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Anaylst: Climate Change is Biggest Headline You Didn't See in 2017

Experts say the Great Lakes states are having bigger snowstorms in part because of climate change (AcryllicArtist/morguefile)
Experts say the Great Lakes states are having bigger snowstorms in part because of climate change (AcryllicArtist/morguefile)
December 29, 2017

LANSING, Mich. – This year there was no shortage of media coverage of President Donald Trump's every move, but one watchdog group says that left other big stories, including climate change, largely uncovered.

Lisa Hymas, climate and energy program director for Media Matters, a progressive media watchdog group, believes climate change is the most important story of 2017 the media failed to cover. She says that's despite the fact that the United States saw an extraordinary number of devastating weather events this year.

"And they're just the sort of thing that climate scientists have been telling us that we will see," she notes. "And some media outlets are telling people that, but too many of them are not. They're not connecting the dots between extreme weather like hurricanes and wildfires and floods to climate science."

Hymas cites research that shows during two weeks of hurricane coverage on eight major networks, 60 percent of stories included the word "Trump" and only five percent mentioned "climate change." Nationwide, 2017 was the most expensive wildfire season in the country's history.

Hymas says covering climate change can be hard for journalists because it's a relatively slow-moving phenomenon and often feels like a faraway threat. While climate change may not cause any single hurricane to form or wildfire to break out, she says there is good science that explains the interaction between the two.

She says a series of papers was recently published in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society where researchers around the world analyzed 27 extreme weather events. They found that human-caused climate change drove 21 of those events.

"Climate change does exacerbate events," she adds. "It makes them more extreme. So, I think sometimes journalists shy away from it because the science can be a little bit complicated to explain. But I would encourage the media to talk directly to scientists and let them explain the connections that they're finding."

Hymas does believe some media outlets did well connecting the dots during events such as hurricanes Harvey and Irma, and notes that media coverage will be critical for shifting the public's perspective on climate change.

Mona Shand, Public News Service - MI