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The 2005 Atlantic hurricane season brought with it a storm of controversy that is still having impact. When two studies alleged a link between increasing strength of storms and global warming, climate change advocates found another reason to blast the United States for not signing the Kyoto treaty.
Now, more than 8,000 representatives from 180 nations are debating the future of that pact at the United Nations Climate Change Conference.
Unfortunately, flawed media coverage of the reported hurricane link will make that discussion more complicated.
Nearly 40 percent of Americans now believe there is a link - and that impacts public policy decision making, even though the nation’s hurricane experts and numerous other professionals dispute global warming’s role.
The Media Research Center’s Business & Media Institute looked at how broadcast news – ABC, CBS and NBC – covered hurricanes and the issue of climate change from June 1 through November 30.
Here are those findings:
Networks Link Storms and Warming: The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said that this busy hurricane season was part of a natural cycle. But when networks discussed the powerful storms and climate change, they blamed global warming for stronger hurricanes 72 percent of the time.
No Balance of Experts: Stories included both sides of the discussion less than half the time (45 percent) and that led to skewed coverage of hurricane season.
Little Mention of the Hurricane Cycle: NOAA explained that the heavy hurricane season was the result of a decades-long natural cycle, but that information was only found in 38 percent of the stories.
ABC the Worst: ABC was consistently among the worst networks in every category analyzed. The network made the connection between climate change and hurricanes and then gave little time to opposing views. It mentioned the natural cycle in only 20 percent of the network’s stories.
CBS the Best: CBS was far and away the best network on the issue of hurricanes and global warming. Its stories presented more balance than either ABC or NBC, and it delivered the most complete explanation of both the natural hurricane cycle and the history of other storms.