As a rule, the big five Sunday shows don't pay much attention to the climate crisis. So to the extent that the subject generated some on-screen discussion yesterday, it was a welcome change of pace.
But the discussion itself was hardly encouraging. On "Meet the Press
," Bill Nye took a valiant stand in support of reality, but viewers nevertheless heard Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) argue that climate change is "unproven" and it's important to look "at the benefits" of carbon pollution.
On "Fox News Sunday
," Chris Wallace said President Obama's arguments about the climate crisis aren't persuasive because "the eastern half of the country is in the grips of a brutal winter." George Will, an enthusiastic climate denier, added, "The debate is raging and he's losing it."
And then there was North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory (R), who appeared on two Sunday shows, presenting a discouraging perspective
The Republican governor of North Carolina says people should focus on cleaning up the air and water, something upon which everyone agrees, instead of fighting about long-term effects of climate change. "The whole issue of cleaning the environment, I think, is the issue we ought to talk about more than getting into a debate from the left and right about climate change and global warming," Gov. Pat McCrory (R) said on ABC's "This Week."
(Note, as Rachel reported on Thursday, the McCrory administration was subpoenaed
last week in conjunction with a federal criminal investigation. The governor wasn't asked about these developments in either of his Sunday show appearances.)
The governor hedged on whether he believes climate science, saying instead the "debate is really how much of it is manmade," adding that his focus is on "how much will it cost the consumer" to address the crisis.
Left unsaid is why McCrory believes "cleaning the environment" is separate from addressing carbon pollution, why he still believes there's a debate on human activity and global warming, and whether he's considering how much it'll "cost the consumer" as the climate crisis intensifies.
And in the larger context, Media Matters raised
a fair point about the nature of these segments themselves.
This week, all four major broadcast networks covered extreme weather and climate change on their Sunday morning political talk shows. Those programs have largely ignored global warming in recent years, making their effort to address the issue unusual and laudable. But several of the segments also demonstrated the vulnerability inherent in treating science as a political debate where both sides receive a platform to air their positions. Major winter storms across the U.S. in the month of February, drought in California, and President Obama's call for a $1 billion climate change "resilience fund" sparked debates this week over the need for action against climate change. The science of global warming is settled: according to one survey, 97 percent of climate scientists agree that climate change is real and that "humans are causing global warming." But the Sunday shows, because they are built on a model of showing political conflicts, have difficulty putting that fact in context.
The coverage is welcome. The instinct of treating this as a political debate in which there are competing opinions of equal weight is not.