“Our citizens keep marching,” Barack Obama told the assembled delegates at the United Nations on Tuesday during his extravagantly publicized address on climate change. “We cannot pretend we can’t hear them.”
Apparently, cable news didn’t get the message. CNN and Fox News carried the president’s remarks for just a few minutes before cutting away. MSNBC never carried them at all.
There is a logical reason for why the cable networks chose not to cover the President of the United States addressing the most pressing crisis of our generation: It doesn’t drive interest.
Take, for example, MSNBC’s Ed Schultz who has made an unwise habit of focusing on whatever subject is of only peripheral relevance to the news cycle. Schultz decided to devote the majority of his attention just days before the opening salvos of a new American war in the Middle East to climate change. The results of this strategy were, as meteorologist Ryan Maue observed, his predictable collapse in the ratings.
“Ed Schultz’s ratings continued to plummet last week, falling to just 41,000 in a key demographic,” NewsBuster’s Scott Whitlock reported on Tuesday.
MSNBC’s regular viewers are in good company. A Gallup poll released in April revealed that only 35 percent of the public worries “a great deal” about climate change. Another 34 percent said the same of the concept of global warming, which Gallup noted has remained largely unchanged since 1989.
A more recent New York Times/CBS News poll measuring the public’s concern about catastrophic climate change apparently worried CBS News reporters so much that they were moved to spin the results.
“A CBS News/New York Times poll released Monday shows that 54 percent of Americans say global warming is having a serious impact now or will in the future,” CBS reported. “As many as four in 10 say global warming will be a serious threat to them during their lifetime.”
That sounds like majorities are deeply concerned about climate change and a plurality believes that the phenomenon will have an impact on their lives. This is, however, a bit of a misleading way to interpret this poll.
A plurality, 46 percent, said that global warming will have a serious impact now and another 28 percent said it will in the future. 54 percent, the number cited by CBS, believe that global warming effects are mostly caused by human activity, which is the highest that poll has measured.
But a dive into the partisan breakdown reveals that fewer than would be expected are up in arms over climate Change. Only six in 10 self-described Democrats believe the phenomenon of global warming is having an impact on the climate today.
When asked if global warming will pose a threat to their interests in their lifetime, four in 10 did say that they believed it would. But almost six in 10 said it would not. Only 56 percent of self-identified Democrats said global warming would shape their lives and young adults aged 18-29 were evenly split on that question.
Further confusing pundits, a total of 58 percent to 37 percent in this survey said protecting the environment should take precedence over ensuring economic growth. When asked to list their priorities, however, CBS observed that voters cited jobs and the economy “far ahead of the environment.”
The greatest challenge of our generation simply fails to capture the attention of the nation in the same way as does, say, armed conflict with terrorist groups actively plotting attacks on American national interests. That suggests Americans’ priorities are right where they need to be.