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Carbon Omission: How the U.S. Media Underreported Climate Change in 2017

Carbon Omission 2017 Annual Report

Public Citizen analysis shows the major U.S. media outlets largely failed to connect climate change to extreme weather events amid a year of record hurricanes, droughts and disease.


The analysis found that the proportion of pieces that mentioned climate change in relevant contexts – such as drought, floods and disease – was decidedly low. The term “climate change” occurred most often amid discussions of record heat, where it was mentioned in 33 percent of pieces. From there, the numbers dropped steeply.

Pieces on historic rainfall mentioned climate change just 21 percent of the time and those discussing drought mentioned it 24 percent of the time. Notably, in a year of major storms, just four percent of pieces discussing Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Maria or Nate made the connection to climate change.

Moreover, only nine percent of all pieces mentioned solutions – a critical topic in the context of climate change, particularly following the Trump administration’s pivot away from the Paris Agreement and efforts to roll back U.S. climate policy.

We can’t fix the climate crisis if we aren’t talking about it. It’s critical that the media start reporting on the crisis with the quality and quantity it merits. We’re talking about the greatest challenge of our time. David Arkush, managing director of Public Citizen’s climate program