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STUDY: CNN Skimps On Coverage During Climate Week

CNN aired only a third as much coverage as MSNBC on the United Nations' Climate Summit and related events including the historic People's Climate March. Even Fox News aired over twice as much on the subject compared to CNN -- though much of its coverage mocked or dismissed the events.

  • NYC's Climate Week Brings World Leaders, Businesses Together To Pledge Global Action

    New York City Hosts Climate Week, Including United Nations Summit. Ambassadors and top officials from countries around the world, along with business and industry leaders, met at the United Nations' Climate Summit in New York City during the week of September 22. From the Climate Summit's website:

    As part of a global effort to mobilize action and ambition on climate change, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is inviting Heads of State and Government along with business, finance, civil society and local leaders to a Climate Summit in September 2014, New York.

    This Summit will be a different kind of Climate Summit. It is aimed at catalyzing action by governments, business, finance, industry, and civil society in areas for new commitments and substantial, scalable and replicable contributions to the Summit that will help the world shift toward a low-carbon economy.

    The Summit will come one year before countries aim to conclude a global climate agreement in 2015 through the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Although the 2014 Climate Summit is not part of the negotiating process, countries have recognized the value of the Summit, including by welcoming the Secretary-General's efforts in a Decision of the Doha climate conference in 2012. [ClimateWeekNYC, 9/23/14]

    People's Climate March, Largest Action Of Its Kind, Called For Strong Action On Climate Change. On September 21, two days before the U.N. summit, hundreds of thousands of activists march the streets of Manhattan to send a message to the world leaders to act on climate change. According to Politico, it was “by far the largest climate-related protest in history,” with an estimated 400,000 attendees. [Politico, 9/21/14]

    Several Important Pledges Resulted From The Summit:

    • ThinkProgress reported that over 30 countries pledged to “at least halve the rate of loss of natural forests globally by 2020 and... end natural forest loss by 2030.” Several companies also endorsed the deal. [ThinkProgress, 9/23/14]
    • Six top energy companies agreed to cut their methane emissions through the United Nations' framework, according to the Wall Street Journal. [Wall Street Journal, 9/22/14]
    • Chinese officials reiterated their plans for a nationwide carbon market. Reuters recently reported that carbon emissions in Beijing have dropped since the city implemented a pilot carbon market one year ago. [Reuters, 9/26/14; Reuters, 9/29/14]

    On Climate Week, CNN Aired Less Coverage Than Other Top Cable Networks 

    CNN Offered Half As Much Coverage As Fox News. Of the three top cable networks -- CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC -- MSNBC offered by far the greatest amount of coverage of the U.N. climate summit, with a total of approximately one hour and 55 minutes of airtime devoted to the summit and related events. Fox News aired one hour and 20 minutes, and CNN aired approximately 37 minutes.


    CNN Previously Ignored U.N.'s Groundwork Report On Climate Change. CNN's relative lack of coverage during climate week mirrors the network's treatment of a top consensus report on the impacts of climate change, released by the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) on March 31. CNN devoted only one minute and 37 seconds of coverage to the report, far less than MSNBC's 27 minutes and Al Jazeera's 35 minutes of coverage. The report was the second of three installments from the IPCC that form the groundwork of the U.N.'s discussion at this week's summit and in the conferences ahead. [Media Matters, 4/1/14]

    But CNN Offered No False Balance On Climate Change -- An Improvement From Recent Coverage. CNN aired no false balance on the scientific basis of climate change while reporting on last week's events, hosting only guests who accept that climate change is real and manmade. Previously, an analysis from Union of Concerned Scientists found that throughout 2013, CNN hosted eight segments featuring debates on whether or not climate change is happening. And in May 2014, a Media Matters analysis found that 19 percent of their coverage of a landmark federal report on climate change cast doubt on the science. [Union of Concerned Scientists, April 2014; Media Matters, 5/9/14]

    Much Of Fox News' Coverage Attacked The Summit And Related Events. A majority* of Fox News' coverage reported on climate week negatively, by attacking Leonardo DiCaprio as being a “hypocrite” for speaking out on climate change at the summit, attacking protesters for littering at the march, casting doubt on the summit's effectiveness, or criticizing potential climate policies as expensive or harmful to the poor.

    • On September 22, Fox News' Your World with Neil Cavuto featured a panel debate during which Cavuto and two panel members cast doubt on the fact that global warming is real. [Fox News, Your World with Neil Cavuto, 9/22/14]
    • During the September 23 edition of Fox News' The Five, co-host Greg Gutfeld inaccurately warned that the climate policies discussed at the summit are a way for “rich people” to deny resources to the poor. [Fox News, The Five, 9/24/14 via Media Matters]
    • The September 24 edition of Outnumbered also pushed the false meme that climate change policies will disproportionately harm the poor. During the segment, co-host Sandra Smith derided Leonardo DiCaprio as an “extremely rich man basically trying to impose policies and change policies that are mostly going to affect people that are worth much less than him. And that have a hard time making ends meet, that are going to affect them way more than anybody else.” Co-host Harris Faulkner agreed, calling it “a real moral issue.” [Fox News, Outnumbered, 9/24/14]
    • Sean Hannity hosted a “climate change hysteria” panel on the September 24 edition of his show, leading in with video of DiCaprio's U.N. speech, suggesting that he “stick to the day job.” During the panel, guest Bernard McGuirk stated: “Al Gore and Leo DiCaprio, these two bloated, gas-guzzling gavones lecturing us on our carbon footprint is like Ray Rice lecturing us on how to treat women. It's obscene”:

    METHODOLOGY: Media Matters searched video archives via TV eyes for “climate” from 5 a.m. to midnight for September 21 to 28. Reruns and teases for upcoming segments, and segments unrelated to climate week actions and activities, were excluded from this study.

    *Fox segments and mentions were classified as negative if they mocked climate protesters or activists, dismissed climate change as a serious threat, or criticized climate policies as too expensive or harmful for the poor.

    Connor Land contributed to this report.