FAIR.org (or Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting) have made a discovery that the media focuses almost entirely on severe and dangerous weather, and hardly at all on the changing climate. They have noticed that most forms of media tend to report deaths, damages, and recovery, but hardly anything on how the changing climate affects these storms. But that also doesn’t mean that the public doesn’t have their suspicions. FAIR claims that:
“If news reports are failing to consistently discuss climate change in the context of extreme weather, that’s not to say the public does not make such links … the American public sees a link between extreme weather and climate change. More reporting that connected these dots could bolster public support for policies to address climate change.”
And they’re absolutely right. More media coverage “connecting the dots” would bridge the gap between reporting disasters, and collecting scientific data. This would allow the media to show the current struggle against extreme weather, and analyze the coinciding data being recorded, making possible links to the changing climate.
This graph created by FAIR’s Peter Hart shows how many news stories they report in red, and how many may involve climate change. Less than 4% of all reported news includes climate change, which is hardly enough for an issue as important as this. News Stations like CBS, ABC, and NBC all focus on more dramatic stories, attempting to increase their numbers, rather than discussing real issues.
Another problem arising is that when the media does happen to focus on extreme and severe weather, people often get the misconception that all of this is directly related to the increase in global temperature. Not because of the science that researchers are doing on the situation, but because the media throws so much at our faces, it causes us to make rash assumptions that are not often backed by valid information. This makes it incredibly hard to decipher the true facts from the media’s jargon intended to “beef up” their news stories.
Even with the conscious effort to add more discussion about climate, what they end up reporting is seldom actually about the climate itself. NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams stated that that “Our climate is in the news tonight,” as he opens his nightly news coverage. As the broadcast continues, most of what is talked about has a lot to do with the weather, but not necessarily with climate change, or the correlation between the two. One may speculate that that may be because it’s very difficult to report about climate change and the effect it may be having on the weather. Others might say that because there is still so much uncertainty, it’s hard to gauge what would be beneficial to the public. Because this topic is so difficult to conclude, news experts are putting climate change and the effects it may or may not have on severe weather, “On the back burner”, if you will, to try and hold out for a major event or measurable change that would be worth reporting to a general public that typically has little to no interest if there’s nothing big to be interested about.