As wildfires continue to rage across the western United States and hurricanes barrel towards the East Coast, a new report out Thursday says voters want the media to do a better job at covering the climate crisis and connecting the dots between extreme weather events and climate change.
"The media has a responsibility to inform viewers of the connections between climate change and the increasingly unstable world around them," wrote Dr. Genevieve Gunther, Danielle Deiseroth, and Marcela Mulholland in a summary of the research conducted by Data for Progress and End Climate Silence. "It's not just climate activists and policy wonks that want to see this kind of coverage; our polling shows that a broad-base of voters do too."
While plenty of coverage of extreme weather events such as hurricanes exists, what does not is the connection to the climate crisis in the same reporting, the authors wrote. For example, ABC, CBS, and NBC aired a combined 50 segments on Hurricane Laura, yet not one connected the storm to climate change.
"Media coverage is critical in determining how the public perceives climate change," they continued. "To give voters the information they need to make political decisions in an increasingly chaotic world, the media must cover the climate crisis with the accuracy and urgency it deserves."
Climate-fueled planetary emergency is the context in which all issues now exist. Media coverage should reflect this.— Marcela Mulholland (@x3Marcela_) September 17, 2020
New @DataProgress polling shows that a broad-base of voters want to see more climate coverage in the media.
cc @DoctorVive @danielledeishttps://t.co/iAWhyhyyoX
According to the report, a Data for Progress poll found that more than seven in 10 Americans (72%) say that if there is a connection between an extreme weather event and climate change, they want to hear about it in the news. This includes 85% of Democrats, 59% of independents, and 62% of Republicans surveyed. Additionally, poll results showed 75% of Americans think it's important for news coverage of extreme weather to explain its connections to climate change.
"The science and reality couldn't be clearer—climate-fueled planetary emergency is the context in which all issues now exist," the report's authors wrote. "Journalists would be wise to frame their reporting with this in mind. They can feel confident that it is not only the right thing to do, but also what voters want."
The poll results came as climate activists from the Sunrise Movement protested outside CNN's Los Angeles offices to demand they "Cover the Crisis" of climate change.
"We're here to hold the journalists at CNN to a higher standard and demand that they address the climate crisis with the urgency that is necessary to ensure a livable future for young people," Claire Donahue, a 17-year-old activist, said according to a statement from Sunrise L.A. Youth. "We've seen the course of history changed when journalists have the courage to call out injustice which is why we are demanding that CNN take bold, transformative action to address the climate crisis."
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Sunrise Movement tweeted about the Data for Progress study on Thursday and called for moderators of presidential debates to press candidates on the issue.
As fires devastate the west, the media is letting Trump off the hook, and if they repeat 2016, there won’t be a single question about climate change at a Presidential debate.— Sunrise Movement (@sunrisemvmt) September 18, 2020
Demand the debate moderators climate change at the center of the debates: https://t.co/ve8ZcWAeaA https://t.co/KaiiAdEhHF
During a CNN town hall Thursday night, Anderson Cooper pressed Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden on fracking—a practice linked to methane spikes in the earth's atmosphere which the former vice president has said he will not ban.
"You said you won't ban fracking but that you wanted to gradually move away from it, ultimately," Cooper said to Biden. "It sounds like, to some, you are trying to have it both ways. Politically, it's understandable why you might say that, but if fracking contributes to climate change and climate change is an existential threat, why should it, fracking, continue at all?"
Biden responded that fracking "has to continue because we need a transition."
"We're going to get to net-zero emissions by 2050, and we'll get to net-zero power emissions by 2035," the candidate said. "But there is no rationale to eliminate, right now, fracking."
On Monday, during a speech about the wildfires on the West Coast, Biden called climate-change denier President Donald Trump a "climate arsonist."
In an op-ed last week in The Boston Globe, End Climate Silence director Gunther wrote that because Republican lawmakers have attacked existing climate science, broadcast news outlets may fear retribution if they cover extreme weather in the context of the crisis.
"The first job of a free press is not to be intimidated by governmental threats meant to suppress the truths discovered by science—or any other truths, for that matter," she wrote. "And it's not to be manipulated into silence by special interests when news consumers want to understand the links between the disasters they fear and the climate change that's fueling them."