How ESPN Is Mainstreaming Climate Change Denialism

ESPN hostsESPN announcers Brad Nessler and Jimmy Dykes mainstreamed the right-wing myth that cold weather in January disproves man-made climate change.

During the first half of a January 7 game, Dykes discussed a pattern of cold weather blanketing much of the United States and said he had observed a national television debate earlier over “whether or not global warming was still taking place.” While laughing Dykes said, “I listened to about 30 seconds of it, but the guy saying no it has not, I think he won the debate.” Nessler laughed in response. 

Regardless of whether Dykes and Nessler agree with the 97 percent of climate scientists who say that climate change is real and presents an immediate threat, or with climate deniers like Donald Trump, it's troubling that they would use their national platform to peddle right-wing myths. 

On Sunday, CBS's flagship news magazine, 60 Minutes, aired a controversial and sloppy report that completely ignored the pressing threat of climate change while downplaying the need to invest in clean energy. CBS defended its reporting, including the decision not to mention climate change, by citing what it referred to as the show's “rich history” of reporting on the topic. 

ESPN's broadcast of climate denialism only underscores the need for legitimate media organizations to treat the issue of global warming seriously and to make sure that it's part of the conversation. 

As a network devoted to sports, ESPN has a unique responsibility to treat climate change seriously. An August 2013 Scientific American article made clear that climate change can have a direct impact on athletes: 

“The climate's getting warmer so players are exposed to higher temperatures,” said Andrew Grundstein, a climatologist at the University of Georgia and a co-author of a 2012 study of heat related deaths in high schools nationwide. Across the country, deaths of high school football players due to heat nearly tripled from 1994 to 2009 compared to the previous 15 years, according to Grundstein's study. Heat illnesses in football players have multiple causes, experts say, but as the climate heats up, practices in Georgia - and around the country - are getting watered down just to be safe.

UPDATE (1/8/14): In response to criticism, Jimmy Dykes doubled down, tweeting, “God is in control of our climate. He does not make mistakes. Plus it's 3 degrees where I stand right now : )”

Dykes tweet January 8