Media reluctant to link heatwave to climate change, US report finds 

Published by Manus Boyle on

August 1st, 2018

A new report suggests that the US media is reluctant to link the current global heatwave to climate change.

The report from Public Citizen, a US non-profit, found that between 1 January and 8 July, just over 17 per cent of stories on extreme heat, heatwaves or record temperatures mentioned climate change.

Between 27 June and 8 July, when much of the US experienced extreme heat conditions, only 23 of 204 heat-related articles (11 per cent) mentioned climate change.

The findings come after over 400 daily maximum temperature records were broken in 37 US states and four states set all-time temperature records.

The analysis takes into account articles from the top 50 US newspapers, the main cable news outlets and newspaper coverage in 13 states where 10 or more temperature records were broken during the heatwave.

Overall, the report suggests that the heatwave that simmered across the US for nearly two weeks failed to prompt many conversations about climate change in national or local media.

Public Citizen argues that US media outlets are largely failing to connect “monumental” weather events to climate change trends that scientists have been predicting for years.

While the review identified some “notable exceptions and models” how best to cover climate in the context of extreme heat events, overall, US media outlets “continue to tell only half the story”.

Media at Citizens Assembly on climate actions, November 2017 Photo: MAXWELL

Irish media and climate

Environmental journalist, John Gibbons, told The Green News that the Irish media is also guilty of “reporting facts and not context” surrounding the recent heatwave.

He said that the extreme heat is not an isolated event and that there is a correlation between the extreme weather and climate change that the media are not communicating effectively.

“The Irish media are not doing enough to acknowledge climate change and they are only helping to create a lack of awareness of the issue,” he said.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a research report last year which suggests that the Irish broadcast media could be doing more to report on climate issues.

The EPA analysis looked at four two-week periods in 2013 and 2014 which covered broadcasts for one week either side of the release of four reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Only three per cent of stories on broadcast media were devoted to climate change or sustainability issues during this “peak time for climate change news”, the EPA analysis found.

The report says that journalistic content on climate change and sustainability is treated “episodically,” and not given the in-depth coverage that other areas receive.

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Manus Boyle

Manus is an MA Journalism student at DCU. He has an interest in the environment, the outdoors and live music.