Analysis Finds US Corporate Media ‘Failing To Connect Climate Crisis To Strongest Atlantic Storm Ever To Hit Land’

By Jessica Corbett
Common Dreams (9/4/19)

While Hurricane Dorian marched up the U.S. Southeastern coast Wednesday after devastating the Northern Bahamas, advocates for ambitious climate action reiterated the global emergency’s connection to extreme weather—even as an analysis showed that major corporate news outlets are failing to report on it.

After making landfall as a Category 5 hurricane Sunday, Dorian crawled across the Bahamas Monday and Tuesday—leaving a trail of utter destruction in its wake.

The Union of Concerned Scientists explained earlier this year how experts believe the human-caused climate crisis is causing more intense hurricanes:

“While hurricanes are a natural part of our climate system, recent researchsuggests that there has been an increase in intense hurricane activity in the North Atlantic since the 1970s. In the future, there may not necessarily be more hurricanes, but there will likely be more intense hurricanes that carry higher wind speeds and more precipitation as a result of global warming. The impacts of this trend are likely to be exacerbated by sea level rise and a growing population along coastlines.”

“Although Hurricane Dorian exemplifies what climate scientists have warned about, major U.S. media outlets are failing to connect the climate crisis to the strongest Atlantic storm ever to hit land,” Public Citizen declared in an analysis Tuesday.

The consumer advocacy group found that “between Friday and Monday, climate or global warming was mentioned in just 7.2 percent of the 167 pieces on ABCCBSNBCCNNMSNBC, and Fox. The top 49 newspapers by circulation didn’t do much better. Of them, 32 covered Dorian in their print editions, but only eight papers connected Dorian to climate. Of 363 articles about Dorian in those papers’ print editions, just nine (2.5 percent) mentioned climate change.”

Public Citizen highlighted the findings on Dorian coverage in a pair of tweets Tuesday. “For the last damn time: Climate change makes hurricanes worse,” and “the media’s cowardice makes climate change worse,” the group wrote.

“It is mind-boggling that major media outlets can report about a storm of epic proportions that is exactly what climate scientists have warned about yet fail to mention two key words: ‘climate change,” said Allison Fisher, outreach director for Public Citizen’s Energy Program. “We can’t address the looming climate catastrophe if we aren’t talking about it.”

Public Citizen was far from alone in that observation. As New York Times columnist David Leonhardt wrote Tuesday, “much of the conversation about Hurricane Dorian—including most media coverage—ignores climate change.” According to him, “That’s a mistake. It’s akin to talking about lung cancer and being afraid to mention smoking, or talking about traffic deaths and being afraid to talk about drunken driving.”

“The media needs to do more,” Justice Democrats wrote in an email to supporters Wednesday. “These natural disasters are escalating because of climate change, but too few reporters and pundits are willing to make that connection clear to the public. It doesn’t matter if the climate crisis is a politicized issue—we can’t afford to protect the feelings of conservatives and climate deniers in an era where we’re seeing record high temperatures, massive ice melts, and deadly natural disasters.”

While much of the corporate media failed to make the climate connection in Dorian coverage, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) acknowledged it on Twitter Tuesday evening. Sharing a video taken from a helicopter over the Bahamas, she tweeted, “This is what climate change looks like: it hits vulnerable communities first.” …

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