Climate change is an existential threat to human society. A rapidly heating climate will effect not only the weather but will also have grave consequences for human health, biodiversity, food production, refugee migrations, wars for natural resources, and the world economy.
Military experts have warned that climate change presents a “significant risk to U.S. national security and international security”. The DoD (Department of Defense) has released a report on the security implications of climate change, and the Pentagon has also declared climate change to be a threat to national security. Clearly, at the highest levels of the U.S. security state, climate change is being taken seriously and viewed as an imminent threat.
Why then during the U.S. presidential debates have the two people vying for the position of Commander in Chief spent less than 90 seconds discussing this pressing national and international security issue? Not a single one of the debate moderators raised the issue of climate change, and it only received a partial mention during the town hall when internet sensation Ken Bone asked about the balance of environment, energy policy, and jobs. Instead of focusing on the implications of both Clinton and Trump’s subsequent advocacy for fracking and the climate challenges that lay ahead, the media idiotically seized on Ken Bone’s red sweater and quirky demeanor as fodder for the 24 hour news cycle.
To her credit, Hillary Clinton did make a few ad hoc comments on the reality of climate change and the need for clean energy jobs during the first debate, yet this was not a nod to the urgency of the moment but was yet another politically advantageous attempt to contrast herself with Donald Trump (who has stated that climate change is a Chinese conspiracy theory). About half of the presidential debates were spent discussing Donald Trump’s disgusting misogynistic comments and Hillary Clinton’s borderline-criminal private email server. While not unimportant, these issues are certainly not more newsworthy than the fate of our planet and our species, so how can we explain the veil of silence regarding what is arguably one of the most important and urgent issues facing humanity?
One explanation is that the media is very much dependent on fossil fuel related advertising revenue. From Media Matters:
CNN aired almost five times as much oil industry advertising as climate change-related coverage in the one-week periods following the announcements that 2015 was the hottest year on record and February 2016 was the most abnormally hot month on record. Specifically, CNN aired 23.5 minutes of American Petroleum Institute ads during its morning, afternoon, and primetime coverage over those two weeks, compared to just five minutes of coverage about climate change or the temperature records. That disparity does not even account for dozens of Koch Industries ads that also ran on CNN, which were not energy-focused but did serve to boost the image of the oil billionaire Koch brothers’ primary corporation.
We must consider the implications of automobile advertising which provides a large chunk of corporate media advertising revenue:
Automakers, the vast majority of whom produce vehicles that run exclusively on fossil fuels, dominate the advertising landscape:
Even NPR has been tainted. Since they began taking money from America’s Natural Gas Alliance, their coverage of climate change has dropped by 20%; listeners have been angered after tuning in to their beloved station and hearing blatantly misleading pro-fracking propaganda.
Money does indeed talk, and it has drowned out the voices of the many Americans who are very much worried about climate change:
Polling firm Gallup, which has been tracking public sentiment on the topic annually since 1997, found that 41% of US adults feel warming will pose a “serious threat” to them during their lifetimes. This is the highest level recorded by Gallup, a 4% increase on 2015.
A total of 64% of those polled said they worried about global warming a “great deal” or a “fair amount”, the highest level of recorded concern since 2008. Just 36% of Americans said they did not fret about it, or only worried a little.
We should be outraged that, despite growing public concern about climate change, it received no mention at all from the presidential debate and town hall moderators and only a passing mention from the candidates themselves. This should illuminate for us the dangers we face at the hands of the increasingly corporate-controlled state. An existential threat is being hidden and obscured to protect corporate profits. The corporate media has essentially become a mouthpiece for the mega-wealthy and their interests; they have failed in their journalistic duty to provide the public with correct and adequate information regarding a serious threat, a threat we can at least prepare for and mitigate against if we’re presented with the right information in a timely fashion.
Despite the corporate media silence, people can see what is happening around them: the ongoing drought in California; the devastation of Hurricane Matthew and Hurricane Sandy; record warmth and lack of snow in Alaska; destructive floods in Louisiana, Iowa, Texas and Maryland; the spread of the Zika virus in Florida — these and many other examples are what people have been experiencing on the ground in their own communities, and this is the reality that cannot be denied.