Despite a heat wave that broke records across the United States, killed at least six people, and helped make July the hottest month in recorded history, the five major Sunday morning political shows aired only a combined total of two segments that included at least a substantial reference to climate change. This is a significant drop from June, when six segments were aired. None of July’s segments mentioned the heat waves that gripped much of America and Europe.
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), who is pushing the Sunday shows to offer more and better coverage of climate change, gave a speech from the Senate floor in May about the lack of climate coverage from major media outlets and the shallowness of the segments they do run. He released a scorecard on the shows' July performance:
Both substantive segments aired on July 14, and neither one was particularly informative. On the July 14 episode of ABC’s The Week with George Stephanopoulos, guest host Jonathan Karl pressed billionaire and presidential hopeful Tom Steyer about a hedge fund he ran that invested in coal mines and power plants in other countries, asking initially, “You basically built your fortune, did you not, in part through fossil fuels?” In explaining his rationale, Steyer brought up the need to address the climate crisis and the necessity of transitioning away from fossil fuels. Karl pressed again, “Are Democrats really going to rally behind somebody whose work continues to pollute the environment, even if you’re no longer making money from those investments? What you put into effect continues to contribute to climate change.”
On the July 14 episode of CBS’ Face the Nation, host Margaret Brenner engaged NASA Director Jim Bridenstine in a brief discussion about what NASA is doing to address climate change and how he communicates climate science to President Donald Trump.
Sunday shows failed to discuss the hottest June ever recorded or the nearly 200 million people who were affected by the July heat wave. They also failed to cover the ongoing demands for a dedicated climate debate from activists and many of the candidates themselves, who are responding to Democratic voters making climate change a top-tier issue.
August will again provide an opportunity for Sunday political show hosts to connect extreme weather events to climate change, highlight the lack of substantive climate discussion during CNN's recent two-night debate, and examine the candidates’ climate policies.