Climate MattersMarch 13, 2024

Climate Reporting Resources


  • Most adults in the U.S. (72%) are convinced that global warming is happening, yet only 58% understand that human activities are the main cause. 

  • Local news is uniquely positioned to fill these knowledge gaps and inform the public on the causes and consequences of climate change — especially during extreme weather events.

  • A new report from Nielsen and Climate Central analyzed four recent extreme weather events in the U.S. to understand when and how local television news coverage discussed climate change. 

  • Audiences surged during these events. Related coverage that discussed climate change reached over 17 million people across the 50 largest U.S. media markets. 

  • Attribution science was also reflected in television coverage, informing local audiences about the influence of human-caused climate change on extreme weather events as they unfold.

  • A roundup of science-based reporting resources can help bring climate change context into a range of stories.

Read the report

Public climate opinion

Most adults in the U.S. are convinced that global warming is happening (72%) and will harm future generations (70%). And about four in every five adults support renewable energy generation, which helps reduce heat-trapping pollution. That’s all according to the latest survey data from the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication and partners.

Despite high levels of climate change awareness and support for solutions, there are still some important gaps in public understanding of climate change. 

For example, although the science is settled that “humans are the dominant cause of observed global warming over recent decades” (IPCC, 2021), only 58% of American adults think global warming is caused by human activities. 

CM: Human Influence on Warming Since 1850 (EN) 2023
Click the downloadable graphic: Human Influence on Warming Since 1850

As the planet warms, many dangerous extreme events — from heat waves to wildfires and heavy rainfall and flooding — have become more frequent and/or intense.

In the U.S., the average time between billion-dollar weather and climate disasters has decreased dramatically since 1980.

CM: Less Time Between Disasters 2024 (EN)
Click the downloadable graphic: Less Time Between Disasters

Extreme events like these are not only costly — they put health and safety, livelihoods, infrastructure, and ecosystems at direct risk. 

Despite the established links between warming and extreme weather events, only approximately three in every five adults think that global warming is affecting the weather. 

Science-based climate change communication is a key way to close these gaps in public understanding. 

Connecting the dots

Local news is uniquely positioned to fill these knowledge gaps and inform the public — particularly during extreme weather events, when audiences spike and the risks posed by our warming climate are especially acute. 

Studies have shown that climate reporting by television weathercasters, for example, increases science-based public understanding of climate change. 

A new collaborative case study by Nielsen and Climate Central shows that, as extreme events occur, the public turns to local television broadcasts to stay prepared and informed. 

This case study analyzed four recent extreme weather events that had notable impacts in the U.S. to understand when and how event-related local television news coverage discussed climate change. Key findings include:

  1. Event-related television segments with climate change context have high audience reach and impact. Although just 5% of all event-related segments provided climate change context (as expected during the peak occurrence of hazardous weather events), those segments collectively reached more than 17 million people across the 50 largest U.S. media markets. 

  2. Audiences surged during extreme events. As extreme events unfolded, local television news audiences grew dramatically in the most directly-impacted media markets. For example, audiences doubled in Orlando (Hurricane Ian) and increased 78% in Los Angeles (Tropical Storm Hilary) compared to the week prior to each event. 

  3. Climate-contextualized segments highlight hazardous impacts. Analysis of closed captioning text found that impacts related to health and safety were more frequently mentioned — consistent with the acute risks faced during extreme weather events. Coverage of Canadian wildfires in June 2023 had the highest rate of health and safety mentions (78%), reflecting the serious and widespread health risks from exposure to wildfire smoke. 

Although this case study considered only four events, the key findings show the potential reach and impact of television coverage of extreme weather events that provides climate change context. 

Attribution science reflected in coverage of extreme weather events

In a warming world with extreme weather rising in frequency and/or intensity, local media has increasingly critical roles in both preparing audiences for near-term hazards and informing audiences about how our warming climate is driving changes in extreme events.

The case study mentioned above also found evidence that attribution science — which quantifies the influence of human-driven warming on the likelihood and/or intensity of certain weather conditions or events — is reflected in local television news coverage. Most notably:

Extreme heat was connected to climate change most often. The 110°F+ extreme heat streak in Phoenix in July 2023 had significantly higher rates of climate contextualization (13% of event-related segments) than the other three events (ranging from 2% to 8% of event-related segments). This reflects both public perception (that climate change influences extreme heat the most) and the state of the science. Scientific confidence in the attribution of more frequent and intense extreme heat to human-induced climate change is considerably higher than for global trends in other types of extremes. 

CM: Human Influence on Global Trends 2024 (EN)
Click the downloadable graphic: Human Influence on Global Trends

Rapid, event-specific attribution analyses are reflected in television coverage. Rapid, event-specific attribution analyses were available for two of the four analyzed events (both Hurricane Ian and the Phoenix heat streak) during peak occurrence dates. Local television coverage was immediately responsive to both analyses, incorporating the findings into coverage of both events within 24 hours of each analysis to inform audiences using the latest science. 

  • Hurricane Ian: Preliminary analysis by researchers at Stony Brook University, first released via social media on September 29, 2022, found that human-induced climate change increased extreme rainfall rates during Hurricane Ian by at least 10%. This analysis was mentioned in 51% of all climate-contextualized segments on the day after its release — linking human-caused climate change with the extreme rainfall that contributed to Hurricane Ian becoming the third-costliest hurricane in U.S. history. 

  • Phoenix 110°F+ heat streak: In the midst of this historic extreme heat event, the World Weather Attribution initiative published a rapid attribution analysis on July 25, 2023. This analysis found that the levels of extreme heat experienced in the southwestern U.S. during July 2023 would have been virtually impossible without human-caused climate change. The publication of this report likely influenced a 42% increase in the number of climate-contextualized local television segments on the following day (July 26, 2023). Contextualized segments covering the Phoenix heat streak mentioned ‘human-caused climate change’ approximately five times more than in the combined coverage of the other three events.

These results show that local television is already using attribution science and rapid, event-specific attribution analysis. Such broadcasts inform local audiences about the influence of human-caused climate change on extreme weather events as they unfold and result in a range of hazardous and disruptive impacts on people. 

Climate reporting resources

Here are seven reporting resources that can help provide science-based climate change context:


Submit a request to SciLine from the American Association for the Advancement of Science or to the Climate Data Concierge from Columbia University. These free services rapidly connect journalists to relevant scientific experts. 

Browse maps of climate experts and services at regional NOAA, USDA, and Department of the Interior offices.  

Explore databases such as 500 Women Scientists, BIPOC Climate and Energy Justice PhDs, and Diverse Sources to find and amplify diverse expert voices. 

Reach out to your State Climate Office or the nearest Land-Grant University to connect with scientists, educators, and extension staff in your local area.