An Urgent Letter From Danny Glover, Emma Thompson and David Suzuki
How Was A Climate Crisis Denier Elected
President of The United States?
Only 16% of people surveyed are very worried about climate change.
Here’s what we plan to do about it.
The Russians are coming! The Russians are coming!
Actually, they’re not.
Corporate news is consumed with covering the Trump/Russia affair, but whatever the truth of all this turns out to be, it pales in significance to the real existential threat that is upon us. Largely due to a lack of coverage by corporate television news, there is a dangerous lack of public awareness of it.
According to a Yale survey, 70% of Americans believe global warming is real, but only 53% of those people think it is caused by human activity. Only 10% of people were aware that more than 90% of climate scientists are convinced that global warming is human-caused. The vast majority of people that answered the survey did not think the climate crisis would directly affect them or their families.
The war on climate science, particularly in the United States, plays a major role in promoting doubt and denialism. Billionaires like David and Charles Koch and Trump’s major backer Robert Mercer support right-wing organizations that spend tens of millions of dollars financing witch-hunts that target climate scientists. They fund “research” that’s designed to bury the facts.
But corporate television news, “the gatekeeper of public consciousness,” is arguably more responsible for the gap between public opinion and scientific evidence. By failing to cover the issue with a sense of urgency and depth, corporate media reinforces the climate change deniers’ message.
A Media Matters report found that in 2015 the four major corporate TV networks only aired a total of 146 minutes of climate change coverage. That includes Fox’s criticism of climate science and giving a platform to climate science denial. ABC only aired 13 minutes of coverage.
A follow-up report found that in 2016, corporate media decreased its coverage of climate change by 66%, despite it being the hottest year globally on record. That’s a total of 96 minutes of coverage during a presidential election year.
Media Matters also reported that CNN aired five times as much oil industry advertising as climate change-related coverage.
Climate news stories that cry out for attention are ignored. For example, a temperature increase of 2°C (3.6°F) above pre-industrial levels will be reached as soon as 2050, according to The Truth About Climate Change, a report authored by seven leading climate scientists. The group included Sir Robert Watson, the former chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and Lord Martin Rees, former head of The Royal Society and astronomer to the Queen.
The report says “even if all the pledges made by the signatory countries to the Paris agreement are fully implemented, temperatures will pass this extremely dangerous mark in 34 years.”
The Truth About Climate Change should have been the lead story on every television newscast. We can’t find evidence it was carried by any TV news outlet at all. Is it any wonder a climate denier was elected President?
TRNN covered the report, including interviewing one of the authors.
The scientists’ climate model was produced before the election of Trump. Trump and Pence have now “ripped up” the Paris agreement. Even before that, given his appointment of climate deniers and fossil fuel industry representatives to critical cabinet positions, it was clear the pledge was going to be made impossible to fulfill. Instead of cutting back on carbon emissions, they are removing existing limits to fossil fuel production and consumption.
2017 is on its way to setting record high global temperatures. If the 2°C threshold is not to be breached, immediate and profound action is required; the problem compounds the longer we delay. Former NASA climate scientist James Hansen has declared that even “a target of 2°C is actually a prescription for long-term disaster.”
There is no way to achieve the necessary reduction in carbon emissions without serious government regulation, a strengthening of the public sector, and a massive public investment in a sustainable green economy. All of this requires a reduction in the political power of the fossil fuel industry and the financial elites associated with it. Neither the corporate media nor the leadership of either major
political party will challenge these forces.
The threat is catastrophic and the science is overwhelming, but climate change is still at the bottom of the political agenda. Most people don’t vote based on a candidate’s position on global warming—and the mainstream media has no interest in changing that.
To engage large numbers of ordinary people in fighting—and voting—for effective climate change policy, we must break the corporate monopoly on daily video news. We need an independent source of climate news that’s not beholden to the finance sector or the fossil fuel industry.
That’s why TRNN is creating a Global Climate Crisis Bureau (GCCB) with sufficient resources to become a major daily multi-media and multi-platform climate news service. The bureau will be funded at a scale that will allow significant production capacity and a large marketing budget for social and conventional media. The GCCB will be a hub for the world’s best reporting and investigative journalism on climate change urgency and solutions.
A key strategy of our Climate Bureau is to embed environmental coverage in a news platform that investigates problems and solutions to people’s crucial daily concerns. From unemployment and low wages to safer cities and better schools, such issues seem more immediate to people.
Most existing climate news sources target audiences that are upper income and more plugged into news culture and climate issues. They speak to people who are already engaged in the issue.
Our primary target audience is working people and the poor, people whose votes decide elections. While we hope everyone watches our news service, we work hard to be relevant to people who need solutions the most. We believe that’s where real change comes from.
A green and sustainable economy leads to a more equitable and just society. We can reach a wide audience by linking the fight to save the planet with solutions to day-to-day economic and social problems.
We are establishing teams in pro-Trump districts in southern Pennsylvania and near Baltimore, where we are learning how to address climate issues to people who suffer the consequences of low wages and globalization. Our experience in these communities is that most people voted for Trump out of desperation, rather than a firm belief in far-right ideology. If we can break through to audiences in these districts, the plan can be applied in swing states throughout the country.
We are developing a pilot project to compete with local corporate news in U.S. cities with majority Black and Latino populations. These cities are the “weak links” in the corporate media chain, where corporate news targets wealthy white audiences outside the city center. We started in Baltimore where we have a 32,000-sq. ft. building across from City Hall. The Real News Center houses TV studios, an event space, offices and soon a restaurant that will be a social hub for people who want to change the world and save the planet.
TRNN now receives more than 36 million annual views online, on radio and television—this with a minimal marketing budget. We project with the development of a properly funded Global Climate Crisis Bureau we will reach 120 million annual views within the first year.
The Global Climate Crisis Bureau Action Plan:
Without profound policy changes, many scientists have predicted that the Earth will warm by as much as 4-6°C by the end of the century. The consequences will be catastrophic. A critical part of the solution is a courageous and unyielding independent media.
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Paul Jay and the TRNN team