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Climate Change Is a Major Midterm Issue. Corporate Media Are Ignoring It.

Debate moderators are asking fewer climate-related questions than they did in 2016.

An analysis of 17 debates in competitive Senate and governors’ races this year found only one of them has included a question related to climate change.

Part of the Series

Recent polling shows that 73 percent of voters believe climate change is occurring, while 57 percent of voters understand it is caused by human activity.

These poll numbers are surprising, given the context of an overall lack of adequate reportage of climate change in the corporate media.

With midterm elections nearing, the fact that most US citizens now understand that climate change is happening — and more than half of them know it is human-caused – means that climate may increasingly be a major issue for voters.

A growing number of both Republican and Democratic representatives (90 thus far) have already joined the Climate Solutions Caucus, “a bipartisan group in the US House of Representatives which will explore policy options that address the impacts, causes, and challenges of our changing climate,” according to their website.

Debates Not Addressing Climate Change

Media watchdog group Media Matters released a report recently showing that, from an analysis of 17 debates in competitive Senate and governors’ races this year, only one of them has included a question related to climate change.

This is a far worse tally than the Media Matters analysis for the 2016 races, in which less than one-quarter of the debates featured a climate change question.

This ignorance, dismissal and devaluing of the largest global threat to the human species is occurring against the backdrop of increasingly expensive disasters: 2017 saw climate and extreme weather disasters costing the US at least $306 billion, an all-time record.

Moreover, the recent Media Matters analysis reveals a stunning lack of concern about climate change in states that are at risk of being impacted by it the most severely.

For example, in Alaska — which is at risk from warmer temperatures, coastal flooding and erosion, wildfires and thawing permafrost — there have been two gubernatorial debates analyzed by Media Matters and not a single question about climate change was asked.

Connecticut, which is at risk from coastal and inland flooding, has had three gubernatorial debates, without a single climate change question.

The same is true for Kansas, which is at risk from drought, increasing tornadoes, extreme heat, crop failure and inland flooding; and Maine, which is at risk from coastal and inland flooding, as well as extreme heat and drought.

Rhode Island, which is at risk from coastal flooding, extreme heat, sea level rise and inland flooding, had no climate change questions asked during a gubernatorial debate. The same is true for Texas, which faces extreme heat, increasing hurricanes, drought, wildfires, and coastal and inland flooding.

Thus far, the one instance where climate change was brought into the debate was during a gubernatorial race debate in Minnesota, which is at risk from drought and extreme heat.

This lack of attention to climate change is particularly worrisome in states where the climate impacts are already severe and obvious.

For example, the gubernatorial debate in New Mexico, which is already suffering from lack of adequate water, drought, wildfires and extreme heat, saw no questions about climate change.

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