A Storm of Silence: Media Coverage of Climate Change and Hurricane Harvey

September 2017 

Hurricane Harvey hit landfall in southern Texas on August 25.  Harvey quickly became the costliest tropical cyclone on record, inflicting $125 billion in damage, primarily from the catastrophic climate fueled rainfall that triggered flooding in the Houston metropolitan area.  

“We’ve heard a lot of talk about climate denial in the media. But underreporting and outright silence are a major problems too. Most Americans want, and deserve, more and better information about the story of the century – the threat of climate change and what we can do about it.”

Public Citizen examined Hurricane Harvey coverage and found that major news outlets are falling far short of connecting climate to extreme weather events.

Read the full report here.

Key Findings:

  • Across eighteen new sources, there were 136 mentions of climate in more than 2,000 items that discussed Harvey.
  • ABC and NBC did not mention climate change in the context of Harvey at all between the period August 25 and September 1.
  • Washington Post, CNN, the Houston Chronicle, and the New York Times produced 73 %  of pieces that did so.
  • Only 29% of the stories that mention climate change in their Harvey coverage connect climate change to the severity of the storm.
  • Despite running five pieces that mentioned climate change, the Wall Street Journal, did not link climate change to Harvey or extreme weather events like Harvey.
  • 20 % noted in some way that climate change is caused by human activity.

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