U.S. Media Falls Short on Connecting Wildfires to Climate Change

California Wildfires Media Report

Public Citizen analysis shows that U.S. media have largely failed to connect California’s unprecedented wildfires to climate change.

Summary

Of 862 pieces mentioning wildfires between July 23 and Aug. 7, only 109 (12.6 percent) also mentioned climate change or global warming, Public Citizen’s survey of the top 50 U.S. newspapers by circulation found.

The three newspapers that produced the most pieces connecting the wildfires to climate change were The New York Times (17 articles), The Sacramento Bee (16 articles) and the Los Angeles Times (15 articles). Among newspapers in California mentioning wildfires, fewer than 10 percent of the pieces made the connection to global warming.

Of the 296 broadcast transcripts from ABC, CBS, Fox News Network, MSNBC and NBC, only 32, or about 11 percent of pieces, also mentioned climate change. In absolute terms, the best performing network was CNN, with 20 transcripts discussing how the wildfires were spurred by a hotter, drier climate.

Clearly, reporters are covering these record fires, the destruction they are causing and the difficulty in containing them. But rarely are papers delving into how we are making the fires worse by fueling climate change, or how we can change course. David Arkush, managing director of Public Citizen’s Climate Program