Corporate Media Still Generally Silent About Apocalyptic Climate Change

A jointly authored article from The Nation and the Columbia Journalism Review noted last year:

“Judging by the climate coverage to date, most of the US news media still don’t get grasp the seriousness of this issue. This journalistic failure has given rise to a calamitous public ignorance, which in turn has enabled politicians and corporations to avoid action.”

It reinforces what progressive media watchdog Media Matters reported about the five major Sunday morning political television shows that featured “only a combined total of two segments that included at least a substantial reference to climate change.”

Fewer than one-half of the 50 largest newspapers in the country covered the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)’s dire 2018 report predicting a window of only 10 to 12 years to halt coal consumption and slash carbon dioxide emissions to prevent mass food shortages, climate-induced homelessness, mass migrations, failing infrastructure, and more catastrophic weather that could climb into the billions annually.

The corporate media’s virtual silence on the most urgent crisis facing humanity has kept people in the dark for far too long.

There appeared to be signs of hope last year.

A CBS News poll reported more than a quarter of Americans understand climate change’s urgency and want to see immediate action to address it despite the media’s efforts to ignore it, leading to more than 250 media outlets around the world joining The Nation and the Columbia Journalism Review’s major new project–“Covering Climate Now”–to improve climate crisis coverage ahead.

Yet as the West Coast battles unprecedented wildfires and five tropical cyclones battle it out in the Atlantic Ocean at the same time for the second time in recorded history, it seems there still remains mainstream media reluctance to even say the dreaded words “climate change.”

Only 15% of corporate TV news segments dedicated to reporting on the fires ravaging California, Oregon, and Washington mentioned the climate crisis, according to a recent Media Matters analysis, which also noted that, so far, 2020 has been the third straight year corporate broadcast TV news discussed the climate crisis’ impacts in fewer than 5% of wildfire segments.

Leah Stokes, researcher on climate and energy policy and assistant professor of political science at the University of California, Santa Barbara, said:

“The fact is that TV news is completely abdicating its responsibility when it comes to telling the truth of what the West is dealing with right now. This is climate change. It’s not rocket science. And when will the media start calling it that?”

Progressive alternative media sources like Democracy Now!, The Thom Hartmann Program, The Young Turks, Free Speech TV, and the SiriusXM “Progress” channel regularly link the increasing aberrant weather to climate change.

In the for-profit media milieu, though, only CBS meteorologist and climate specialist Jeff Berardelli and NBC’s Al Roker dare to talk about the climate crisis’s role in worsening weather.

Prof. Stokes explained:

 “The fact is that TV news is completely abdicating its responsibility when it comes to telling the truth of what the West is dealing with right now, which is, of course, not just these fires, but massive, unprecedented heat waves. The fires that got really bad over the weekend were fueled in large part by unprecedented heat in counties like Los Angeles County, which set heat wave records of 121 degrees Fahrenheit, Ventura County, Santa Barbara County, Inland. I mean, the temperatures were just unseen before in modern human history. So, this is climate change. It’s not rocket science. And when will the media start calling it that?”

Unfortunately, some congressional Democrats are also loathe to talk about it.

When asked at a press conference last week about whether Democrats would prioritize major climate change legislation immediately should they gain full control of Congress and the White House, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, responded:

“Well, we will have…we will have, obviously, hopefully, the Covid pandemic will have subsided–if there’s any thought that the Republicans in Congress will pay attention to science. Right now they’re in a place where they don’t believe in science and they don’t like governance. So they don’t want any reason to have to govern, to call for standards to defeat the virus…but the virus, of course–in other words, to open up our schools and our economy–has to be first and foremost. But yes, it will be an early part of the agenda.”

Pelosi’s state of California is going up in flames at the moment.

Climate Justice Alliance policy coordinator, Anthony Rogers-Wright, lamented:

 “It’s unfortunate, given that the speaker’s own district is being impacted by what’s going on right now. There are far too many in Democratic leadership who believe that climate change is a wedge issue. When what it really is is an issue that if articulated correctly could bring everyone together.”

California is also home to Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who told children who visited her office last year to urge her to commit to a Green New Deal she disagreed with the plan because there was “no way to pay for it”.

In a recent op-ed in Press Democrat, Feinstein agreed more intense fires are linked to climate change, and called for policy changes to help communities prepare for and fight fires, yet she did not mention policies to address rising emissions.

Progressive political consultant and founder of New Deal Strategies, Rebecca Katz, commented:

 “You look up at the sky and you wonder. It’s not just the Republicans who are letting us down. It’s the Democrats who aren’t fighting for a better climate future either. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has said that climate delaying is the same as climate denial. And it’s hard not to see that point crystal clear on a morning like today.”

Two months ago, Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden released the most progressive economic policy of any Democratic nominee in history, which included “visionary” climate-change policy proposals planned in conjunction with Sen. Bernie Sanders, that would all but eliminate climate emissions by 2050.

Yet last month, Biden insisted he would not ban fracking if elected president.

Would a Joe Biden administration be more environmentally friendly than Trump?

Absolutely.

But this is not a time for the same-old same-old establishment politics when our nation is literally and metaphorically on fire.

We need to support aggressive climate-change policies, like the “Green New Deal.”

We need to take the fossil-fuel industry head-on.

As long as there is a profit motive, there will never be sufficient action to curb carbon emissions.

It only means the future of our planet, our children, grandchildren, and beyond.

Once it’s over, it’s over.

Yes, nuclear proliferation is a national security threat.

COVID-19 is a national security threat.

Right-wing extremism is a national security threat.

Gun violence is a national security threat.

The opioid crisis is a national security threat.

Money suffusing the political landscape is a national security threat.

Foreign influence in our elections is a national security threat.

The Republican party is a national security threat.

The Trump administration is a national security threat.

But the climate knows no borders, does not respect threats or political gamesmanship.

It doesn’t care who is sitting in 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue or anywhere else.

It affects everyone everywhere, regardless of race, religion, creed, or country.

We’re all in this together, borders be damned.

We can still slow some of the imminent damage.

But not for much longer.

Image credit: www.news.uct.ac.za

Ted Millar is writer and teacher. His work has been in featured in myriad literary journals, including Better Than Starbucks, The Broke Bohemian, Straight Forward Poetry, Caesura, Circle Show, Cactus Heart, Third Wednesday, and The Voices Project. He is also a contributor to Op-Ed News, Liberal Nation Rising, and Zoedune.