Media's Climate Coverage Sunk to Lowest Level in 5 Years in 2010


Images: The Daily Climate

If you're not a regular reader of TreeHugger or any other environmentally-focused outlet, you'd be forgiven for thinking that global climate change really wasn't all that big of a deal anymore. Not because scientists have determined the threats to be less than they once were -- to the contrary, climate scientists have more and better evidence now that human activity is causing the planet to warm. But because the media as a whole seems to have lost interest in the story, or has otherwise by and large given up on covering it. For proof, check out the Daily Climate's analysis (with graphics) of the decline of climate change coverage in the US media.The above graph charts the major newspapers' coverage of climate change over the decade. The top line is total coverage, and the colored ones are individual newspapers like the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. As you can see, there was a major spike in coverage both in 2007 (when An Inconvenient Truth came out) and in 2009 (due to the Copenhagen climate conference). This year? Fizzle. Coverage from the major outlets dropped to the lowest point since 2005.

The total number of stories on climate change (not just from the majors) was down, too -- a full 30% from 2009. And some outlets remain on task: Reuters and London's Guardian chief among them. But the picture gets even more grim when we turn to broadcast news:


I'll let the Daily Climate explain this one:

Drexel University professor Robert Brulle has analyzed nightly network news since the 1980s. Last year's climate coverage was so miniscule, he said, that he's doubting his data.

"I can't believe it's this little. In the U.S., it's just gone off the map," he said. "It's pretty clear we're back to 2004, 2005 levels."

Coverage of December's United Nations climate talks in Cancun is Exhibit A: Total meeting coverage by the networks consisted of one 10-second clip, Brulle said. By contrast, 2009's Copenhagen talks generated 32 stories totaling 98 minutes of airtime. "I'm trying to check it again and again," Brulle said of the 2010 data. "It's so little, it's stunning."

Yes, that's right. One 10-second spot of coverage for an event many hailed as a success in global climate negotiations.

Finally, it's worth noting that the American paper of record, the New York Times, didn't run a single major leading headline about climate change (you can read a list of the headlines they did run at Climate Progress).

Yes, in a year where the global temperature was found by NASA to likely be the hottest ever recorded, where extreme weather events like droughts and floods wreaked havoc around the globe, and where nearly 20 nations broke heat records, there were few major headlines, and mere minutes worth of TV coverage about climate change. Nice.

More on Media Coverage of Climate Change
The US Media Still Failing on Climate Change
Even the Elite Liberal Media is Bungling Climate Change Coverage

Related Content on