Media’s climate coverage collapsed in 2016 — just when we needed it most

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Trump’s budget targets federal funding of PBS, the one network with the most climate coverage.

In 2016, the major networks’ coverage of climate change dropped by two thirds compared to 2015.

In fact, climate coverage last year was close to its lowest levels since 2009, according to a new analysis by MediaMatters of the evening and Sunday news programs that air on ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox. This drop is despite historic wildfires, extreme weather events like Hurricane Matthew, and month after month of record-breaking global temperatures.

And, of course, there was a presidential campaign between two people who have diametrically opposed views on the gravest preventable threat to the United States and the world.

Will Trump go down in history as the man who pulled the plug on a livable climate?

During the campaign, the major networks spent no time examining the climate policy differences between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump — despite their vast disagreement on domestic action, the Paris climate agreement, and whether the entire body of scientific inquiry is a hoax.

ABC, CBS, and NBC made up for this glaring omission by devoting an hour and 40 minutes of coverage to Hillary Clinton’s emails, as Media Matters reported in November.

In all, the outlets only spent 32 total minutes all year comparing the policy differences between Clinton and Trump.

Ironically, while the media mostly ignored the candidates’ policy, those policies don’t ignore the media.

President Trump’s recent budget proposes to entirely eliminate the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which helps fund PBS. Fortunately, PBS receives under 7 percent of its budget from the CPB. Still, that’s a hefty whack at the one major evening news program that is trying to do justice to the story of the century, as Media Matters points out.

This is yet another reminder that elections have consequences for the nation and the world.

But anyone who exonerates the for-profit media from a major role in enabling the United States’ self-destructive lack of action on climate change isn’t paying attention. Or maybe they’re just too busy watching the network news.

Media’s climate coverage collapsed in 2016 — just when we needed it most was originally published in ThinkProgress on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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