United States news media and climate change in the era of US President Trump

Integr Environ Assess Manag. 2018 Mar;14(2):202-204. doi: 10.1002/ieam.2011.


The Donald J Trump administration's strategy to disengage and downplay the Paris Climate Agreement will likely result in a slight decrease in the already low levels of US news media global warming coverage. This is because significant limitations with the news media's ability to adequately cover climate change predated the administration. First, studies indicate that advertising interests and editors have always challenged journalists' abilities to adequately report on climate change issues. Instead of climate change stories, editors often prefer more sensational topics that garner higher ratings and approval with advertisers. Second, the journalistic norm of balance and the role of sourcing give climate skeptics exceptional media exposure, which creates a "false balance" or equivalency between skeptics and scientists. Third, the massive power and influence of the fossil fuel industry's public relations arm has also had a tremendous impact on public (mis)understanding of climate change. Fourth, a trend toward declining climate change coverage and "climate silence" in US media is developing. Media corporations have substantially eliminated the number of environmental journalists that cover climate change. The overall effect of these limitations distorts public understanding of climate change and delays potential government action. Moving away from a predominantly commercial media system to one with a substantial noncommercial component can improve US journalism, whereas using advertising to increase rates for environmentally unsound products and services may also help mitigate global warming. Integr Environ Assess Manag 2018;14:202-204. © 2018 SETAC.

Keywords: Climate change; Fossil fuel industry; News media; Paris Agreement.

MeSH terms

  • Climate Change*
  • Communication
  • Conservation of Natural Resources
  • Environmental Policy
  • Global Warming*
  • Mass Media*
  • United States