Skip to main content

Why are the billionaires always laughing?

Because they know the corporate media will never call bullshit on their bullshit.

Why are the billionaires laughing?

It’s easy to laugh when the corporate press treats you as a glorious success instead of the epitome of a broken social order. Billionaires laugh because they know the corporate media prefers to fawn over them rather than hold them to account.

Today, we ask you to support our nonprofit, independent journalism because we are not impressed by billionaires flying into space, their corporations despoiling our health and planet, or their vast fortunes safely concealed in tax havens across the globe. We are not laughing.

We are hard at work producing journalism for the common good. With our Fall Campaign underway, please support this mission today. We cannot do it without you.

Support Our Work -- Join the small group of generous readers who donate, keeping Common Dreams free for millions of people each year. Every donation—large or small—helps us bring you the news that matters.

Corporate Media 'Failed' to Connect 2017's Extreme Weather to Climate Crisis: Study

"We can't fix the climate crisis if we aren't talking about it. It's critical that the media start reporting on the crisis with the quality and quantity it merits. We're talking about the greatest challenge of our time."

Jake Johnson

"Given the gravity and urgency of the climate crisis, as well as a surfeit of relevant, newsworthy developments, one would expect U.S. media to report on climate and clean energy issues daily," Public Citizen's David Arkush writes. (Photo: Public Citizen)

Despite the fact that 2017 saw a flurry of devastating and "record-shattering" hurricanes, enormously destructive wildfires, and extreme droughts, a new report by Public Citizen published on Friday concludes that major American media outlets "largely failed" to connect these weather events to the broader global climate crisis.

"Given the gravity and urgency of the climate crisis, as well as a surfeit of relevant, newsworthy developments, one would expect U.S. media to report on climate and clean energy issues daily."
—David Arkush, Public Citizen

Titled "Carbon Omission: How the U.S. Media Underreported Climate Change in 2017" (pdf) and written by Public Citizen's climate program director David Arkush, the analysis takes an in-depth look at the 2017 weather coverage of more than a dozen prominent newspapers and television networks, from the New York Times to the Denver Post to the Fox News Network.

"Given the gravity and urgency of the climate crisis, as well as a surfeit of relevant, newsworthy developments, one would expect U.S. media to report on climate and clean energy issues daily," Arkush writes at the outset of his report.

However, a closer look revealed that more often than not last year, the opposite was the case.

While coverage of hurricanes, wildfires, and other major weather events frequently dominated newspaper headlines and television segments in 2017, the "proportion of pieces that mentioned climate change in climate-relevant contexts was decidely low," Arkush writes—even though scientific research has frequently demonstrated the link between climate change and extreme weather.

After scouring news coverage through LexisNexis and conducting "a separate targeted search of major outlets," Arkush discovered that:

  • "Pieces on record heat were most likely to mention climate change, and even there the rate was just 33 percent";
  • "Pieces on record or historic drought mentioned climate 24 percent of the time";
  • News articles on "historic rainfall" mentioned climate a mere 10 percent of the time";
  • Articles on "record or historic wildfires or floods mentioned climate just nine percent of the time";
  • Just eight percent of stories discussing growing mosquito populations mentioned climate  change, including 12 percent of pieces from major outlets";
  • Despite the historic nature of 2017's hurricane season, only "four percent of pieces discussing Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Maria, or Nate made the connection to climate change"; and
  • "Just nine percent of stories mentioning climate change also mentioned mitigation or solutions."

Extreme weather throughout the U.S. and across the globe over the past several months led one analyst to call 2017 "the year climate change began to spin out of control," but the media's failure to "connect the dots on evidence right in front of our faces" has left many consumers of U.S. news uninformed about the link between climate change and these disastrous events, Arkush argues.

"Most Americans report that they rarely hear about climate change in the news, and rarely discuss the issue with friends or family," Arkush said in a statement accompanying his report. "We can't fix the climate crisis if we aren't talking about it."

In recent days, climate change has been in the news quite a bit—but for all the wrong reasons. Last week, President Donald Trump cited the extremely cold weather being felt in the eastern U.S. as evidence that the world could "use a little bit of that good old global warming."

With Trump and the Environmental Protection Agency under the leadership of Scott Pruitt working tirelessly to challenge the overwhelming scientific consensus on human-caused climate change and dismantle the safeguards against its devastating consequences, Arkush concludes that it is "critical that the media start reporting on the crisis with the quality and quantity it merits."

"We're talking about the greatest challenge of our time," he writes.


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don't survive on clicks. We don't want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can't do it alone. It doesn't work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do. Without Your Support We Simply Don't Exist.

'And Maybe More': Biden Says He's Open to Reforming Filibuster to Win Voting Rights

"It's a simple choice between a free America or one chained by the past," said one advocate. "Our democracy hangs in the balance."

Julia Conley ·


In Face of Planetary Emergency, US Climate-Related Financial Risk Report Denounced as 'Pitiful' Failure

"Finding consensus between those who see or don't see our climate reality," said one critic, "is not democracy in action: it's homicidal."

Jon Queally ·


Schumer Endorses 'Inspiring Community Leader' India Walton as Buffalo's Next Mayor

The U.S. Senate majority leader's move comes as some key New York Democrats refuse to back the democratic socialist.

Jessica Corbett ·


'Who Will You Throw Overboard?' Manchin Targeted for Trying to Sink Democratic Agenda

West Virginians gathered at the senator's yacht to demand that he stop blocking the "popular and needed" Build Back Better package.

Jessica Corbett ·


'We Shouldn't Do It at All': Manchin Admits He's the Enemy of Democrats' Ambitions

The right-wing West Virginia Democrat and fossil fuel investor has previously confessed his intent to quash his own party's sweeping $3.5 trillion Build Back Better package.

Brett Wilkins ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.


Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo