Guest essay by Eric Worrall
What makes it even funnier is Richard Branson, whose space rocket stunt bumped the Hayhoe climate segment, fancies himself as a climate hero.
Why TV Is So Bad at Covering Climate Change
Published 8 hours ago: July 14, 2021 at 11:30 pm
On Saturday, Katharine Hayhoe, a climate scientist at Texas Tech University, tweeted that she’d be appearing on CNN to talk to Fareed Zakaria about the record-breaking heat wave gripping the West. The next day, she announced her segment had been cut. “Bumped, due to billionaire going to space,” she wrote.
Hayhoe was slated to appear on CNN as Death Valley was clocking the highest temperature ever reliably recorded on the planet, on the heels of another heat wave that killed hundreds of people across the Pacific Northwest and Canada. Meanwhile, Richard Branson spent 3 or 4 minutes weightless to advertise a spaceship that will offer seats for hundreds of thousands of dollars a pop — and earned wall-to-wall coverage on broadcast networks this weekend, many of which aired footage of his “brief joyride.”
Booking someone as a guest on cable TV for a big show is a nightmare process. You had to make sure that the person could get to a big city with a broadcast studio on a quick turnaround to film their segment, which often rules out basically every scientist or activist living in rural areas (or those who have, you know, lives and can’t drop everything to go film at 11 p.m.). Producers also tend to prefer people with previous TV experience, meaning experts in their field who could really give the best insight on the topic or activists doing amazing work were often passed over for someone more well-known or someone with more stage presence or experience.
“When breaking news happens, that often leads to at least one originally-planned segment getting killed — which can happen a lot to climate segments that aren’t the most pressing topic of the day,” the producer told me over text message.
This gets at a classic, age-old problem in climate communications: How do you get people to care about the slow death of our planet when there’s a bunch of other stuff happening rapid-fire right in front of our eyes? “As a society it’s as if we have a collective cat brain: fixated on the latest shiny toy that’s waving in front of our eyes while in the meantime our tail is on fire,” Hayhoe wrote in her tweet thread.
Read more: https://www.gizmodo.com.au/2021/07/why-tv-is-so-bad-at-covering-climate-change/
Sorry Hayhoe, but people are just bored with climate heroes like you repeating the same tired tropes.
As for Richard Branson, we love teasing climate heroes about their air miles, but how does someone who owns an airline get to call themselves a climate hero? Someone who is pushing forward with plans to offer joy rides for millionaires to the edge of space on large CO2 belching rockets?
Don’t get me wrong, I think the rockets are pretty awesome. But burning tons of fossil fuel to give a few minutes joy ride to rich people does not exactly seem like an example of how to cut your carbon footprint to save the planet.
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