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So Far, ABC And NBC Are Failing To Note The Link Between Harvey And Climate Change

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So Far, ABC And NBC Are Failing To Note The Link Between Harvey And Climate Change


Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters.

Of the three major broadcast networks, CBS is the only one that discussed climate change’s role in exacerbating Hurricane Harvey’s impacts, while ABC and NBC have overlooked climate change in their coverage of Harvey so far.

Since it made landfall last Friday, Harvey, which has been downgraded from a hurricane to a tropical storm, has brought massive devastation to southeast Texas. By Tuesday, Harvey had already become the most extreme rain event in U.S. history. The storm brought so much rainfall that the National Weather Service had to add new colors to its weather maps to represent Harvey’s deluge. An early estimate of the storm’s cost stands at $190 billion, which would make it the nation’s “costliest natural disaster.”

number of climate scientists have commented on the ways climate change intensifies storms like Harvey. While climate change did not cause Harvey, according to scientists, it made such extreme weather events “more likely to occur.” And Kevin Trenberth, senior scientist at the U.S. National Center for Atmospheric Research, said of Harvey: “The human contribution can be up to 30 percent or so of the total rainfall coming out of the storm. It may have been a strong storm, and it may have caused a lot of problems anyway—but [human-caused climate change] amplifies the damage considerably.”

CBS was the only major network to discuss this connection, which came up during an interview with physicist Michio Kaku on the August 26 episode of CBS This Morning and an interview with environmental engineering professor Jim Blackburn that aired on both the August 30 episode of CBS Evening News and the August 31 episode of CBS This Morning. Additionally, the August 30 episode of PBS NewsHour featured a segment in which correspondent Miles O’Brien interviewed climate scientists and experts about the connection between climate change and extreme weather events. These experts explained that climate change both warms waters, which fuels hurricanes like Harvey, and increases moisture in the air, which leads to more rainfall. ABC and NBC, however, have ignored the relationship between climate change and hurricanes like Harvey.

Conversely, CNN and MSNBC have both aired multiple segments on Harvey’s climate connection, including interviews with meteorologists Jason Samenow and Paul Douglas, who explained the climate science behind Harvey on the August 30 episode of CNN’s New Day and the August 26 episode of MSNBC Live, respectively.

The major broadcast networks’ nightly news shows air for just half an hour each day compared to their 24-hour cable news counterparts, and thus far, they have focused their reports on updates related to Harvey and ongoing rescue operations. But the broadcast networks have a history of ignoring climate change’s impact on major storms. For instance, when a storm that brought record-breaking rainfall struck Louisiana last year, PBS was the only network that aired a segment detailing climate change’s connection to extreme rainfall.

Given the magnitude of Harvey’s destruction, some journalists have been making forceful calls for a discussion about climate change. Naomi Klein wrote an article in The Intercept headlined “Harvey Didn’t Come Out of the Blue. Now is the Time to Talk About Climate Change,” and Eric Holthaus wrote in Politico, “If we don’t talk about the climate context of Harvey, we won’t be able to prevent future disasters and get to work on that better future.” Let’s hope that when the immediate danger of Harvey passes, broadcast networks will start having that conversation.

Correction: This post originally stated that CBS had run just one segment on the connection between climate change and Hurricane Harvey. A subsequent search found two other such segments that CBS aired in which the impact of climate change is mentioned. The term “climate change” was not mentioned in the transcript, but it was included in Nexis’ “subject” category. Media Matters regrets the error.

Header image by Sarah Wasko / Media Matters



  1. yabbed September 2, 2017

    The job of media is to inform and news sources that are not informing listeners about accepted science and other facts of the matter are simply not a source of news at all and therefore should be avoided.

    1. Beethoven September 2, 2017

      Historically, the media considered their job and purpose to be informing the public about what is happening. But for much of the media today, especially the TV news media, their job has become to attract viewers who are likely to buy the products advertised by the companies that choose to support their news shows with advertising. It is a symbiotic relationship: If viewers buy the advertised products, then the advertisers will continue to support the news program; if the advertisers provide support, the news program will provide the kind of news those groups of purchasers want to hear, in order to draw those viewers to the advertisements.

  2. Leftout September 2, 2017

    As a geophysicist will tell you that if all of the icebergs melted there would no water rising to worry about . In fact there would be beach space around Manhattan Island. The density of ice is less than that of water. Additionally for you worry warts , storms cause accretion to beaches and create sand bars and storms also breach to cause pleasant inlets. Case closed .

    1. Richard Prescott September 2, 2017

      No, not closed and that analysis is mostly bull.

      1. Leftout September 2, 2017

        Where is my math wrong.

        1. Richard Prescott September 2, 2017

          A few points first…
          And, just what “math” did you present? Were you a real scientist you would have had proofs, or attempted proofs, to back your statements.
          And hiding behind a fake name makes it appear like you are just one more denier trying to sound like you know what you are talking about. And failing.

          1. Leftout September 2, 2017

            The crystalline structure is lighter and less dense than H2O . 092 / 1.0 . Therefore upon melting there will be a huuuuge space for thenwarer to rush where the ice originally existed. This would cause a massive tsumani effect
            Towards Manhattan then it will be surrounded by wide Beaches. Hopefully with less inhabitants. …..notes Littoral observations of primordial Long Island,1631. I am a Scientist BTW

          2. Richard Prescott September 2, 2017

            TEMP (°C) DENSITY (KG/M3)

            +100 958.4

            +80 971.8

            +60 983.2

            +40 992.2

            +30 995.6502

            +25 997.0479

            +22 997.7735

            +20 998.2071

            +15 999.1026

            +10 999.7026

            +4 999.9720 <-

            0 999.8395 <-

            −10 998.117

            −20 993.547

            −30 983.854

            4°C is liquid, 0°C is solid
            You are the same person who was up here a couple months ago making similar claims, claiming to be a scientist, claiming his brother was also a scientist, claiming you taught, then changing what you claimed. And if you are not, well the actual data show you are incorrect.

          3. Leftout September 2, 2017

            Nay not me. I have no brother , however i am a Biochemist Ph.D.

          4. Richard Prescott September 2, 2017

            And if you are what you say then you are not very good, since most of what you have commented to contains a bunch of bull.
            The analyses deal with over time, so there will be no huge in rush of water. And without even considering global warming the storm creation/destruction of beaches has long been known, All one needs to do is go to North Carolina’s outer Banks to see that.
            Global warming with ice cap and glacier melts increases the water and whether salt or normal the water levels will rise. The ice involved rest mostly on land mass, not floating in the oceans like ice cubes in a glass of water. So you add volume to the oceans, seas, lakes and rivers.
            About 24% of the country will agree with you, so go there and preach your nonsense.

          5. Leftout September 2, 2017

            I am what i say and i was trying to inject a little humor. I am trying to point our that there are many variables to global warming and seas /land masses rising/falling. There certainly is warming. Energy consumption follows human beings North and South, i phone charging or not . Solar panels can drain the sun in a billion years and we will live in cold darkness. We can drive disimilar metals into the earths core and produce electricity, we will consume it all .Our bastard children will have to deal with any consequences .

          6. The lucky one September 4, 2017

            “I am a Scientist” In what discipline? OK I see below you say you are a biochemist. That means you are as qualified as me to make authoritative statements on climate change, if you have read the literature that is.

          7. Leftout September 4, 2017

            I have read it also i am a Navy Pilot, welll versed in wearher wave actions and littoral drift if i need to land on it. I. read a piece 70’s 80s? About global cooling National Geo. Where the concern was that glaciers were not melting but accreting between seasons.

          8. The lucky one September 4, 2017

            “I. read a piece 70’s 80s? About global cooling National Geo. Where the concern was that glaciers were not melting but accreting between seasons.” I don’t know what they saw then or more importantly who was doing the reporting and under whose employ but it isn’t happening now. I was just in Iceland and went to their glacier museum wherein the aerial maps showed the receding of glaciers.

            BTW your pilot status also does not make you any more qualified than anyone else to comment authoritatively on climate change. Reading a weather pattern to estimate its effect on an airplane is irrelevant to the discussion at hand.

          9. Leftout September 4, 2017

            Ah ha so you admit that the sponsor of any research has an agenda in this case the National Geo. crew. I have been always i nterested in weather and waves water erosion being also a sailor and farmer .barrier island formation is my favorite. I see it is getting warmer but this year it has been cooler in some parts except deserts .i believe in what uou saw. Sciencr at its indisputable best.

          10. The lucky one September 4, 2017

            Of course anyone sponsoring research has an agenda. Sometimes it is stated openly and other times hidden. It’s always relevant to know who paid for it and whether others have had similar results and who funded them.

            If warming is not occurring why are glaciers melting? You’re quite the Renaissance man but none of it makes you any more authoritative than anyone else. I have farmed as well and over the years have noticed the effects of warming gradually become more pronounced over the last 40 years.

          11. Leftout September 4, 2017

            I agree with the fact there appears to be warming over my years memory. I am not an authority just an observer as anyone else. I would like to read more of the statisitics.

        2. Beethoven September 2, 2017

          What math? I saw no evidence of any math in your comments. I did see a false or misleading statement of “fact” in your first comment; I believe that is what he was referring to.

          You said “if all of the icebergs melted there would be no water rising to worry about…. The density of ice is less than that of water.” It is true that ice is less dense than water that is just above the freezing point. As water cools, it becomes more and more dense (a given molecular amount of water fills up less space), until it reaches its maximum density just above the freezing point. When it converts to ice, it expands slightly, becoming less dense, though the difference is small. But as water warms, it becomes less dense, until at some point liquid water is less dense than ice. If that was the explanation for the rising ocean levels, it wouldn’t amount to much, probably no more than a few inches worldwide even if the oceans warmed by several degrees. Likewise, if the icebergs melted, the change from ice to water just above the freezing point wouldn’t make enough difference in the worldwide ocean water levels to be significant.

          But that is not the problem. An iceberg is approximately 90 percent subsurface and only about 10 percent above the water level of the ocean. If the iceberg melts, the part that was subsurface won’t add any water to the ocean, because it was already there. But the part that was above the ocean’s surface level will raise the ocean’s level. Though if one (or a few dozen) icebergs melt, they won’t raise the ocean’s level enough to matter.

          The real problem is that the icebergs come from somewhere, they weren’t always in the ocean to begin with. Many icebergs come from glaciers, when part of the glacier breaks off at the shoreline and falls into the ocean. All the ice in that iceberg was not in the ocean before it broke off, so when it melts, all the water in it is added to the ocean’s water. Imagine a glass full to the brim with water; you add an ice cube to it. The water level in the glass will rise because of the added ice cube, and will not return to its previous level just because the ice cube melts.

          Glaciers have been breaking off pieces which become icebergs for millions of years; but because of global warming the glaciers are melting faster, and breaking off many more icebergs, which are raising the ocean’s water levels. Also, all of the ice cap in Greenland, and much of the ice in Antarctica, is above the ocean’s water level, and it is melting and running off into the ocean at a much faster rate now than it did for the past few geological ages. All that melting ice is raising the ocean’s water level, because it wasn’t part of the ocean to start with. That is why the ocean’s level is rising, and there is plenty of proven scientific evidence that it is in fact rising, whatever you may choose to believe as to why that is so.

    2. Beethoven September 2, 2017

      I don’t know which geophysicist you are relying on, but nearly all of the experts in weather and climate agree that the ocean levels are, in fact, rising because of global warming, and rising faster with each succeeding year, and will cause increasing flooding of coastal cities. See, for example, http://www.cnn.com/2017/07/12/us/weather-cities-inundated-climate-change/index.html
      Several major cities in the U.S. have already spent millions of dollars trying to deal with rising ocean water levels, and there are some island countries in the South Pacific that have experienced so much loss of land already, that they fear their entire country will soon be under water.
      As for your comment that storms benefit beaches, I suppose you think we should welcome more and more, and more powerful storms, because they will benefit the beaches (even though those beaches will be farther and farther inland as the ocean levels rise). By the same logic, forest fires, in the long run, can bring renewed growth to the burned-out areas, so those folks in the western U.S. who are losing their homes (and sometimes their lives) to bigger and more destructive forest fires, should be glad of it, because it is actually good for the area in the long run (over the next couple of centuries).
      On top of the increased flooding, we are also dealing with warmer temperatures worldwide, which means that agriculture will be gradually moving farther and farther north until we run out of places to plant crops, and many plants (and animals) will become extinct because they won’t be able to adapt to the warmer temperatures.
      Of course, we can deny the changes that are happening right in front of us, and say there is no reason to do anything about climate change, because it won’t affect us, except for those people who are getting flooded out of their homes, but it will affect our children and our grandchildren, and their grandchildren, unless we care enough about our descendants to try to save them from our idiocy.

      1. Leftout September 2, 2017

        Global warming is occurring , storm activity does wash away and deposit unto beaches, Florida is sinking into the water due to massive underground water erosion. There are many factors involved in Pacific islands losing their ground , they were created very time and they will disappear and form elsewhere. You are correct again in saying forest fires definitely create renewed growth. Unlike animals people do lose their lives, animals have sense enough to adapt to other areas over time. People on the other hand love to be in warm areas, except NYC …home of freebies. . There are studies that show human migration into large city locales like Atlanta, Chicago and leeward of NYC all generate more heat and experience larger cumuli and thunderstorms. This is not necessarily due to darker skinned peoples having migrated into these cities attracting more heat and generating storms as you are inferring. Humans are creating environmental changes, there fore we should minimize procreation to protect our pristine areas. The Democrats are correct on this point in that more abortions are required to mlinimize encroachment of humans into large communes which in turn create global warming.

        1. Beethoven September 2, 2017

          Forest fires kill many animals; sometimes the animals are able to escape the fires, but many times they can’t escape and are killed, and many animals die after the fires because their environment has become unlivable for them. Animals can adapt sometimes, within limits, but if the changes are too much, it may take thousands of years for them to adapt enough to meet the new conditions, and many animal species have become extinct because they couldn’t adapt fast enough.

          You are correct that large densely populated cities generate more heat and consequently more thunderstorms, primarily because the buildings and paved streets and parking lots absorb heat but prevent water from soaking into the water table, instead running off into the streams, and all the trees and other vegetation that are removed to allow for the buildings and pavings mean less ability to absorb carbon dioxide and heat from the sun. I don’t know where you got the idea that I was inferring darker skinned people were causing it; I don’t see how the color of the population’s skin can have a significant effect on the temperature, even if we’re talking about hundreds of thousands of people.

          You also have a comment that more abortions are required. I won’t get into a debate here about the morality of abortion, but I do agree that a major cause of all the problems we are having is that the world’s population is increasing faster than the world’s ability to support that population through improved technology. We certainly need to do something about the ballooning world population, but whether that means abortion, or sterilization, or enforced limitation of offspring as China has done, or simply better education on birth control and more availability of it, is a matter for a different discussion.

    3. ralphkr September 2, 2017

      Then, Leftout, you must know some extremely ignorant geophysicists since the majority of ice is sequestered on land so when it melts it releases additional water into the oceans. To use the example so loved by the low information deniers, namely, a water glass filled to the brim with water and ice cubes to prove that water does not spill when the cubes melt but a true example would be a glass with ice cubes stacked 4 inches above the rim and, yes, there would be a puddle formed when the cubes melted. By the way, where I live storms changed the beaches from a mile wide of sand to a spacious 8 feet of cobbles at low tide over the decades.

      1. Leftout September 2, 2017

        I agree, my experiment example was related to icebergs flowing freely, a little
        Mental gymnastics today.

        1. ralphkr September 2, 2017

          Your example ignored the fact that the very creation of an iceberg raised the seal level slightly as an iceberg is formed as a chunk of ice breaks off the face of a glacier, which is usually supported by land, and falls into the sea. I believe that the theoretical assumption is that if ALL the ice in the world would melt that the sea level would rise by 216 feet. For that matter, if just all the ice in Antarctica melted that alone would raise the sea level by 200 feet but it would not matter because the earth would be completely uninhabitable before that could be accomplished.

          1. Leftout September 3, 2017

            Two hundred plus feet would
            Cover most of the coastal
            lowlands and NYC/not a bad thing, i i live at the 700′ level, soni will be able to observe this for the then National Memo, but then a slight polar shift could place us backnin an ice age. I like this two season idea. Inhope we all will see it .why do you theorize “uninhabitable”

          2. ralphkr September 3, 2017

            It would take an increase in earth’s average temperature of at least 20 degrees F to melt all of the Antarctic ice (which would mean an increase at the South pole of 60 degrees) and that would destroy all current croplands leaving nothing but an extremely narrow viable band at the Northernmost and Southernmost areas of earth available for crops with much of that area being ocean. Almost all sea life would be killed off from the over heated water. Possibly enough crop area to support a population of a few hundred people at the very most but more likely only enough to support a few million cockroaches.

          3. Leftout September 3, 2017

            Cockroaches Would be gone since NYC would be underwater. I like your interesting scenario , well i nope to see you on a hill top with a beer and watching the flowers grow.☘️????

          4. ralphkr September 3, 2017

            You seem to have forgotten that there are currently cockroaches everywhere that humans are including in the Antarctic stations.

          5. Leftout September 3, 2017

            I did not know that. I would never have thought anyone from NYC would ever be seen in Antarctica since there is are no free bees there .

          6. ralphkr September 3, 2017

            What a strange thing to say, Leftout, considering the fact that if the blue states such as New York and California seceded that the red states such as Alaska, Kansas, Alabama, etc. would immediately go bankrupt because the Federal teat that the Republican states all suck on would immediately dry up due to the loss of Federal taxes from the blue states.

          7. Leftout September 3, 2017

            Ill have to respectfully check that, i know NYC and other laeger cities are hurting from too many give aways and high taxes and deficits. Upstate population of NY are more self reliant.

  3. Richard Prescott September 2, 2017

    I would like to see the news and media get ahold of those scientists that left Exxon who acknowledged that climate science research has been ongoing since 1975.
    Science that verified the truths of climate change and man’s adding to the natural occurrence.

  4. Daniel Jones September 2, 2017

    They are not “failing” to report the link, they are *actively avoiding* it!

  5. The lucky one September 4, 2017

    “An early estimate of the storm’s cost stands at $190 billion, which would make it the nation’s “costliest natural disaster.”

    Yes that’s one way of looking at it but the oligarchs and their stooge Trump see it differently. For them it’s a business opportunity that reads: “An early estimate of the storm’s profit potential stands at $190 billion, which would make it the nation’s “most profitable natural disaster.”


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