16 September 2019

You Are About to See a Whole Lot About Climate Change On-line and On-Air and it is Long Overdue

Posted by Dan Satterfield

NASA announced Monday that August was the 2nd warmest on record, globally: +0.90°C above its 1951-1980 average, behind 2016, and just above 2017. We are on track to have the six hottest years on record being the last six years from 2014 to 2019. Jeff Masters has more about the August temps. here.

Many on-air and online news outlets are going to do a lot of climate change coverage this week. This came out of a meeting I attended a few months back at Columbia University and it was sponsored in part by the Columbia Journalism Review. The press, especially TV news, has done a horrible job of covering climate change.

Mainly by ignoring it.

When they have covered it, the stories were often replete with false balance, having one person on each side. One represents the 98% of the experts in the field will tell you that we are in serious trouble and the other represents the 2% who cannot get their ideas passed basic peer review in most cases. Even BBC Radio 4 was guilty of this until they faced a storm of criticism. The false balance has ended on most responsible unbiased news outlets. Chuck Todd at NBC has made it clear that climate denial is no longer welcome on Meet the Press and newspapers and most TV networks have stopped putting a token denier on their coverage and calling it balanced.

Journalism is about truth. Giving equal time to someone who says things that have been shown by science to not be true is not balance.

It’s shoddy journalism.

The AGU is part of the effort this week to educate the public about this issue with real science and I plan on doing several blog posts on the subject this week. Some of them will be to dispel common myths, and others will show new science that you may not have seen. I’ll start with a graph of the number of days in Miami with highs of 93 degrees and higher. This was posted last night on Twitter by NHC Scientist Eric Blake and it shows what a warming climate looks like:

Next is my friend and fellow meteorologist Jeff Beradelli who has been working with CBS News to improve and increase their climate change coverage. He was part of an in-depth piece on hurricanes and climate change over the weekend on CBS This Morning.

One last thing for this post- if you see someone on TV or read a quote in print this week from someone who is making one of the following claims:

1. The planet is cooling

2. Scientists are divided about climate change

3. We are just coming out of the ice age

4. The warming is a natural cycle

Then you are being given a political belief because science has demonstrated unequivocally that these are not true. You should complain to the news outlet and look for someone giving you better journalism.