Over the last few years, media outlets have been among the worst offenders maintaining virtual radio silence on how extreme weather patterns may be the result of manmade climate change. But CBS broke this so-called “climate silence” on Face the Nation Sunday, hosting a panel of meteorologists and climatologists to discuss the floods, droughts, and tornadoes that have plagued the country with increasing ferocity.
The panel — consisting of CBS meteorologist David Bernard, Chief Climatologist for Climate Central Heidi Cullen, TIME journalist Jeffrey Kluger, and President of the American Meteorological Society, Dr. J. Marshall Shepherd — didn’t shy away from addressing the overall patterns that indicate global climate change is driven by human production of carbon dioxide. “We’re getting a level of consensus on thousands of peer reviewed studies over decades that have established the human contribution to climate change,” Kluger told host Bob Schieffer.
Even as some studies suggest the potential for double-digit warming across the globe, the media has been stubbornly silent, treating climate change as an issue that is still up for political debate, instead of a scientific reality. Cullen summed up this problem well during the panel discussion, saying that addressing climate change is “the biggest procrastination problem in the sense that the longer you wait to fix it the tougher it gets to fix, so the sooner we start the better off we are.”
Members of the panel also suggested some solutions. Kluger focused on “a slow transition to renewables, the increase in mileage standards for cars,” but warned that such measures were “sort of putting out the fringes of the wildfire that’s blazing. We have to get to the heart of it and begin shut it down.” Bernard took the less optimistic, but more realistic approach, suggesting that “we have to learn to live with the way climate is going and that means responsible development. We can’t keep building in the same places that maybe more prone to floods.”
Earlier this month, as the midwest was plagued by devastating floods, only three percent of media coverage even mentioned the term “climate change.” Overall in 2012, media coverage of climate change increased slightly, though it was still down sharply from a 2009 peak.