Bolstering observations made by at least one media critic this week, Public Citizen showed in a new report on Friday that news reports largely ignore the link between the climate crisis and the extreme heat that is currently enveloping cities and regions all over the world.
The consumer advocacy group’s report (pdf), “Extreme Silence,” found that from January 1 to July 8, only about seven percent of cable news reports on record high temperatures mentioned the climate crisis. Meanwhile, less than a fifth of such reports in the top 50 most-read American newspapers addressed climate change.
“Climate change is already harming Americans, and soon it will pose an existential threat,” David Arkush, managing director of Public Citizen’s climate program, said in a statement. “But most Americans still think of the problem as distant, hurting people long in the future or in faraway places. The media’s failure to cover climate has a big role in that complacency. We need much better reporting if the public is going to wake up and demand action in time to prevent catastrophe.”
A poll conducted by Gallup earlier this year found that only 45 percent of Americans think the climate crisis would have an impact on them or their communities in their lifetime. In fact, research shows that the warming earth and resulting sea level rise has already forced at least 17 American communities from their homes.
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“We need much better reporting if the public is going to wake up and demand action in time to prevent catastrophe.” —David Arkush, Public CitizenMore Americans may understand the urgency of the situation if major newspapers and news programs discussed the leading cause of extreme weather while reporting on heatwaves, hurricanes, droughts, and wildfires, argued Public Citizen in its report.
“This review identified some notable exceptions and models how best to cover climate in the context of extreme heat events,” reads the report. “Overall, however, U.S. news outlets continue to tell only half the story. These exceptions need to become the norm if the public is going to wake from its slumber on climate change in time to take the bold action we urgently need to avoid catastrophic harm, and possibly even an existential threat to the U.S., later this century.”