Ending the Silence on Climate Change

“What should really be scaring the daylights out of us — the crisis which could make all the others irrelevant — is global warming,” Bill Moyers says on the latest edition of “Moyers & Company.” “Get this one wrong and it’s over — not just for the USA, but for planet Earth. That’s the message delivered by Hurricane Sandy, and by almost all the extreme weather of the past two years.”

But delivering the message is easier said than done. With little attention paid to the important and pressing issue during the presidential campaign, bringing climate change into the national conversation has proven to be a major challenge.

That’s something Anthony Leiserowitz, director of the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication, knows all too well. Leiserowitz joined Moyers over the weekend to discuss the challenges of getting the word out. News publications and TV programs are partially to blame, he says.

“The media plays an enormously important agenda setting role in this. Because, again this is an invisible problem to most of us. The only way we know about this is because of what we’ve learned through the media,” Leiserowitz says. “And so when the media doesn’t report it it’s literally out of sight and out of mind. And we’ve seen that this issue gets just a tiny proportion of the news haul. Of all the stories that the media focuses on every year climate change is miniscule. And in fact, even the environment as a category never gets above say 1 or at most 2 percent of total news coverage.”

But the media’s attention–or lack thereof–to the matter isn’t the only impediment to a public conversation on climate change; there’s also a vigorous effort to distort the issue.

“There’s been a very active disinformation campaign that’s been going on for many years — it’s very well documented — that was primarily, certainly originally and still to this day, driven by fossil fuel company interests who are the world’s most profitable companies,” Leiserowitz says. “I mean, they’re very happy, thank you very much, with the status quo.”

— Posted by Tracy Bloom.

Tracy Bloom
Assistant Editor
Tracy Bloom left broadcast news to study at USC's Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. There she eventually became deputy editor of Neon Tommy, the most-trafficked online-only college website in…
Tracy Bloom

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