Other outlets held off, however, with 28 of the top 50 American newspapers by Sunday circulation publishing nothing on the report the day after it was issued, according to the liberal watchdog Media Matters for America.
The Columbia Journalism Review bashed the nonchalant response to the U.N. report in an April 22 essay headlined “The media are complacent while the world burns.” Written by the longtime environmental reporter Mark Hertsgaard and the magazine’s top editor, Kyle Pope, the piece took issue with the “climate silence” of major news organizations and singled out the paucity of time given to the issue on television news, “where the brutal demands of ratings and money work against adequate coverage of the biggest story of our time.”
A neat illustration of the extremes in how climate change has been covered was evident on a recent edition of the nightly Fox News program “The Story With Martha MacCallum.” The segment began with a clip from John Oliver’s HBO show in which Bill Nye the Science Guy, a winner of multiple Emmys who specializes in explaining scientific concepts in simple terms, lit a globe on fire and ordered his viewers, in unprintable language, to grow up and face the crisis. After the clip played, Ms. MacCallum’s guest, the Fox News personality Jesse Watters, weighed in.
“The planet renews itself,” Mr. Watters said. “And I just am doubtful that man is causing the warming, because these experts have been saying this for years. The experts said there was going to be a Y2K meltdown. Didn’t happen. The experts said there was Russian collusion. Didn’t happen. The experts said there was going to be President Hillary Clinton. Didn’t happen.”
Mr. Watters’s view lines up with the roughly one-third of Americans who believe that climate change is mostly because of natural trends, according to a new study from the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication. It is also in keeping with the opinion of Mr. Watters’s onetime dining partner, President Trump, who pulled the United States out of the Paris climate accord and has called the idea that climate change results from human activity a “hoax” and “fake science.”
At the other end of the spectrum, the activists of Extinction Rebellion, a group founded in Britain last year, argue that most journalists have not met the crisis with sufficient urgency. In addition to recent protests in London and Paris (where some participants were tear-gassed), the group has aimed at the news media, with demonstrations last month outside the offices of The New York Times, The Washington Post and Fox News.
“You’re still not talking about it like it’s an emergency,” said a group spokeswoman, Alanna Byrne, referring to large media outlets, “and that’s what we have to do now: Be honest to the public about the full-scale changes we have to make.”