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Climate Media Activism Is Working

A little less than a year ago, we started the Cover Climate project to boost the quantity and quality of media coverage of climate change. Here’s a great example of how well it’s working.

On July 26, 2018, we released a report showing that the media has fallen far short when it comes to connecting extreme heat to climate change. From January 1 through July 8, when the top 50 newspapers discussed extreme heat, they mentioned climate change just 17.6 percent of the time. What’s worse, the rate dropped sharply during the extreme heat wave from June 27 to July 8. During that period, the top 50 papers connected extreme heat to climate just 11.3 percent of the time.

National broadcast networks did even worse. For the year until July 8, they drew the connection in 7.1 percent of pieces, and during the heat wave just one piece connected extreme heat and climate change, for a rate of 0.9 percent.

Here’s the good news. Both newspapers and broadcast have improved dramatically since we reported how they were doing. We’ve looked at the numbers starting the day after the heat wave (July 9) through when we issued our report (July 26) until last Friday (August 17).

From July 9 to July 26, the top 50 newspapers went right back to their average for 2018 — 17.6 percent.* Then, we issued our report — and their rate jumped to 36.1 percent. Here’s a table with the numbers:

Top 50 Newspapers
Jan 1 to Jul 8 Jul 9 to Jul 26 Jul 27 to Aug 17
Mentioned Climate 134 42 113
Total pieces 760 239 313
Percentage 17.6% 17.6% 36.1%


Broadcast followed a similar pattern. After the heat wave, they went back to 9.7 percent, slightly better than the average we’d found for 2018. Then after our report, they jumped to 23 percent. Another table:

Broadcast Networks
Jan 1 to Jul 8 Jul 9 to Jul 26 Jul 27 to Aug 17
Mentioned Climate 16 7 26
Total pieces 226 72 113
Percentage 7.1% 9.7% 23.0%


In both types of media, we appear to have more than doubled the rate at which outlets mention climate change when they discuss extreme heat.


* Yes, this looks identical to what we found for the year to date in our report. It’s not a mistake. In fact, the numbers are slightly different. The figure for January 1 to July 8 is 17.63 percent, and the one for July 9 to July 26 is 17.57 percent. Rounding makes them look identical.