How broadcast TV networks covered climate change in 2022
Breaking a decade-long trend of year-to-year fluctuation, corporate broadcast TV networks' climate coverage increased for the second consecutive year. However, climate coverage still accounted for just around 1% of all corporate broadcast programming in 2022, a figure that is woefully inadequate in the face of a worsening climate crisis.
In our annual analysis of broadcast news climate coverage, Media Matters found that morning, evening, and Sunday morning political shows on ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox Broadcasting Co. spent approximately 1,374 minutes — nearly 23 hours — discussing climate change. This is roughly equivalent to the high-water mark of nearly 22 hours that networks achieved in 2021.
The coverage was largely driven by another year of apocalyptic extreme weather events including brutal, record-shattering heat across Europe and Asia, famine exacerbated by both flooding and drought in East Africa, and historic flooding in Pakistan. In the U.S., extreme weather has exposed the vulnerability of our power system and its aging infrastructure and threatened water supplies for communities across the Southwest.
The consistent volume of coverage from 2021 through 2022 — after years of advocacy by climate journalists, activists, and researchers pushing for more and better climate coverage by TV news shows — was supported by commitments from corporate broadcast networks to cover climate through collaborative initiatives like Covering Climate Now and dedicated reporting during key climate events.
However, some problematic trends continued to materialize in the quality of corporate broadcast news coverage of climate change, including, for at least the sixth year in a row, an overwhelming proportion of non-Hispanic white men featured as guests in climate coverage, despite the disproportionate harm people of color suffer from climate change. Additionally, while broadcast networks are increasingly covering the impacts of, and potential solutions to, the climate crisis, they largely fail to explicitly name the primary drivers of global warming or the main impediments to climate action.
Top trends from climate coverage on broadcast TV news in 2022
- In 2022, total corporate broadcast news climate coverage slightly exceeded the high water mark set in 2021: Morning news shows, evening news shows, and Sunday morning shows on corporate broadcast TV networks aired nearly 23 hours of combined climate coverage in 2022 — a total of 1,374 minutes across 554 segments. This is roughly the same amount aired in 2021 (1,316 minutes across 604 segments) and more than triple the amount of climate coverage in 2020, when these networks aired just 380 minutes across 221 segments.
- ABC and NBC exceeded their peak coverage records set in 2021. While CBS aired the most coverage across its morning, nightly, and Sunday programming with over 8.5 hours of coverage in 2022, it fell short of its peak in 2021 (just under 9.5 hours of coverage). NBC aired just over 7.5 hours, while ABC aired over 6 hours of climate coverage — both network records.
- Nightly news had its highest volume of climate coverage since Media Matters began tracking this information in 2011. Nightly news shows on ABC, CBS, and NBC aired nearly 7 hours of climate coverage (404 minutes) across 195 segments in 2022, which is approximately 1 more hour of coverage than in 2021.
- PBS NewsHour’s volume of climate segments decreased slightly to 147 segments from its peak of 151 climate segments in 2021. The program still is a media leader in the depth and quality of coverage and its 147 segments in 2022 are approximately twice the amount aired by any of its corporate network counterparts. PBS NewsHour, however, is not included in the full data set as it is publicly funded and the format of the program is different than that of its corporate network counterparts.
- Morning news shows maintained their volume of coverage from the previous year. ABC, CBS, and NBC aired nearly 14 hours of climate coverage (821 minutes) across 363 segments on morning shows in 2021, which increased to just over 14.5 hours (871 minutes) across 322 segments in 2022.
- With 36 climate segments in 2022, Sunday political shows on ABC, CBS, Fox Broadcasting Co., and NBC saw their combined climate coverage drop by nearly half from its zenith of 60 climate segments in 2021. However, they still aired more than twice the amount of segments they did in 2020 (14).
- Global extreme weather was the biggest driver of climate coverage. Discussion of extreme weather events appeared in 41% of coverage, or 225 out of the 554 climate segments.
- The months from July through September, which represent peak extreme weather season, accounted for 48% of climate-related segments across morning, nightly, and Sunday programming.
- July had the most coverage of any month with 134 segments, or nearly a quarter of all segments.
- Climate change’s impact on infrastructure (including power grids) and on resources (specifically water) represented an emerging trend in coverage in 2022. Impacts related to our power system were mentioned 25 times, while impacts on water were mentioned 39 times.
- Other major climate stories, including the war in Ukraine (which rolled back global climate efforts), the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act, and COP27 did not garner adequate coverage. Climate was mentioned in relation to the war in Ukraine in only 20 segments; the vast majority of coverage of the landmark Inflation Reduction Act failed to detail the climate implications of the historic $369 billion allocated for climate action within the law, and overall the coverage accounted for 6% of network climate coverage; and coverage of the United Nations’ annual global climate negotiations decreased from 11% in 2021 to 2% of climate coverage in 2022.
- For at least the sixth year in a row, non-Hispanic white men dominated guests featured in climate segments. A whopping 57% of guest appearances on morning news, evening news, and Sunday morning shows — 374 out of 657 guest appearances — were made by non-Hispanic white men. Only 9% of guest appearances were made by women of color.
- In 2022, appearances by those most impacted by climate change rose to 201 from 107 guests in 2021 across morning news, evening news, and Sunday morning shows, which suggests that broadcast TV news is beginning to cover the climate crisis as a current rather than a future event.
- Despite the high volume of coverage, climate accountability and justice discussions were mostly lacking from TV news coverage. The term “fossil fuels” to describe what is driving planetary warming appeared in only 8% of climate segments.
- The humanitarian crisis in West Africa, resulting from a climate-induced famine, and inclusion of “loss and damage” at the COP27 negotiations prompted a limited discussion of climate justice across TV news programs. “Climate justice,” which refers in part to the fact that those most impacted by the climate crisis have historically contributed the least to it, was mentioned in just 18 of the 554 total segments.
The volume of corporate broadcast TV climate coverage increased slightly from 2021 to 2022, breaking a trend of falling coverage every other year
In 2022, combined climate change coverage across corporate broadcast morning news, nightly news, and Sunday morning political shows reached a record 1,374 minutes — nearly 23 hours. This is a slight increase from the previous record of 2021, when these networks aired a combined 1,316 minutes of climate coverage.
2022 was not only the best year for corporate broadcast TV news in terms of the quantity of climate coverage, but it also broke a discouraging trend in climate coverage: an “up” year in climate coverage being followed by a “down” year, with the networks failing to improve upon their volume of climate coverage from the previous year. This was the case from at least 2013 to 2019, when Media Matters’ climate studies focused on only nightly news and Sunday morning political show coverage. In 2020, Media Matters added morning news shows to its climate analysis, and the combined climate coverage across these networks’ news programs reached 380 minutes. This was followed by a nearly threefold increase in combined climate coverage from 2020 to 2021, and now a smaller increase from 2021 to 2022.
CBS led the way in terms of the volume of combined climate coverage in 2022, airing 524 minutes. While this is the second year in a row that the network has aired more minutes of climate coverage than its counterparts ABC or NBC, its coverage slightly declined from 2021, when it aired 569 minutes — an 8% decrease.
The most improved network was NBC, which aired 455 minutes of climate coverage in 2022. This represents a 19% increase in the volume of climate coverage from 2021, when NBC aired 383 combined minutes. ABC also improved upon its climate coverage from 2021 to 2022. It aired 376 minutes of coverage in 2022, which is up from 323 minutes in 2021 — a 16% increase.
ABC, CBS, and NBC sustained their high volume of climate coverage from 2021 to 2022 by deepening their commitments to covering the issue. For example, these three networks continued to be a part of the Covering Climate Now initiative that helps newsrooms produce better climate coverage. Additionally, all three networks ran special series on climate and environmental-related programming during the month of April in recognition of Earth Day.
Even though 2022 had the highest volume of climate coverage by corporate broadcast TV news shows, their nearly 23 hours of total climate coverage was just a tiny fraction — a little over 1% — of the approximately 107,000 minutes of overall broadcast news programming in 2022.
Nightly news shows aired nearly 7 hours of climate coverage — a 17% increase from 2021
ABC’s World News Tonight, CBS Evening News, and NBC Nightly News aired a combined 404 minutes of climate change coverage in 2022, marking a new record in terms of the volume of nightly news show climate coverage. These networks’ 404 minutes of climate coverage beat last year’s previous record of 344 minutes, which constitutes an increase of 17%.
Their 404 minutes of coverage also breaks the aforementioned trend of nightly news shows scaling back their climate coverage every other year. For example, the three nightly news programs aired 164 minutes of climate coverage in 2017, only to be followed by 55 minutes in 2018 — a 66% decrease. The trend continued in the following two years, with 151 minutes and 69 minutes of climate coverage in 2019 and 2020, respectively. This constituted a 54% decrease.
Not only did the combined volume of nightly news coverage increase from 2021 to 2022, but individually each program aired more minutes and segments of climate coverage in 2022 compared to previous years.
For the sixth year in a row, CBS Evening News led the way in terms of minutes of climate coverage. The program aired 148 minutes in 2022, up from 139 minutes in 2021. NBC Nightly News had the biggest increase in coverage, airing 147 minutes of climate coverage in 2022 compared to 113 minutes in 2021 — a 30% increase. ABC’s World News Tonight aired 108 minutes of climate coverage in 2022, up from 92 minutes in 2021. This marks the sixth consecutive year that World News Tonight has lagged behind its counterparts in terms of minutes of climate coverage. However, the program’s climate reporting this year builds on the enormous gain made in 2021 when its climate coverage increased by 667%, from just 12 minutes in 2020 to 92 minutes in 2021.
CBS Evening News also led in the number of segments aired, airing 69 in 2022 compared to 65 in 2021. ABC’s World News Tonight aired 64 segments in 2022 compared to just 57 in 2021, and NBC Nightly News aired 62 segments when compared to 59 last year. CBS Evening News was also the only program to air at least one climate segment a month in 2022. World News Tonight and NBC Nightly News did not air any climate segments during the month of March.
CBS also performed much better than its counterparts in climate coverage over the last quarter of 2022. The network aired 47 minutes of coverage across 23 segments between October and December, which followed 65 minutes of coverage across 29 segments between July and September. NBC and ABC, meanwhile, both had a precipitous decline in climate coverage during the last three months of 2022. After airing 91 minutes of coverage across 38 segments from July to September, NBC aired just 27 minutes of coverage across 11 segments from October to December. And after ABC aired 73 minutes of climate coverage across 40 segments from July to September, the network aired just a measly 13 minutes across 8 segments from October to December.
Weeknight episodes of PBS’ NewsHour were also analyzed for a comparison point with the nightly news programs on ABC, CBS, and NBC, but they are not included in the full data set. NewsHour has traditionally outperformed its corporate broadcast counterparts in both the quantity and quality of its climate coverage, and 2022 was no different. The program aired 147 segments in 2022, which is its second-highest number ever. It trails only 2021, when the program aired 151 climate segments.
NewsHour aired 21 segments in August, making that month the highest-number of segments aired in one month on broadcast nightly news shows. ABC, CBS, and NBC aired the most amount of their climate segments in July, with ABC airing 18, NBC airing 17, and CBS airing 15.
Morning news shows aired just over 14.5 hours of climate coverage in 2022
ABC’s Good Morning America, CBS’ Mornings and Saturday Morning, and NBC’s Today collectively aired 871 minutes of climate coverage in 2022. This is a slight increase compared to 2021, when these networks aired 821 minutes, and a huge increase from 2020, when these networks aired just 380 minutes of coverage.
2021’s 821 minutes came across 363 segments while 2022’s 871 minutes of coverage came across 322 segments — an 11% decrease in segments. The decline in segments in 2022 can be attributed to a lower amount of climate coverage being aired in the last several months of the year compared to the same period in 2021. For example, these three programs aired a combined 55 climate segments in September 2021, with many of them focusing on various California wildfires and Hurricane Ida. In September 2022, they aired just 23 segments. In November 2021, these programs aired a combined 61 segments, with many of them focusing on the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26). In November 2022, these programs aired just 25 climate segments despite the reoccurring climate negotiations (COP27) during that month.
The decrease in climate segments but increase in volume in 2022 shows that when these programs do cover climate, they are devoting a little bit more time to discussing the subject. The average length of a morning news climate segment was 2:16 in 2021; this improved slightly to 2:42 in 2022.
For the second year in a row, CBS led the way in terms of minutes and segments of climate coverage. The program aired 356 minutes of climate coverage across 112 segments, making up 41% of all morning news coverage. This is actually a slight decrease when compared to 2021, when the program aired 387 minutes of coverage across 137 segments — an 8% decrease in minutes.
Both NBC’s Today and ABC’s Good Morning America aired more minutes of climate coverage in 2022 compared to 2021. Today aired 278 minutes of coverage, up from 239 in 2021 — a 16% increase. Good Morning America had the biggest increase in minutes of climate coverage, airing 237 minutes in 2022 compared to 195 in 2021 — a 22% increase. Still, this marks the third year in a row that ABC has lagged behind its network counterparts in minutes of climate coverage.
Good Morning America was, however, the only morning news program to air more climate segments in 2022 than in 2021. The show aired 110 segments, which is up from 106 the year before. Today aired 100 segments in 2022, which is down from 120 segments in 2021.
CBS' Mornings and Saturday Morning were the only programs in 2022 to air over 60 minutes of climate coverage in a single month. These shows aired 83 minutes in July when climate-fueled extreme weather events battered the globe. July was also the high point of coverage for Today, which aired nearly 60 minutes of coverage. Good Morning America’s high point of coverage was 38 minutes in August. Nonetheless, Good Morning America still holds the record for the most minutes of climate coverage in one month – the show aired 84 minutes of coverage in November 2021, focusing primarily on COP26.
It is worth noting that CBS led its counterparts in morning show climate coverage even though the network does not have a traditional Sunday morning news talk show like Good Morning America and Today. CBS Mornings airs Monday through Friday for two hours, with CBS Saturday Morning airing for two hours on Saturday. It thus airs the fewest minutes of morning news shows. ABC’s Good Morning America airs for two hours Monday through Saturday, with the Sunday edition lasting for one hour. The length of ABC’s morning news show thus trails only NBC’s Today, which airs for three hours Monday through Friday, two hours on Saturday, and one hour on Sunday.
Sunday shows saw a precipitous drop in climate segments aired in 2022 compared to 2021
After a high-water mark in 2021 that saw the four major Sunday morning political programs on corporate broadcast networks — ABC’s This Week, CBS’ Face the Nation, Fox Broadcasting Co.’s Fox News Sunday, and NBC’s Meet the Press — air a combined 2.5 hours (151 minutes) of climate coverage across 60 segments, Sunday show coverage of climate change dropped precipitously in 2022, with a 40% decrease in climate segments and 35% decrease in time spent covering the subject. In total, Sunday morning political shows aired 98 minutes of coverage across 36 segments in 2022.
ABC’s This Week aired the most climate coverage among the Sunday shows in 2022 — 30 minutes across 12 segments, compared to 36 minutes across 12 segments in 2021. CBS’ Face the Nation aired 20 minutes across 8 segments, compared to 43 minutes across 18 segments in 2021. NBC’s Meet the Press aired 30 minutes across 7 segments, compared to 31 minutes across 13 segments in 2021. And Fox News Sunday was last with 18 minutes across 9 segments compared to 40 minutes across 17 segments in 2021. Only ABC’s This Week matched its total segments from last year, while NBC’s Meet the Press nearly matched its total minutes from 2021.
Nearly half of Sunday show climate segments (44%), or 16 out of 36, aired in July 2022. During that month, ABC’s This Week featured former Vice President Al Gore for a 6-minute segment on July 24, while NBC’s Meet the Press also featured Gore on July 24 for a 14-minute segment. This was the longest climate segment on a Sunday show since December 2018, when Meet the Press devoted an entire episode — 46 minutes — to climate change. Sunday morning political shows did not air any climate segments in May, September, or November of 2022, with November’s climate silence being especially notable because it was the month when COP27 occurred.
While climate coverage hit a record high in July, it was again inconsistent throughout the year
134 climate segments — a whopping 24% of 2022’s total climate coverage — aired during the month of July across morning news, evening news, and Sunday morning political shows on the corporate broadcast TV networks. These included 68 segments that aired on morning news programs, 50 segments that aired on nightly news shows, and 16 segments that aired on Sunday morning political talk shows. July’s 134 segments marks the highest amount of climate coverage of any single month ever documented in the history of Media Matters’ broadcast climate studies. Much of the coverage in July was driven by various extreme weather events across the globe, which included record-breaking heat and drought conditions in the U.S. and parts of Europe and Asia, and record-breaking flooding in parts of the U.S.
Biden’s climate plan, which later became the Inflation Reduction Act, also garnered coverage in July.
The second-highest volume month in 2022 was August, which featured 86 climate segments. Many of these segments continued focusing on various extreme weather events as well as the Inflation Reduction Act, the U.S. government’s largest climate investment in history. August’s 86 segments made it the third-highest month in terms of climate segments aired since Media Matters began analyzing climate data on the corporate broadcast morning news shows in 2020. The second-highest was 100 segments aired in November 2021, which mostly focused on COP26.
48% of all climate segments in 2022 came during the three-month period of July through September. In 2021, 42% of all climate segments aired in the three-month period from September through November.
Climate coverage in 2022 significantly decreased in the winter months. For example, nightly news shows aired just 14 segments from January until March — 7% of their 196 combined segments. Morning news shows didn’t fare much better, with just 46 of their 322 segments (14%) airing during this time period. December was also a poor month for nightly news and morning news shows in terms of climate coverage, with just 9 and 14 segments airing on those programs, respectively. Corporate broadcast networks must do a better job of centering climate change as the yearlong crisis that it is, and not just diving deep into it during the high-visibility crises in the summer months.
Guests featured in climate segments once again skewed white and male
There were 657 guest appearances on morning news, nightly news, and Sunday morning political show climate segments in 2022. These guests were either part of prerecorded network correspondent video reports, or appeared live on set to discuss climate change. Out of these 657 guest appearances, 525 were made by non-Hispanic white guests (80%) and 447 by men (68%). 374 were made by non-Hispanic white men (57%).
Guest data skewing heavily non-Hispanic white and male is part of a long-running trend in corporate broadcast TV climate coverage. In 2021, 82% of guest appearances were made by non-Hispanic white guests and 65% were made by men. In 2020, 92% were made by non-Hispanic white guests and 72% were made by men. Prior to 2020, Media Matters analyzed climate data only on nightly news and Sunday morning political shows — but even then, the gender and ethnicity information stayed consistent. In 2019, non-Hispanic white guests made up 90% of appearances and men made up 73%. Similarly in 2018, non-Hispanic white guests made up 91% of appearances and men made up 81%.
Climate change disproportionately impacts minority communities both in the U.S. and around the globe. The U.S. is also now more racially and ethnically diverse than ever, with Latinos accounting for more than half of U.S. population growth from 2010 to 2019. Yet it is still primarily non-Hispanic white men who are called upon to discuss climate change in broadcast TV climate segments.
Nightly news shows featured 215 guest appearances in 2022. 157 of them were made by men (73%) and only 58 were made by women (27%). Additionally, 170 were made by non-Hispanic white guests (79%) and only 45 by black people, Indigenous people, or people of color (BIPOC) (21%). In total, there were 130 appearances by non-Hispanic white male guests (60%), which is slightly down from 64% in 2021.
CBS Evening News featured 21 appearances by Black guests, Indigenous guests, or people of color (23%) and 26 guest appearances by women (28%) in nightly news climate segments in 2022. CBS led networks for both these metrics. However, this is still barely an improvement from 2021, when 21% of guest appearances on CBS Evening News were made by BIPOC and 24% were made by women. On NBC Nightly News, 17 guest appearances were made by BIPOC (18%), while 25 were made by women (27%). In 2021, just 15% of NBC Nightly News’ guest appearances were made by BIPOC and 28% were made by women. Meanwhile, ABC’s World News Tonight featured 7 appearances by BIPOC and 7 by women in climate segments (23%). In 2021, BIPOC and women each made up 20% of World News Tonight’s guest appearances.
CBS Evening News featured 7 appearances by Black guests in climate segments in 2022, all of whom were women. In 2021, only 4 Black women were featured across all nightly news programs. NBC Nightly News featured 10 Latinos who appeared as guests, 4 of whom were women. NBC Nightly News also featured the only Native American guest in a climate segment in 2022.
One notable segment came during the April 18 edition of NBC Nightly News, which featured climate biologist Monica Franco, the only climate scientist who is a woman of color to appear on a corporate broadcast nightly news program in 2022. Additionally, NBC conducted two separate interviews with Michael Regan, the first Black EPA administrator, on November 11 and December 22. CBS Evening News featured Ugandan climate activist Vanessa Nakate on November 10, as well as Kenyan climate activist and entrepreneur Charlot Magayi on December 5.
PBS’ NewsHour was slightly more diverse than its broadcast counterparts when it came to the gender and racial makeup of guests in climate segments. Out of 189 named guests in 2022, 113 appearances were made by men (60%) and 76 were made by women (40%). 128 guest appearances were by non-Hispanic white people (68%) and 61 (32%) by BIPOC. Of the guests that appeared in PBS’s climate segments, 18 appearances were made by Black guests (10%), a rarity when the total percentage of Black guests on nightly news shows is usually in the single digits. Additionally, 11 guests who appeared were Latino; 11 were of South Asian origin; and 8 were Native American.
Notable segments on NewsHour included Washington Post Associate Editor Jonathan Capehart, who is Black, appearing numerous times throughout the year to discuss climate issues; climate activist Mustafa Santiago Ali appearing on the July 5 edition; and Native Alaskans who are on the frontlines of climate change appearing on the March 14 edition. Additionally, on August 30, Pakistan's Minister of Climate Change Sherry Rehman discussed the climate change-fueled flooding in her country.
Morning news shows featured 384 guest appearances in climate segments in 2022. 256 appearances were made by men (67%) and 128 were made by women (33%). 313 guest appearances were made by non-Hispanic white people (82%) while only 71 were made by BIPOC (18%). In total, there were 215 appearances by non-Hispanic white men, making up 56% of all guests who appeared (compared to 55% of all guests in 2021). Additionally, there were just 30 appearances by women of color as guests in these segments (8%).
CBS featured 37 guest appearances by BIPOC people (21%) and 52 by women (30%) on its morning show. In 2021, 16% of guest appearances were made by BIPOC and 35% of guest appearances were made by women. NBC featured 19 appearances by people of color as guests (17%) and 40 by women (37%). In 2021, 14% of its guest appearances were made by people of color and 38% of guest appearances were made by women. ABC featured just 15 appearances by people of color (15%) and 36 by women (36%) on its morning show. In 2021, 25% of its guest appearances were made by people of color and 34% by women.
There were only 10 appearances by Black women and 5 by Latina women in morning news show climate segments in 2022.
Sunday morning political shows in 2022 again skewed toward non-Hispanic white men, with 34 out of 58 guest appearances made by men (59%) and 24 out of 58 made by women (41%). This represents an improvement from 2021, when 74% of guest appearances were made by men and just 26% were made by women. In 2022, 41 out of 58 guest appearances were made by non-Hispanic white people (71%), and 17 by people of color (29%). Again, this represents a slight improvement from 2021, when 83% of guest appearances were made by non-Hispanic white people and only 17% by people of color.
Those most directly impacted by climate change see an uptick in appearances
As in 2021, corporate broadcast TV news programs heavily featured individuals who are suffering under both the short and long-term impacts of the climate crisis. A total of 201 guest appearances across nightly, morning, and Sunday morning political news shows in 2022 were coded as members of a frontline community, impacted community, or first responders.
A total of 129 guest appearances were made by people identified as impacted community members, which Media Matters defined as those who are impacted by a single climate event or ongoing climate impacts that have affected their livelihood or caused destruction to their home, local infrastructure, and local economy. Meanwhile, 48 appearances were made by those categorized as frontline community members, which Media Matters defined as someone who lives in a community that is situated in proximity to fossil fuel infrastructure or uniquely affected by ongoing climate impacts on their health, livelihood, or local economy. Additionally, 24 were made by those categorized as first responders, which Media Matters defined generally as law enforcement, medical and emergency personnel, or firefighters who responded to help survivors in the aftermath of an extreme weather event or, in the case of firefighters, are on the frontlines of combating climate change-fueled events.
This is a large increase from 2021, when just 107 guest appearances were categorized as members of a frontline community, impacted community, or first responders.
Most of these appearances (116) occurred in the summer months of June through August. 66 appearances occurred in July climate segments alone, when extreme weather events including heat, drought, and wildfires ravaged certain parts of the globe. November also had a sizable number of these appearances, with 25 occurring over the course of the month in segments on a number of topics, ranging from an ongoing drought in East Africa to tornadoes in the American southeast to climate change impacts on Alaskan Native communities.
There was also much more diversity among guests who were categorized as being from impacted communities or frontline communities or being first responders. This more accurately represents the disproportionate climate impacts that some of these communities face. For example, women are far more likely than men to suffer the worst impacts of climate change, with a 2020 analysis of peer-reviewed studies finding that “women and girls often face disproportionately high health risks from the impacts of climate change when compared to men and boys.”
In 2022, 90 of the 201 impacted community guest appearances were made by women (45%). Additionally, 80 (40%) were made by BIPOC.
Nightly news shows featured 77 guest appearances made by people categorized as impacted community members, 16 by guests categorized as frontline community members, and 12 by guests categorized as first responders. Of these 105 total guest appearances on nightly news programs, 62 were made by men, 43 were made by women, 66 by non-Hispanic white people, and 39 by people of color. Morning news shows featured 53 appearances by guests categorized as impacted community members, 27 by people categorized as frontline community members, and 12 by people categorized as first responders. Of these 92 guest appearances on morning news shows, 50 were made by men, 42 by women, 56 by non-Hispanic white people, and 36 by people of color. Sunday morning shows featured just 5 appearances by guests categorized as frontline community members. All 5 appearances came on the July 3 edition of Face the Nation in a segment about flooding in South Sudan. Sunday shows did not feature any impacted community members or first responders.
The share of guests identified as scientists, activists, and politicians continues to fall in climate segments
A total of 130 guest appearances were made by scientists on climate segments in 2022 across morning, night, and Sunday morning political shows. Of those, 27 were made by climate scientists (4% of overall guests). In 2021, there were 47 appearances by climate scientists as guests, making up 9% of overall guest appearances.
Nightly news shows featured a total of 44 appearances by scientists in climate segments in 2022. 12 of these were made by climate scientists, and only 3 were by women. In 2021, there were 23 appearances by climate scientists on nightly news programs. Morning news shows featured 85 appearances by scientists. 14 of these appearances were made by climate scientists. All climate scientists who appeared were non-Hispanic white people; 11 of the appearances were made by men, and only 3 by women. In 2021, there were 22 appearances by climate scientists on morning news shows. CBS’ Face the Nation was the only Sunday morning political show to feature a climate scientist; Joellen Russell appeared during its July 24 episode. In 2021, Sunday shows featured 2 climate scientists as guests.
Multiple people appeared twice in 2022, including Dr. Michael Mann, director of the Center for Science, Sustainability & the Media at the University of Pennsylvania; Dr. Kevin Perry, a professor of atmospheric science at the University of Utah; Dr. Robert Gillies, Utah’s state climatologist; and Dr. Matthew Lachinet, a professor of geology at the University of Nevada Las Vegas.
A total of 30 appearances were made by guests who were categorized as politicians in 2022 (5%). 29 of these appearances were made by politicians who were categorized as left-leaning, and 1 as right-leaning. In 2021, there were a total of 34 appearances by politicians, representing 6% of guest appearances.
Nightly news shows featured 9 appearances by politicians, all of which were left-leaning. Morning news shows featured 5 politician appearances, all of which again were left-leaning. Sunday morning political shows featured 16 appearances by politicians. 15 were made by left-leaning politicians. The only right-leaning politician to appear on a Sunday morning show was Miami Mayor Francis Suarez, who appeared on the July 24 edition of Face the Nation to discuss how Miami is preparing to deal with climate change.
Across all programs on morning news, nightly news, and Sunday morning political shows, California Gov. Gavin Newsom appeared 6 times, the most out of any guest featured. Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego appeared twice on back-to-back editions of CBS Evening News on July 22 and CBS Saturday Morning on July 23 to talk about what Phoenix is doing to adapt to extreme heat.
A total of 75 appearances were made by guests coded as advocates (11%), which Media Matters defined as those who work on climate efforts as part of a nongovernmental organization. There were only 8 climate activist appearances featured in 2022 (1%), which Media Matters defined as unpaid individuals working on climate action or individuals who are part of an organization that primarily uses civil disobedience tactics to fight climate change. This is down from 20 in 2021, which made up 4% of guests.
Nightly news shows featured 29 appearances by advocates and only 2 by climate activists in climate segments. The activists included Ugandan activist Vanessa Nakate on the November 10 edition of CBS Evening News and activist Jamie Cummings on the November 11 edition of NBC Nightly News. Both segments discussed COP27. Morning news shows featured 42 appearances by advocates and 6 by activists. All 6 appearances by activists were made by women, and 5 of them were made by women of color. Sunday morning political shows featured 4 appearances by advocates and none by activists. 2 of these advocate appearances were made by Al Gore, who appeared on the July 24 editions of This Week and Meet the Press.
In addition to these codes, Media Matters also categorized 56 guest appearances as made by experts in their particular field. This shows news programs are drawing on a wide variety of knowledgeable people who work on climate issues. 50 guest appearances were categorized as state or local officials. 20 appearances were made by federal administration officials. Of these 20, U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm and United States special presidential envoy for climate John Kerry each appeared 3 times across various programs. Finally, 4 appearances were made by guests categorized as celebrities; they appeared in segments discussing their climate and environmental activism.
Gavin Newsom was the guest who appeared the most (6 times). Jennifer Holmgren, CEO of pollution converter company Lanzatech, appeared 5 times — all in segments that focused on Prince William and Princess Kate’s Earthshot Prize. American theoretical physicist Michio Kaku appeared 4 times; forest ecologist Garrett Dickman appeared 4 times; and former U.S. Vice President and current climate advocate Al Gore appeared 4 times.
There were several key drivers of corporate broadcast TV climate coverage in 2022
Extreme weather, Biden administration climate legislation, climate impacts, and electric transportation were the major drivers of climate coverage in 2022.
Billions of people around the world in 2022 suffered through intense and climate change-fueled extreme weather events. During the summer, extreme heat affected large swaths of the U.S., western Europe, and China. Several U.S. states were hit with record-breaking triple digit temperature highs, while July saw the hottest nights in U.S. history. The United Kingdom had its hottest day ever recorded on July 19, while an ongoing heat wave in China ended up being “the most severe ever recorded in the world.”
The severe heat also exacerbated drought conditions. Europe experienced its worst drought in 500 years, while parts of the Mississippi River and other rivers in the Northeast U.S. went dry. In addition to these U.S. droughts, the megadrought in the western U.S., which is the worst in 1,200 years, is affecting the water supplies of tens of millions of people. Meanwhile, the Horn of Africa is undergoing what NASA calls “the longest and most severe drought on record, threatening millions of people with starvation.”
In addition to droughts, flooding also wreaked havoc in the U.S. and Pakistan. The United States saw five separate 1-in-1,000-year flood events in less than a month, while Pakistan experienced significant rainfall that led to horrific flooding and a humanitarian disaster, leaving 33 million people displaced and nearly a third of the country submerged. Back in the U.S., Hurricane Ian battered Florida, rapidly intensifying to a Category 5 storm and dumping record rain in parts of Florida. Additionally, the U.S. once again had an above average wildfire season, with data through early September showing it to be the most active wildfire season in a decade.
Scientists say the fingerprints of climate change are all over worsening heat, drought, precipitation, hurricanes, and wildfires, and that these events will continue to worsen unless the world moves to rapidly reduce its dependence on fossil fuels.
In recent years, corporate broadcast TV networks have been slowly improving when it comes to linking climate change to extreme weather events. In 2021, extreme weather made up a large portion of broadcast TV’s climate coverage, accounting for 35% of combined morning news and nightly news segments. 2022 was no different, as extreme weather coverage made up 41% of total morning and evening news climate segments. Most of this coverage, however, came during the traditional extreme weather season of the summer months. Outside of these months, these networks still generally failed to make the connection between climate change and extreme weather.
Nightly news shows aired 100 segments that featured discussion of extreme weather events in 2022, making up just over half of the 196 nightly news climate segments. 66 of these segments aired during the summer (June 21 to September 21), with 35 in July alone. ABC’s World News Tonight aired 37 extreme weather segments, which constituted 57% of its 65 overall climate segments; CBS Evening News aired 32 extreme weather segments, which constituted 46% of its 69 overall segments; and NBC Nightly News aired 31 extreme weather segments, which constituted 50% of its 62 overall segments.
The majority of extreme weather climate segments focused on events occurring within the U.S. The ongoing western drought was mentioned in 19 segments throughout the year. General extreme heat and wildfires were mentioned in 16 segments each; flooding in 12 segments; and hurricanes in 11 segments. In addition to U.S.-focused segments, the European heat wave and wildfires that occurred during the summer were mentioned in 11 segments. The megadrought in the Horn of Africa was mentioned in 6 segments, and flooding in Sudan in 1 segment. Finally, the extreme heat in China was mentioned in 1 segment.
U.S. heat waves in July were the single most discussed specific event, at 8 times. The European July heat wave was mentioned 6 times, as was Hurricane Ian. Western U.S. drought mentions were more varied — the drought’s effects on the Colorado River were mentioned 7 times; its effects on Lake Mead (located in the states of Arizona and Nevada), and California as a whole, 3 times each; and the Great Salt Lake (located in Utah) twice.
Morning news shows aired 117 segments that featured discussion of extreme weather events in 2022, making up 36% of their overall segments (322). 65 of these segments came during the summer, with 39 in July alone. CBS morning shows (Mornings and Saturday Morning) aired 48 extreme weather segments, which constituted 43% of its 112 overall climate segments; NBC’s Today aired 36 extreme weather segments, which constituted 36% of its 100 overall segments; and ABC’s Good Morning America aired 33 extreme weather segments, which constituted 30% of its 110 overall segments.
Like the nightly news shows, the majority of the coverage in the morning shows focused on U.S. extreme weather events. The U.S. megadrought was mentioned in 23 segments; both wildfires and extreme heat in 17 segments; and both floods and hurricanes in 11 segments. The extreme heat and wildfires in Europe were mentioned in 14 segments. Unlike the nightly news shows, there were 12 mentions not tied to a specific region but that instead addressed how climate change is generally worsening extreme weather events.
July heat waves in the U.S. were mentioned in 14 segments. The July heat waves in Europe, the western U.S. drought’s effects on Lake Mead, and Hurricane Ian were mentioned in 9 segments. Morning news shows also discussed more areas hit by flooding. While the nightly news shows mentioned only the Death Valley and Kentucky flooding, morning news shows also linked climate change to the Dallas flooding, the St. Louis flooding, and general Mid-Atlantic flooding.
Sunday morning political shows aired 8 segments that featured discussion of extreme weather events segments in 2022. This number is smaller than in 2021, when extreme weather was featured in 13 segments on Sunday morning shows. Extreme weather events in the U.S. were mentioned in 6 segments in 2022, with one mention of Europe’s summer wildfires and heat. The July 24 edition of Meet the Press, which featured an interview with Al Gore, was the longest segment in 2022 that referenced extreme weather.
While the uptick in linking the climate crisis to extreme weather reporting was a promising sign in 2022, these climate links still made up only a small portion of ABC’s, CBS’, and NBC’s total extreme weather reporting. Two Media Matters studies from July illustrate this point. Morning and nightly news shows on these networks aired 16 segments on the Washburn Fire from July 9 to July 11, and only 6 of them (38%) mentioned climate change. Later, these same shows aired 27 segments on extreme heat from July 16 to 18; only 10 of them (37%) mentioned climate change. These figures were even worse when it came to hurricane coverage. News shows on these networks aired a whopping 178 combined segments over four hours on Hurricane Ian (and to a smaller degree, Hurricane Fiona) between September 24 to 28. Only 7 of them (4%) mentioned climate change.
These networks also missed key opportunities to connect climate change to other devastating extreme weather events in 2022. A punishing and record-breaking heat wave struck India and Pakistan in March and April, with India reporting its hottest month since records began. If broadcast networks reported on this event, none of those segments mentioned climate change. This also holds true for reporting on Nigeria’s October floods, which were the worst in a decade and displaced over a million people. Given the size and scale of China’s summer heat wave, it's disappointing to see that climate change was mentioned only once (on the August 18 edition of NBC Nightly News) in the reporting on the event.
As the Indian subcontinent’s extreme heat and Nigerian flooding examples show, climate change does not just influence extreme weather events in the summer months — it is a year-round phenomenon. Networks need to do a better job of making this connection.
Biden climate actions: The Inflation Reduction Act
While numerous climate actions undertaken by the Biden administration received some attention from corporate broadcast TV networks in 2022, the one that was reported on the most was the legislative framework that ended up becoming the Inflation Reduction Act.
On August 16, the president signed the legislation into law. Among things like tax reform and lowering prescription drug prices, the package allocates roughly $369 billion toward clean energy and climate change efforts, making it the largest federal investment in the fight against climate change in U.S. history. All told, it aims to reduce 2030 greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. by 40% (relative to 2005 levels). Some of the key provisions include expanding access to clean energy, providing funding for low-income families for home energy efficiency upgrades, tax credits for electric vehicles, and money for sustainable agricultural practices and nuclear power.
The bill’s passage came as a massive surprise to observers, as Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) pulled his support for the earlier iteration of the bill, the Build Back Better Act, in late 2021. Negotiations began again in the summer of 2022, with secret negotiations occurring between Manchin and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer on July 18. And in less than a month, the bill passed both chambers of Congress and was signed into law.
Approximately 35 segments across morning news, nightly news, and Sunday morning political shows mentioned the Inflation Reduction Act. These segments all aired after July 27. A further 24 segments mentioned the Build Back Better Act (or Biden climate legislation more broadly), which all aired before July 27. Together, these made up nearly 68% of all segments that discussed the Biden administration’s climate actions (87), and 11% of all climate segments in 2022.
Nightly news shows mentioned the Inflation Reduction Act in 12 segments and mentioned the previous iteration of the bill (before July 27) in 6 segments. This made up roughly 9% of their overall climate coverage in 2022. ABC’s World News Tonight mentioned the climate legislation 8 times, airing 6 specific segments on the IRA. CBS Evening News mentioned it 5 times, airing 4 specific segments on the IRA. NBC Nightly News also mentioned it 5 times, airing only 2 specific segments on the IRA. The longest nightly news segment on the IRA was nearly 4 minutes on the August 8 edition of World News Tonight.
Morning news shows mentioned the Inflation Reduction Act in 17 segments and the previous iteration of the bill in 7 segments. This made up 7% of their overall climate segments. CBS morning shows mentioned the climate legislation in 11 segments, with 7 specifically on the IRA. ABC’s Good Morning America mentioned it in 10 segments, with 8 specifically on the IRA. NBC aired only 3 segments, with 2 on the IRA. NBC’s Today did, however, air the longest morning news segment on the IRA, which lasted just over 3 minutes on the July 28 edition.
Sunday morning political shows mentioned the IRA in 6 segments and the previous iteration of the bill in 11 segments. This constituted 47% of their overall climate segments. 6 segments came on July 17, just before negotiations on the plan that would become the IRA restarted. ABC’s This Week mentioned the climate legislation in 6 segments, with only one on the IRA. Fox News Sunday mentioned it 5 times, with 3 specific segments on the IRA. CBS’ Face the Nation mentioned it 4 times, with only 2 segments on the IRA. NBC’s Meet the Press mentioned it 3 times, with just one segment on the IRA. The longest segment on any Biden climate legislation occurred on the April 17 edition of This Week, where Build Back Better was discussed.
Corporate broadcast TV networks did not devote nearly enough time to discussing the climate provisions of the IRA
The 35 IRA segments that discussed any of the climate provisions of the bill at length were a drop in the bucket compared to the overall amount of discussion around the IRA. A Media Matters review of Nexis transcripts from July 27 to December 31 found well over 100 segments devoted to discussing the legislation. Many of these segments made a reference to the historic climate provisions only in passing, glossing over them and other notable aspects of the legislation like corporate tax increases and health care reform. Discussions of the IRA were generally framed around how Manchin came to support it, whether Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) would support it, and what pushback against the bill was coming from congressional Republicans.
Rarely was there extensive discussion of the significance of the climate provisions in the IRA. The legislation could have been put into context with the failed history of climate legislation in the U.S., with Biden’s ambitious plans for climate action, with the urgency of the climate crisis, or with how the climate provisions of the bill could possibly lead to stronger action on climate change abroad. Additionally, the only notable guest with a relevant climate background who discussed the IRA climate provisions in any detail was EPA Administrator Michael Regan on the November 11 edition of NBC Nightly News. Most segments featured network correspondents talking about the IRA, with interspersed clips of senators sharing their thoughts on the legislation.
As the biggest climate investment in U.S. history, and as a landmark legislative package with massive implications for the development of a cleaner energy economy, the climate provisions of the IRA deserved far more attention than they received from corporate broadcast TV news.
Other Biden climate actions
Along with the IRA and Build Back Better, two other Biden administration climate actions in 2022 received a considerable number of mentions. Biden’s July 20 speech in Massachusetts where he called climate change a “clear and present danger” and initiated several actions to tackle it received 9 mentions across all programs. Many of these mentions occurred in segments on the brutal heat wave that hit the U.S. in July. There were also 6 general references to the Biden administration’s general goal of a 50% emissions reduction by 2030. Additionally, his Earth Day executive order protecting old-growth forests received 3 mentions.
It’s clear that climate change is amplifying extreme weather events like heat waves, wildfires, drought, and floods. These events lead to cascading impacts on human health, critical resources and infrastructure, and the natural world — many of the things that we take for granted.
For example, the megadrought in the western United States is leading to water shortages, threatening access to clean drinking water for millions of people. Drastic steps were taken on this front in August, when the federal government issued water cuts in several states. Worsening heat waves are straining the electrical grid, leading to more power shortages. In general, the U.S. power grid is unprepared for the impacts of climate change.
Drought and extreme heat also affect agricultural production all around the world, as drier weather leads to more failed harvests. Drought and extreme heat also make it easier for wildfires to spread and affect forests and trees, which can help absorb carbon dioxide. All of these extreme weather events have an associated economic fallout as well, with business often taking a hit and entire communities requiring varying degrees of reconstruction.
Outside of the aforementioned climate impacts on certain extreme weather events, broadcast TV networks did a decent job of mentioning various other climate impacts to their viewers. Climate change’s impacts were on water, the power grid, public health, agriculture, sea level rise, and the economy were mentioned in 32% of all climate segments in 2022 — 178 out of 554 segments.
Nightly news shows mentioned climate change’s impacts on water 19 times; impacts on power and the electric grid 16 times; impacts on agriculture 15 times; impacts on public health 13 times; and the economic impacts of climate change 10 times. Additionally, general ocean impacts were mentioned 9 times, while sea-level rise and impacts on trees and forests were mentioned 8 times.
Morning news shows mentioned the economic impacts of climate change 20 times; its impacts on agriculture, public health, and water 19 times each; and its impacts on the grid 8 times. Impacts on mammals, birds, and bugs were mentioned 21 times; impacts on warming ocean waters 20 times; and impacts on sea level rise 11 times.
Climate impacts aside from extreme heat, drought, and flooding did not make up a huge portion of Sunday morning political shows. General worsening climate impacts were mentioned 4 times, while economic impacts and impacts on water, public health, and the power grid were mentioned 1 time.
Climate solutions: electric transportation
Corporate broadcast TV networks are doing a better job of reporting on climate solutions in their general climate change coverage. For example, while only 19% of their climate reporting on nightly news and Sunday morning political shows in 2017 and 2018 mentioned solutions, this number jumped to 34% in 2021.
While Media Matters will release its final 2022 climate solutions reporting figures in a separate study, the overall tally of solutions coverage will look similar to that of 2021. In reviewing coverage of climate solutions in 2022, one solution stood out: electric transportation.
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the transportation sector is the largest single source of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, generating roughly 27% of emissions in 2020. The rapid electrification of the U.S. vehicle fleet could lead to a large decline in these emissions. At the federal level, the IRA allows for certain individuals and businesses to qualify for a tax credit of up to $7,500 when buying an electric vehicle. The Biden administration is also sending $1 billion to school districts in order to help accelerate the adoption of electric school buses. At the state level, California passed legislation in August banning the sale of new gas-powered cars by 2035. Other states are beginning to follow suit, including Oregon and Washington. Finally, major car companies are planning to bolster their electric fleets in the coming years, with Ford and General Motors hoping to have 40-50% of their total vehicle sales come from EVs by 2030.
Electric transportation as a climate solution was mentioned in 49 segments across morning news, nightly news, and Sunday morning political shows in 2022. Nightly news shows specifically mentioned electric transportation in 19 out of their 195 total climate segments in 2022, making up 10% of those shows’ overall climate segments. CBS mentioned electric transportation in 7 of its segments, while ABC and NBC mentioned it 6 times each.
Several notable segments stand out, including an interview with GM CEO Mary Barra on GM’s electric plans on the January 29 edition of CBS Weekend News, and a discussion combating some myths around the idea that electric vehicles are only for elites on the April 23 edition of NBC Nightly News.
Morning news shows mentioned electric transportation in 26 of their 322 total climate segments, making up 8% of their overall climate segments. CBS and ABC each mentioned electric transportation in 9 segments, while NBC mentioned it in 8 segments. 3 ABC segments mentioning transportation-based solutions occurred during the week leading up to Earth Day, with ABC’s chief meteorologist Ginger Zee taking an EV road trip across multiple states to bring attention to EVs.
Sunday morning political shows, meanwhile, mentioned electric transportation in 4 segments. 3 of these came on Face the Nation.
Most of these segments were about electric vehicles or charging infrastructure. There were a few exceptions, however, including the April 15 edition of NBC’s Today, which highlighted developments in electric airplanes.
COP27 and the war in Ukraine should have been key drivers of climate coverage, but weren’t
In November 2021, COP26 in Glasgow was a key driver of broadcast TV climate coverage. This made sense, as it was one of the most significant global climate conferences to date. Nightly news shows mentioned it in 24 segments, which was 13% of their overall climate coverage. Morning news shows mentioned it in 40 segments, making up 11% of their overall coverage.
COP27 took place in November 2022 in Egypt and was a similarly high-profile, high-stakes climate summit. It even ended with a commitment to create a historic fund that compensates poorer nations for the disproportionate climate effects they experience. Despite the importance of this event, nightly news and morning news shows covered the event much less compared to 2021. Nightly news shows covered COP27 in just 6 of their 195 climate segments in 2022 (3%), while morning news shows covered it in just 8 of their 322 segments (2%).
Another major story that has huge ramifications for climate change is the war in Ukraine. The Russian invasion in February 2022 set off a global energy crisis, sending gas and oil prices rocketing. It also led to “a gold rush for new fossil fuel infrastructure” at a time when scientists say that the world needs to dramatically cut its usage of fossil fuels in order to stave off the worst effects of climate change. However, despite the initial scramble for fossil fuels at the outset of the war, the war has also incentivized many countries to accelerate their investment in clean energy. Energy policy expert Jason Bordoff recently reiterated these points, stating that the war is “probably going to have a negative impact on emissions in the near term, but a positive impact in the longer term.”
While there were many opportunities for corporate broadcast TV networks to discuss the war in Ukraine in a climate context, they unfortunately largely stayed silent on the issue: only 20 of the 554 total climate segments (4%) mentioned the war in a climate context. 13 of these 20 segments came on Sunday morning political shows. 5 came on CBS morning shows, while two came on NBC Nightly News. Perhaps the best segment came on the March 26 edition of CBS Saturday Morning, where they explicitly mentioned the war’s role in potentially expediting the world’s shift to clean energy.
Climate justice and accountability got shorted in 2022 climate coverage
Broadcast TV news had the opportunity to hold those most responsible for planetary warming accountable and to explicitly identify the main driver of climate change: the burning of fossil fuels. However, networks largely failed to make these connections for viewers.
The term “fossil fuels” to describe what is driving planetary warming was mentioned in only 8% of climate segments (42 of 554). Far fewer discussed obstruction to climate action. A mere 2% (12 of 554) of climate segments identified those blocking efforts to address climate change. The majority of those 12 (8) discussed Republican opposition to climate action. For example, during a segment on NBC’s Sunday Today with Willie Geist that enumerated the multiple and concurrent extreme weather events in the summer of 2022, the reporter noted:
The planet has warmed two degrees Fahrenheit since the late 1800s as we continue to burn fossil fuels that create heat-trapping gases. President Biden wants to cut those emissions in half by the end of the decade, but his plans for increasing renewable energy and electric vehicles have been thwarted by Democratic Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia … and congressional Republicans. Many no longer denying climate change, but they're not acting either.
Only 2 segments identified the fossil fuel industry as a barrier to climate action, despite clear evidence that major corporations like ExxonMobil have been undermining efforts to address climate change for decades. One was an interview with actor and activist Jane Fonda on the July 19 edition of ABC’s Good Morning America. While talking about her climate activism, she pointed out, “In spite of all the actions that people have taken, we can't get good legislation passed because the fossil fuel industry has a stranglehold over our government.” Al Gore in a July 24 interview with Chuck Todd on Meet the Press also pointed out the role of the industry in blocking legislation both through lobbying and attempts to influence public opinion, saying, “We have big money playing much too large a role in our politics, lobbyists for the fossil fuel industry. And they`re still running all of these advertisements trying to convince people that it's not that bad, or they`ve got this; don`t worry about it.”
There were 18 climate segments in 2022 that discussed climate impacts through a justice lens, which is the same amount as in 2021 — though it’s still far too few. A plurality of the 18 segments discussing climate justice in 2022 came in the context of COP27 coverage (7 segments) and covered the inclusion of “loss and damage” at the annual climate negotiations. Other discussions of climate justice aired during reporting about the humanitarian crisis in West Africa (4), which resulted from a climate-induced famine; the role of redlining in creating disproportionate climate impacts on minority communities (2); how pollution disproportionately affects minority communities (2); the impact of the climate crisis on Native American communities in the U.S. (2); and how lack of investment in climate resilience is impacting communities of color in a segment about the Jackson, Mississippi, water crisis.
The humanitarian crisis in West Africa generated the second most climate justice coverage. Reporters often characterized the victims of famine as the “faces of climate change,” as ABC World News Tonight host David Muir did on the September 26 edition. NBC correspondent Keir Simmons in his report on North Kenya’s drought remarked on the November 14 edition of NBC Nightly News, “They were once simple farmers with fertile land. They did not cause climate change.”
The West African famine, as well as the catastrophic flooding in Pakistan, formed the backdrop for last year’s global climate negotiations, where “loss and damage” financing, considered a step forward in both acknowledging and addressing global climate injustices, was taken up for the first time in the conference's history. At least half of the 12 segments on COP27 discussed the implications of loss and damage. CBS Mornings co-host Tony Dokoupil put it succinctly on the November 10 edition, stating, “Poorer countries who did not contribute the most to climate change want financial help from wealthier nations who did." As did correspondent Kelly Cobeila, who, covering COP27 for NBC Nightly News on November 11, noted, “Developing countries devastated by climate disasters like floods and drought are demanding the big polluters like the U.S. help foot the bill.”
2 segments discussed the role played by the racist policy of redlining in perpetuating disproportionate climate impacts on historically Black and brown communities in the U.S. As part of its Earth Week coverage, NBC’s Today aired a segment on how communities in Los Angeles are coping with extreme heat conditions, noting that “the communities that are, were formerly red-lined are oftentimes 5, 6, 7, up to almost 13 degrees Fahrenheit hotter.” ABC’s Good Morning America aired a similar segment — centered around extreme heat and Los Angeles communities — on the July 23 episode of the program. The ABC correspondent reported, “Many heat islands are in Black and brown communities, some a result of redlining a way to widen the gap in financial access and wealth between these neighborhoods in these cities.”
In total, climate justice segments accounted for only 3% of climate coverage on corporate broadcast TV news — 18 out of 554 total segments.
Media Matters searched transcripts in the Nexis and SnapStream databases for ABC’s Good Morning America, World News Tonight, and This Week; CBS’ Mornings, Saturday Morning, Evening News, Weekend News, and Face the Nation; NBC’s Today, Nightly News, and Meet the Press; Fox Broadcasting Co.’s Fox News Sunday; and PBS’ NewsHour for any of the terms and any derivations of the terms “climate,” “global warming,” “global heating,” “global temperatures,” “warmer planet,” “warming planet,” “planet warms,” “warmer globe,” “warming globe,” “globe warms,” “rising temperatures,” “hotter temperatures,” “green new deal,” “emissions,” “greenhouse gases,” or “net zero” from January 1 through December 31, 2022.
We included any segment when climate change was the stated topic of discussion as well as news rundowns that included a substantial mention of climate change, which we defined as a paragraph or more of a news transcript or a block of uninterrupted speech by a host, anchor, or correspondent. We also included weather reports, which we defined as instances when climate change was mentioned in an extreme weather report by a meteorologist in front of a green screen. We also included instances of a guest mentioning climate change in a network correspondent segment if the context of the segment was clearly about a climate, energy, or environmental issue.
When counting guest appearances, we included network employees, including paid contributors and analysts, if they appeared as part of a roundtable discussion on a Sunday morning political show. We did not include teasers if they were for segments that aired later on the same program. This review does not include “person on the street” interviews, in which an unnamed person in a transcript spoke briefly, as guests; however, in the previous iterations of this study, we included “person on the street” interviewees as guests.
We timed identified segments using the Kinetiq video database or Youtube if a network posted the segment to that website.
We rounded all times to the nearest minute and all percentages to the nearest whole. To determine the total program time, we averaged running time without commercials for a sample of each program.
All charts by Molly Butler of Media Matters.