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Report: Most TV Coverage of Hurricane Ida Lacked Ties to Climate Change

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Thursday, September 16, 2021   

NEW YORK -- New research suggests corporate and cable TV news outlets failed to contextualize more frequent and extreme weather events to global warming while covering Hurricane Ida's impacts on New York and beyond.

Scientists have repeatedly warned climate change is exacerbating drought, wildfires and flooding, and making storms such as Hurricane Ida stronger.

Allison Fisher, climate and energy program director for the watchdog group Media Matters, said Americans are not getting the full story.

"The hesitancy to connect extreme weather events to climate change by these networks is very closely related to campaigns by the fossil-fuel industry to make climate change a third rail, make it confusing, to cast that doubt," Fisher contended.

The latest report by the world's top climate scientists confirms that less than a decade remains to dramatically cut greenhouse-gas emissions from fossil fuels to avoid potentially catastrophic impacts. However, in the 96 hours of wall-to-wall coverage of the hurricane, just 4% of nearly 800 news segments aired by corporate broadcast and cable news outlets mentioned climate change.

Lizzie Freilich, a resident of Greenpoint in Brooklyn, said all news outlets, regardless of medium, should be contextualizing climate change into their reporting.

"News outlets bear the burden of informing people. That's what they're here for," Freilich asserted. "And if they're not reporting on this huge thing that's going to impact the lives of so many people, they're just doing a good job at their job."

Media Matters' report asserted not connecting the dots of major weather events and climate changes is "media malpractice."

Fisher added news coverage on Hurricane Ida did improve as the storm moved into the metro New York area. She emphasized it is important for climate change to become a bigger part of the national conversation, along with what is causing it: the burning of oil, gas and coal.

"Just to say 'climate change' is the first step," Fisher explained. "And then from there, it's where you need to start having the conversation of 'well, who is responsible, and what is responsible, and what is or is not being done to mitigate these problems or address these problems?'"


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