By all accounts, 2016 was an eventful year for the planet. It was the year when a record amount of coral perished in Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, deforestation in the Amazon increased nearly 30%, polar sea ice the size of India disappeared, and of course it got hotter.
In fact, it was the hottest year ever recorded.
But the average American could be forgiven for not knowing about any of this. Because major US TV news networks, fixated on an election that provided the drama and entertainment of reality TV, dedicated almost no time to covering climate change.
The nightly news programs of ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox News Sunday collectively aired 50 minutes of climate-change coverage in 2016, according to research from Media Matters, a nonprofit research organization that covers American media. This is 96 minutes less than in 2015, a combined drop of about 66%.
None of these networks aired a segment about the presidential candidates’ climate-change policies before the US election took place, though there was a significant amount of coverage on the impact of Donald Trump’s presidency on the environment after November.
Meanwhile, in the the course of the year, CBS Evening News, PBS NewsHour, and Fox News Sunday aired a combined five segments featuring denials of widely accepted climate science from Trump or his associates, without offering any rebuttal.
Of the little climate-change coverage that did occur, most television networks focused on the impact of climate change on extreme weather, plants, and wildlife, while neglecting to cover its impacts on the economy, public health, or national security.