Climate Change Happening Now, Even if Media Hasn't Caught On

The Colorado wildfires are "a window into what global warming really looks like." Someone just needs to tell most media outlets that.

Climate scientists have usually hesitated to attribute specific weather events to climate change, but with wildfires blazing across Colorado, extreme heat advisories and droughts across the United States, and flooding in Minnesota and Florida, that’s starting to change. As one atmospheric scientist put it, “this is what global warming looks like at the regional or personal level.” Or as a member of the United Nations’ climate science panel said, the extreme weather is “a window into what global warming really looks like.” But while scientists have known for a while that climate change is causing increasingly extreme weather events, it seems that most of the media still hasn’t caught on.

That’s right—the media is behind the curve when it comes to climate science. According to Media Matters, only three percent of stories about wildfires in Colorado and other Western states have so much as mentioned climate change or global warming. That breaks down to a whopping six percent among the seven major print outlets Media Matters reviewed, and an abysmal 1.6 percent among four TV stations. Neither Fox nor MSNBC were included in the study—transcripts weren’t available for all of their coverage—and while it doesn’t take a scientist to hypothesize that Fox has probably done no better than the rest, it would have been interesting to see whether MSNBC, a bastion of progressivism, has figured this one out.

Researchers have already shown that people are more likely to accept the reality of climate change during periods of extreme weather, even when climate change has nothing to do with that weather. It’s too bad that when climate change is actually the culprit, very few people getting their news from mainstream sources are likely to know that.

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

NHM Vienna/Hans Reschreiter

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via Gage Skidmore / Flickr

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