How Should the Media Talk About Climate Change?
Genevieve Guenther, a former Renaissance scholar, studies how we discuss global warming—and how we don’t.
It is now October of 2020, the homestretch or—God help us—the halfway point of the Donald Trump years. As we flip through our metaphorical national photo album, reminiscing on some of the all-time darkest moments, there are so many to consider. You’ve got Charlottesville, of course, with the marching Nazis holding tiki torches—Trump’s “very fine people.” The peaceful protesters being tear-gassed in front of St. John’s Church. The maskless superspreader event in the Rose Garden. One event that comes up less often is Trump’s California wildfire briefing, early last month. The West Coast was in flames. The skies above San Francisco were red. Smoke and ash blotted out the sun. And the President was on television assuring the public that “it’ll start to get cooler. You just watch.” He added, “I don’t think science knows” the truth about climate change.
Altogether, an extremely grim tableau. But among some environmental activists there was cause for celebration. For once, climate change had broken into the foreground of our insane news cycle. Within a week of Trump’s California visit, there was a pileup of evening TV news segments on the subject. “NBC Nightly News” did a piece about California climate refugees.
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