Majority of top U.S. newspapers failed to feature bombshell climate report on homepage

New U.N. report warns the world will surpass 1.5ºC mark in just 20 years.

Several prominent newspapers failed to feature a major new UN climate report. (Credit: JUNG YEON-JE/AFP/Getty Images)
Several prominent newspapers failed to feature a major new UN climate report. (Credit: JUNG YEON-JE/AFP/Getty Images)

The majority of the top 50 newspapers across the country did not feature any homepage coverage of a landmark United Nations climate change report after its release.

Analysis by nonprofit Media Matters for America looked at the highest-ranked newspapers (according to their Sunday circulation) in the U.S. to see whether the websites’ main page linked to coverage of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) report.

The report, released Sunday evening in the U.S., sounded a major alarm bell on climate change. In it, scientists warn that the current greenhouse gas emissions trajectory will push the world over a key global warming threshold in just over 20 years.

By 2040, the report finds, global temperatures will have surpassed 1.5ºC of warming above pre-industrial temperatures — the ambitious goal world leaders agreed to under the Paris climate agreement. And as the report goes on to say, the world will also blow past the official Paris goal of limiting warming to 2ºC within just four decades.


But on Monday morning, just 22 out of the 50 papers had a prominent story about the report on their homepage. This includes many local newspapers that have a national reach, such as the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, and the Boston Globe.

Of the 28 newspapers that did not feature coverage of the report, many are published in areas at high risk of suffering some of the worst effects of climate change, Media Matters points out. Papers such as the Baltimore Sun, the Denver Post, and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette are among 10 outlets based in cities known to be extremely vulnerable to climate change.

“Polls find that Americans trust local news sources more than national ones, so it’s especially critical for local newspapers to cover climate change,” Lisa Hymas, Media Matters’ climate and energy program director, said in a statement to ThinkProgress. “With climate change hitting Americans at the local level, local papers are best positioned to explain those impacts and tell those stories.

Hymas pointed to the Miami Herald, which did not feature the IPCC climate report on its homepage, thereby “missing a great opportunity to highlight how climate change is already affecting city residents through sea-level rise and the threat of more dangerous hurricanes.”

The lack of attention to the IPCC report by a large number of newspapers continues a trend in the U.S. of media outlets failing to properly cover climate change and its impacts.


As another report by Media Matters notes, the majority of mainstream media outlets largely failed to make the connection between climate change and more intense storms like Hurricane Florence. ABC, for instance, failed to air a single segment that mentioned the connection between climate change and hurricanes like Florence, while NBC had just one segment and CBS had two.

Meanwhile, the Trump administration has remained largely silent in the wake of the IPCC report’s release. The White House issued no public response. When asked why, the New York Times reports White House communications director Bill Shine said, “Not today… It’s a Kavanaugh night.”