TV Media Ignore Extreme Weather Report

Last week the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a summary report on the risks posed by climate disasters. The report says climate change will likely worsen certain extreme weather events like heat waves, floods, droughts and storms.

This could be costly for the U.S., which has already experienced a record number of weather disasters this year, resulting in economic costs of almost $50 billion. The report discusses strategies for reducing vulnerability to extreme weather events.

The panel's findings have been reported by every major print outlet in the U.S., but have been almost entirely ignored by the television news media, including CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, ABC and CBS. The only mention of the U.N. report on a major TV news outlet was a segment on NBC Nightly News.

This is not the first time television networks have made time for stories that are less than newsworthy, but not for important developments in climate change science.

This is not surprising coming from Fox News, which systematically sows doubt about climate science and ignores evidence confirming that climate change is a real threat.

But this trend is especially problematic because television is still the primary source of news for most Americans.

And surveys suggest that inadequate and often inaccurate climate coverage has taken a toll. In August, a Rasmussen Reports poll found that 57 percent of adults believe there is significant disagreement within the scientific community about climate change - a five point leap from 2009. A 2010 survey found that regular Fox News viewers were 30 points more likely than those who never watched Fox to disagree with the statement, “Most scientists believe that climate change is occurring.”

In reality, the vast majority of scientists agree that human activity is impacting our climate. As the new report demonstrates, the consequences are severe, even more so if we do not begin to address our vulnerabilities to climate extremes.