS…I lean toward the view that we’re facing some amount of structural unemployment…I just hope I’m wrong…

                  The good news is that regardless of what mix we’re facing, we’re taking steps to exacerbate it.

                • (the other) Davis says:

                  The country is richer, most people are poorer.

                  If you have a link for this, would you mind sharing it? This is the kind of data I like to keep bookmarked.

          • Hogan says:

            Yeah, but they’re not dead, so shut up.

            • N__B says:

              “I’m not dead yet.”

            • Manta says:

              If you bemoan that childhoods are less safe and less clean today, you better have some good explanation on why child mortality went down a lot.

              • Malaclypse says:

                My child is very safe. And unlike me at her age, if she walks to a friend’s house without a parent, there will likely be a DSS problem. When I was her age, snow days meant all-day snowball fights with no adult anywhere, and summers meant glorious freedom with friends. For my daughter, snow days and summer mean that she is completely dependent on adults to set up “play dates,” and failing that, she is stuck at home with no other children.

                Safety she has. And that has a price. And I kind of wish that I could shift the balance for her without knowing that it would only be a matter of time before I had to explain myself to a judge.

                • Manta says:

                  I don’t deal with kids: but are you sure that this is the case, and not paranoia on your part?
                  I find it difficult to believe that social services would care if you let your daughter play outside all day long without adults; but I’ve heard similar opinions/fears expressed by other people, so I think I am wrong on that.

                • Has this changed a lot in the last 15-20 years? I grew up in the 90s and by second or third grade I was allowed to walk myself to school, go do stuff with friends (as long as I phoned home), etc. This was in Portland, OR — it might be different in the big city.

                  I would think that it’s even easier for kids to go out on their own while keeping their parents up to date with ubiquitous cell phones today.

              • aimai says:

                I’m really not involved in this discussion at this point because the goal posts are moving so fast. I don’t think upper class kids and middle class children have “less safe” childhoods. But there is a rising tide of children living in impoverished neighborhoods and their childhoods are grim–I really don’t care about the comparison. A kid only has one childhood. I am not at all nostalgic for my grandfather’s stickball in an urban backlot. Or the freedom I had to walk to school. Thats simply irrelevant to the issues facing poor children in a society which increasingly doesn’t care what happens to them before, during, and afterschool.

              • PFH says:

                I too as well support improved maternal outcomes and lower infant moratlity and that’s why I support free universal healthcare an absolute right to guaranteed access to food, potable water, and sanitation worldwide.

      • Ronan says:

        I think there are 2 things (1) things are getting significantly better at the top and globally (in certain regions and still tenously) and (2) by a number of standards things are getting worse for the working class in advanced western countries. These two things are clearly related to my mind, so the problem is how to allow the first to continue and expand, while fighting against the second.
        The biggest issue in the west over the next few decades – to my mind – is how to reverse the domestic trends of increasing inequality, and how to invest in a meaningful way in the working class(especially considering ow.much working class political power has declined over the last few decades) and these two things are also clearly related
        So I’m with aimai, things could and should be much better
        (Writing on kindle so sorry this is disjointed)

        • Ronan says:

          Although equally I’m no nostalgist. Afaict things are still considerably better now than they were in the past, even during the social democratic highpoint that people seem to love so much

          • GoDeep says:

            I would agree with you, Ronan. 1999 was the high water mark for US median income so any year you compare to it will be lower. I do think we’re facing a structural re-alignment of employment due to ongoing globalization.

            And b/cs I think its due to globalization, I think making the tax structure more progressive will, at best, ameliorate the structural re-alignment. For the next 20yrs the money will go to the knowledge workers, and–given the high education & low incomes of Indians as far as the eye can see–even knowledge workers won’t be immune to this global realignment. So, while raising capital gains tax rates might be a nice sop to middle America liberals, if we really want to improve wages for middle Americans we *prolly* need a good injection of protectionism. Given that exports are *only* 9% of GDP I think we’d be better off protecting domestic industries even if it means reducing exports.

      • PFH says:

        And of course Manta let us not forget the nigh unprecedented plunge in infant mortality in China between 1950 and 1980 from 250 per 1000 live births to less than 50 per 1000. An irrefutable triumph for Marxist-Leninist-Mao Zedong thought; see also the massive gains in literacy in that same time period, especially female literacy.

        • PFH says:

          Not many can claim to have achieved the greatest improvement in human happiness & well being ever seen in history — starting from an impoverished, exploited, formerly colonized, war-torn country afflicted by endemic famine — and to have done so in 30 years. In short to quote the great general Lin Biao, “Long Live the Victory of People’s War!!”

        • Manta says:

          Your explanation for lower child mortality in US is that there are more abortions?

          (I quoted CHILD mortality (at 5 years), not INFANT mortality: seemed more germane to the question of safety and cleanness of childhood).

    • Manta says:

      See also:
      http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2012/08/kids-school-test-scores-charts-kevin-drum

      PS: I remember when kids would say “please” and “sir”: it’s clear that education got much worse!!!

  7. tt says:

    Is there any reason to believe that media coverage helps? I always get nervous when I see TV coverage of climate change because they typically cover it wrong (i.e., they cover the “controversy”, which just reinforces most American’s instincts to treat climate change as a political issue for which they should adopt the position of their tribe). Climate change got lots of coverage in 2009 because of the hacked emails, and I think that was probably harmful.

    • aimai says:

      Well, this is an interesting cautionary point and I kind of agree–mere coverage alone won’t help. One might argue that Fox style coverage and Limbaugh et al does more harm than good. But there’s a way in which coverage which takes climate change for granted would set the table for political action in the same way that the relentless right wing focus on the “problems” of the Obamacare website now have to be taken into account every time we talk about Obamacare. (I’m influenced in this by watching a democratic ad campaign rollout from somewhere red in which the candidate (a democrat who is pro the ACA) has to actually lead off by stating that she “saw the horrible problems with the website and fought to fix them.”) Enough of the right kind of coverage can turn something into an “issue” (the scare quotes there are to remind all of us that some things are not seen by the public as political issues at all, in the first place) that can be addressed in the legislative and regulatory fields.

      Climate itself is such an enormous and global thing that a special kind of coverage is needed to even get people to realize that if there is a problem there can be also be a solution.

      • tt says:

        Yeah. The taking “climate change for granted” point is key. If the media framed the debate as “what should we do about climate change” and invited RWers to give their inane solutions which won’t help anything and liberals to give their better solutions which still aren’t enough, it would at least be a victory of sorts. But even in 2014, when the scientific consensus is more than a decade old, that’s not the way mainstream TV news covers climate change.

        • Srsly Dad Y says:

          If our media had simply ripped off and reprinted the climate news that has appeared in the UK press (I really only read English) for the past decade+, I think we’d be way ahead. Artic circle melting away, coastal cities being swamped, all of that is old news there.

          • LeeEsq says:

            Only if enough people are exposed to them. Most people are very good at ignoring any sort of news even in the United Kingdom. The UK press might have been running great stories abotu climate change but do we have any evidence that its done something or that a higher percentage of the UK has a more accurate grasp on the situation than America?

            One of the few advantages of media life before cable and the Internet was that the networks and the radio stations had a gentleman’s agreement to air the news at the same time and treat it as a public service. That meant at certain times, the choice was news or nothing. This ain’t the case anymore. We make fun of Fox News viewers but technically they are better informed than most Americans about whats happening politically. We and they are both unusual in how interested we are in politics.

        • GFW says:

          Here’s what “taking climate change for granted” looks like on the Weather Channel. I was actually impressed. (Actually, it’s not entirely for granted because they feel the need to reference a global temperature series, but the overall tone is right.)
          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_T56Eh7tHUM

  8. Fawn says:

    Erik, do you still travel internationally every year?

  9. CaptBackslap says:

    It seems to me that the chance of preventing disastrous climate change through reducing carbon emissions is pretty low. Geoengineering is going to be a reality sooner rather than later, unintended consequences and all. Let’s hope it works well enough.

  10. JMP says:

    The general old age of network news audiences also means that climate change isn’t an important issue for many of them; I’ve certainly encountered a number of Baby Boomer types who realize that climate change is happening, but don’t really care if we do anything about it because things won’t get bad until after they’re be dead.

  11. justme says:

    When the leading science journal Nature publishes an article on the bewildering and unexpected cessation of global warming, maybe it’s time to rethink the climate science we have:

    http://www.nature.com/news/climate-change-the-case-of-the-missing-heat-1.14525?WT.ec_id=NATURE-20140116

  12. K says:

    Im not saying the climate isnt changing, it is, and has always been changing. To say man is 100% responsible for the change is like coming upon a blazing tool shed completely engulfed in flames and tossing a match in, and telling all your friends you burnt down a shed.

    • Allin58 says:

      Wow. Impressively poor analogy; here’s some reading for you.

      http://www.realclimate.org/index.php?p=87

    • JMP says:

      Sorry, but no matter how any times you assert that the Earth is flat, it’s still round.

    • giovanni da procida says:

      Im not saying the climate isnt changing, it is, and has always been changing. To say man is 100% responsible for the change is like coming upon a blazing tool shed completely engulfed in flames and tossing a match in, and telling all your friends you burnt down a shed.

      Similarly, there is no difference between pushing someone off the bottom step of the stairs and pushing someone off the side of a bridge. Both of them are going to fall for a bit and then eventually stop.

    • Malaclypse says:

      The junk merchant doesn’t sell his product to the consumer, he sells the consumer to his product. He does not improve and simplify his merchandise. He degrades and simplifies the client

  13. bobbo says:

    Wall to wall coverage on ESPN of the Australian Open. Big story is the insane heat, up to 111, worse than ever. Players collapsing, play suspended. They even mention the terrible wildfires. But not a single freaking word about global warming.

    • tt says:

      Linking temperatures at one specific time and place to climate change is dangerous both in terms of scientific correctness and strategy. It’s not always entirely unjustified, but it requires so many caveats and nuances that you will lose most of your audience. Climate change is a global and long-term phenomenon.

  14. K says:

    If it turns out that man can actually change the climate, i would like it to be about 50 degrees warmer here. 14 degrees right now, global warning my fat white ass.

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