On Al Jazeera's The Listening Post, Media Matters' Lisa Hymas explains need for journalists to connect climate change to extreme weather
Segment cites Media Matters research on failure of ABC and NBC to discuss how climate change worsens hurricanes and heat waves
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"Climate change can seem like a really distant or theoretical problem," Media Matters Climate and Energy Program Director Lisa Hymas explained on the October 21 episode of Al Jazeera's The Listening Post. "But when there's extreme weather, that's a real opportunity for the media to talk about climate change and how it affects extreme weather and exacerbates extreme weather."
The segment cited Media Matters research showing that U.S. media outlets frequently miss opportunities to explain how climate change worsens weather disasters. A 2017 study found that ABC and NBC both completely failed to mention climate change during their coverage of record-breaking Hurricane Harvey. And a 2018 study found that while ABC, CBS, and NBC aired 127 segments on a summer heat wave that swept across the U.S., only one of those segments noted that climate change is a driver of extreme heat.
In the Listening Post piece, Hymas also explained that media outlets often blame climate change on individuals when in fact much planet-warming pollution can be attributed to a few fossil fuel companies. She cited a 2017 Carbon Majors Report that found that just 100 companies are responsible for 71 percent of the industrial greenhouse gases that have been emitted since 1988.
LISA HYMAS: The media too often talk about how we are responsible for climate change. But the fact is, a report last year found that 100 corporations are responsible for about 71 percent of the greenhouse gases that have been emitted since 1988. So this is not just a problem of me, or a problem of you. There are companies -- oil companies, natural gas companies, coal companies -- who have waged disinformation campaigns. They have tried to downplay and distort the science. They have got politicians in their pockets. So this is not something that should be blamed on individuals or voters or consumers. We need journalists to be looking at the bigger picture. We don't just need companies to be slightly greening up their supply chains or using a little bit more renewable energy. We need to completely overhaul and remake our energy system, our industrial systems. We need massive change to these systems.
Here is the full October 21 Listening Post segment:
MEENAKSHI RAVI (LISTENING POST EXECUTIVE PRODUCER): That climate change isn't the most covered ongoing news story in the world is a reflection of just how many times the opportunity is missed. In the U.S. alone, freak weather incidents over the past few years would have justified it being in the headlines every day. However, the link between climate change and weather incidents that are increasing in intensity and frequency is often never made.
A 2017 study by the D.C.-based Media Matters group into the coverage of Hurricane Harvey found that over a span of two crucial weeks, two main [broadcast] news outlets, ABC and NBC, didn't air a single segment mentioning climate change and its link to such weather events. This study isn't the only one of its kind by Media Matters. In July this year, it found the coverage of the heat wave across the United States followed a similar pattern.
HYMAS: We looked at reporting on the three big TV broadcast networks and found that those programs mentioned the heat wave 127 times and only one of those mentioned climate change.
This is a real problem and a missed opportunity. Climate change can seem like a really distant or theoretical problem. But when there's extreme weather, that's a real opportunity for the media to talk about climate change and how it affects extreme weather and exacerbates extreme weather.