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STUDY: CNN Largely Ignores Major Climate Report's Warnings

Even Fox News Covered Climate Report More Than CNN -- But To Dismiss It

CNN devoted less than two minutes to a report by top international climate experts, who warned of hunger problems, coastal flooding and other calamitous impacts if climate change is left unchecked. The network's coverage stands in stark contrast to other cable news networks, which devoted an average of over 22 minutes to the report, and broadcast nightly news programs, some of which led with the report.

  • International Panel Releases Report Warning Of Catastrophic Climate Impacts

    IPCC Report: Climate Change Impacts Are Projected to Erode Food Security, Slow Down Economic Growth. On March 31, The New York Times reported on the findings of the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) about climate change impacts and adaptation, which supplemented a report released last year on the physical science basis of climate change:

    Climate change is already having sweeping effects on every continent and throughout the world's oceans, scientists reported on Monday, and they warned that the problem was likely to grow substantially worse unless greenhouse emissions are brought under control.

    The report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a United Nations group that periodically summarizes climate science, concluded that ice caps are melting, sea ice in the Arctic is collapsing, water supplies are coming under stress, heat waves and heavy rains are intensifying, coral reefs are dying, and fish and many other creatures are migrating toward the poles or in some cases going extinct.

    The oceans are rising at a pace that threatens coastal communities and are becoming more acidic as they absorb some of the carbon dioxide given off by cars and power plants, which is killing some creatures or stunting their growth, the report found.


    “Throughout the 21st century, climate-change impacts are projected to slow down economic growth, make poverty reduction more difficult, further erode food security, and prolong existing and create new poverty traps, the latter particularly in urban areas and emerging hot spots of hunger,” the report declared. [The New York Times, 3/31/14]

    NBC And MSNBC Feature Scientists In Report Coverage, While CNN Lags

    NBC Nightly News Leads With Climate Report, Continuing Improved Coverage. On March 31, NBC Nightly News led with the IPCC report, featuring an interview with two climate scientists who contributed to the report. NBC devoted more time to the study than either ABC World News or CBS Evening News. This coverage was consistent with an improving trend in NBC's climate coverage. In 2013, NBC Nightly News covered climate change four times more than it had in 2012 and gave greater time to scientists, according to an analysis by Media Matters. [Media Matters, 1/17/14; NBC, NBC Nightly News, 3/31/14]

    Al Jazeera And MSNBC Devote Far More Time To Climate Report Than CNN. CNN largely ignored the report in its daytime and primetime coverage. According to a search of internal TV archives, CNN devoted just 1 minute and 37 seconds to the report between 4 a.m. and 11 p.m. on March 31 and between 4 a.m. and 10 a.m. on April 1. In these news briefs, CNN did not host any guests on the topic. By contrast, MSNBC devoted nearly 27 minutes of coverage to the report, including a discussion with climate scientist Michael Mann on The Reid Report, and Al Jazeera devoted over 35 minutes to the report.

    Media Matters chart

    Fox News Dismissive In Coverage Of Climate Report. Even Fox News devoted more time to the IPCC report than CNN, but its coverage largely denied the danger of climate change. On Your World with Neil Cavuto, Claudia Rosett, a frequent U.N. critic, falsely suggested that the organization wanted to tax people for exhaling.  Later, Fox News host Bill O'Reilly suggested that “nobody really knows” whether climate change is a threat. The next day, Fox & Friends First highlighted that an outlier climate economist withdrew from the report. [Fox News, Your World with Neil Cavuto, 3/31/14; Fox News, The O'Reilly Factor, 3/31/14; Fox News, Fox & Friends First, 4/1/14]

    By Contrast, CNN Previously Outstripped Other Networks On First IPCC Report. CNN's coverage stands in sharp contrast to their coverage of the first IPCC report released last year, which the network covered in over 30 segments or mentions:

    Media Matters chart 2

    [Media Matters, 10/10/13]


    Media Matters searched internal TV archives and closed captioning for the word “climate” between 4 a.m. and 11 p.m. on March 31 and between 4 a.m. and 10 a.m. on April 1 for all Fox News, CNN, MSNBC, and Al Jazeera America shows. Media Matters also searched these archives for “climate” on March 31 for nightly news broadcasts on ABC, CBS, and NBC. Reruns and teases for upcoming segments were excluded.

    Olivia Kittel and Samantha Wyatt contributed to this report.