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Media Matters: News Nets Aren't Sufficiently Connecting Fire, Climate Change Dots

Watchdog group Media Matters for America is criticizing broadcast and cable news outlets for not sufficiently connecting the recent California wildfires to climate change (though stories continue to populate news outlets Web sites making that assertion).

The group said it is "clear that the warming climate is increasing the frequency and intensity of wildfires in California," but suggests media outlets aren't making that clear to viewers.

Related: Telemundo Pledges to Cover Climate Emergency

According to the group, morning and nightly news broadcasts on the ABC, CBS and NBC networks aired 243 segments on the fires but in only eight (3.3%) was climate changed mentioned. Cable did only a little better. Of 419 wildfire segments that aired on CNN, Fox News and MSNBC, only 20, or 4.8%, talked about climate change.

PBS provided the fewest mentions at three, but that was in only 12 segments, so they were the percentage winner with 25%.

"[W]ith climate change increasingly impacting the California wildfires, there is really no excuse for national news shows to downplay or outright ignore it in their wildfire reports," said Ted MacDonald of Media Matters, who wrote the report on the coverage.

A quick check of some news Web sites found a number of online stories that clearly drew the connection.

CNN's Web site was not shy about asserting a causal connect, according to this July 17, 2019 headline: "California wildfires burn 500% more land because of climate change."

Then there was this CBS News headline online: "Experts see direct line between California wildfires and climate change."

And this NBC News story from November 2018 about the impact of climate change on the fire season in general, and this one: "Scientists blame climate change for uptick in wildfires."