Five Grave Communications Failures of The US Media On Climate Change

This video examines 5 grave tragic communications failures of the US media on climate change.

These include the failure to communicate;

  1. The strength of the scientific consensus
  2. The civilization challenging nature of the magnitude of greenhouse gas emissions reductions needed to prevent dangerous climate change
  3. The barrier that the United States has been in international climate negotiations that have been ongoing since 1990 to achieve a global solution to climate change
  4. The essential ethical and moral nature of the climate change problem, a fact that has profound significance for policy formation
  5. The nature of the climate change disinformation campaign.



Donald A. Brown

Scholar In Residence

Sustainability Ethics and Law

Widener University School of Law

8 thoughts on “Five Grave Communications Failures of The US Media On Climate Change

  1. Don:

    Perhaps a sixth “grave communication failure” of the US media might be incomplete framing of issues. As we both know often the media frames climate change issues primarily in economic terms or perhaps as false or questionable choices between selected and incomplete energy options. For example, in Andy Revkin’s recent blog on fracking and use of nuclear power in New York, he primarily (not completely) maintains that without both there will be or needs to be an increase in coal use. Framing the question in this way negates efforts to increase contribution of conservation and renewables. (

    Carry On……
    John Lemons

  2. Thanks Don for repeating these essential points, We have to keep repeating all of them as it is the only way to get the ideas accepted. However how do we get the uncommitted to hear them? Jim

    • Dr Jones, I think we need a social movement on carbon particularly around the United States. I think we need each other to figure out how to make this happen. It will happen sometime, the question is how much damage will we do in the meantime.


  3. Hi Don

    I think there is a social movement on carbon in the US – it has begun. Forecast the Facts,, Greenpeace, Rainforest Action Network – all of these are running grass roots campaigns on carbon in the US. right now. Agree of course there needs to be more, but there’s not a complete silence right now (except, of course, in the election campaign).

  4. There is another party that has fallen short in its responsibility to communicate with the U.S. public on climate change; nanmely, the U.S. Government.

    The UNFCCC, a ratified treaty and hence U.S. law, states in Article 4 (entitled “Commitments”)

    “1. All Parties, taking into account their common but differentiated responsibilities and their specific national and regional development priorities, objectives and circumstances, shall: ….
    (i) Promote and cooperate in education, training and public awareness related to climate change and encourage the widest participation in this process, including that of non-governmental organizations;…”

    The “differentiated responsibility” of the U.S and other developed countries., as stated in the treaty, is to take the lead in addressing the problem of climate change. Furthermore, the treaty is based on the principle that lack of certainty should not be taken as an excuse to act to mitigate potentially irreversible harm.

    Promoting public awareness in a manner that takes into account the responsibility to take the lead in mitigating the potential threat of climate change would almost certainly result in a much better informed public than currently exists in the U.S.

    While the treaty does not mandate a result of the required education and public awareness effort, an utterly dismal performance in informing the public of the nature and consequences of climate change is evidence that the required effort has not been made.

    Those responsible for executing the laws of the United States should be required to give an account of their failure.

    Imagine the response we would see (or have seen) if the government were to fail to inform the public of the potential threat from an approaching hurricane, AIDS, smoking, a volcanic eruption, or an outbreak of influenza or other communicable disease.

    • Thank You for the comment. I agree completely although you make the valuable contribution that there is an obligation under the UNFCCC to do this. Thanks.

  5. Donald – thank you for this well-considered and well-produced video on this important topic.

    May I suggest an alternative solution?

    Scientists may need to not rely on the media to spread the word. Instead, scientists may need to use the social media platforms currently available to them and engage the public throughout all phases of their research to generate and sustain interest, create transparency, and build trust.

    You are taking an important step in this direction through your blog posts. I hope that more scientists will follow in your footsteps. – Michelle

    • Thanks for your comment, I agree completely on the need for scientists to use social media more.

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