Sunday morning political shows featured two substantive climate segments in August, and both aired on the same program, ABC’s This Week with George Stephanopoulos. The other four Sunday shows did not air a single substantive segment about climate change despite the climate crisis accelerating before our eyes.
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) has been pushing the Sunday shows to offer more and better coverage of climate change. In May, he gave a speech from the Senate floor about the lack of climate coverage from major media outlets and the shallowness of the segments they do run. And today, Whitehouse released a scorecard on the shows' August performance:
The climate segment during the August 11 episode of This Week was the more substantive of the two as ABC News chief White House correspondent Jonathan Karl conducted a wide-ranging interview with former Vice President Al Gore. Karl’s questioning allowed Gore to discuss the climate crisis from an international, economic, and political perspective.
This Week’s other substantive climate exchange came during the August 25 episode, which included a roundtable discussion with host George Stephanopoulos and panelists Yvette Simpson, CEO of Democracy for America, and Rahm Emanuel, former mayor of Chicago. Simpson noted that “the Amazon is on fire and people are really worried about climate” in her larger answer about presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden. Stephanopolous pivoted away from this opportunity to discuss Brazil’s Amazon fires and broached the subject of presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT) recently released climate plan. However, Stephanopolous ignored the specifics of the plan and chose to frame his question to Emanuel around the cost of climate action, ignoring the scale of the climate crisis and the cost of inaction:
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS (HOST): You make a good point about the Amazon but, Rahm, let me take this question to you. The Bernie Sanders plan I think is $16 trillion.
RAHM EMANUEL: Yes.
STEPHANOPOULOS: We may be heading into a recession. If you look at the programs, whether [Sen. Elizabeth] Warren or Sanders, whoever has on college debt, on housing, on Medicare for All, you’re talking about tax increases, potentially in the face of a looming recession. Is that something Democrats can run on?
EMANUEL: Well I mean, the big challenge there for Bernie Sanders is you literally -- I mean, $16 trillion -- I mean, you can see the cash register ad. It’s not hard, and there’s like an hour and a half left in the debate here. I mean that is a big hit.
As the above exchange illustrates, the Sunday morning political shows either ignored or, at best, briefly mentioned the climate consequences of the ongoing Amazon fires. They also ignored the climate implications of the recently reported historic Greenland ice melt and of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s announcement that July was the hottest month on record for the planet. The Sunday shows also failed to cover both grassroots efforts to get the Democratic National Committee to sponsor a climate debate and the DNC’s controversial decision not to do so.
Sunday morning political shows will have several opportunities in September to discuss climate change and climate policy. The Amazon fires are still burning. Hurricane Dorian grazed Puerto Rico and is headed toward South Florida this weekend. CNN is hosting a climate town hall September 4 for Democratic presidential hopefuls who were able to reach at least 2% in four DNC-approved polls, while MSNBC is the media partner of a climate forum hosted by Georgetown University and the website Our Daily Planet on September 19 and 20. The event’s organizers have invited all of the “declared 2020 presidential candidates from both political parties,” and the network’s hosts will moderate the forum. And from September 20-27, youth climate activists will lead a global climate strike to draw attention to the climate crisis.