2015 Was a Huge Year for Climate News—So Why Did the Top TV Networks Spend Less Time Covering It?

Coverage dropped by 5 percent.

Last year was a huge year for climate change-related news—maybe even the biggest year. Pope Francis published a climate encyclical, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued the Clean Power Plan, President Obama rejected the Keystone XL pipeline, nearly 200 countries signed a landmark climate deal, and to top it all off, 2015 was the hottest year on record by a long shot. So it’s no surprise that news coverage of the issue skyrocketed last year. Only it didn’t. At all. A report published yesterday by Media Matters for America finds that despite all of last year's extremely newsworthy events, the top broadcast networks’ combined climate coverage actually dropped by 5 percent, compared with the year before.

The researchers analyzed how many minutes the folks on ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox spent discussing climate change during the nightly news and Sunday shows in 2015. ABC alone spent 59 percent less time on the subject than it did in 2014, and the only network to significantly boost its coverage was Fox. Wait, Fox, you say? Yep—its increase consisted mostly of bashing efforts to tackle climate change. Sigh. To their credit, CBS, NBC, and PBS (which was assessed separately) all aired a number of segments about how a warming world affects extreme weather and plants and wildlife. The networks largely ignored, however, the significant impacts to public health, the economy, and national security.

But hey, you still have us! Check out some of the graphs of the study’s findings, and then go read some of our many, many articles on the subject.

All graphs courtesy of Media Matters for America.

This article was originally published on onEarth, which is no longer in publication. onEarth was founded in 1979 as the Amicus Journal, an independent magazine of thought and opinion on the environment. All opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the policies or positions of NRDC. This article is available for online republication by news media outlets or nonprofits under these conditions: The writer(s) must be credited with a byline; you must note prominently that the article was originally published by NRDC.org and link to the original; the article cannot be edited (beyond simple things such grammar); you can’t resell the article in any form or grant republishing rights to other outlets; you can’t republish our material wholesale or automatically—you need to select articles individually; you can’t republish the photos or graphics on our site without specific permission; you should drop us a note to let us know when you’ve used one of our articles.

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