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Climate change gets a network's spotlight

Mike Bloomberg talks with Chuck Todd on NBC's "Meet the Press"
Michael Bloomberg and Chuck Todd on "Meet the Press" Dec. 20. Photo: William B. Plowman/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images

NBC devoted the full hour of Sunday's "Meet the Press" to climate change, featuring an interview with Michael Bloomberg vowing to elevate its role in the White House race.

Why it matters: It's a rare star turn for climate change on the Sunday shows and potentially a sign of growing political prominence for a topic that's typically a second-tier focus in national elections and on Capitol Hill.

“We're not going to debate climate change, the existence of it. The Earth is getting hotter. And human activity is a major cause, period. We're not going to give time to climate deniers. The science is settled, even if political opinion is not."
— Chuck Todd at the open of today's show

The show also includes comments from NASA climate scientist Kate Marvel.

The big picture: The segment comes after California's devastating wildfire season and recent reports from the Trump administration and the United Nations about the consequences of warming and the closing window for aggressive steps to hold the expected global temperature rise in check.

  • Meanwhile, President Trump is unwinding Obama-era climate regulations and House Democrats are grappling with how to craft climate policy if a political window for major legislation opens in the future.

What they're saying: Outgoing California Gov. Jerry Brown, who has overseen the most aggressive climate policies in the nation, said the U.S. is not doing enough relative to the dangers of warming.

"[N]ot even close, and not close in California, and we're doing more than anybody else, and not close in America or the rest of the world."
— Gov. Brown on "Meet the Press"

Bloomberg said he'll work to ensure that 2020 Democratic presidential candidates offer strong proposals on climate.

"I don't know whether I'm going to run or not, but I will be out there demanding that anybody that's running has a plan. And I want to hear the plan, and I want everybody to look at it and say whether it's doable."
— Bloomberg on "Meet the Press"

The intrigue: Climate's treatment on the Sunday shows and network TV overall has for years come under attack from advocates. They criticize sparse attention and appearances by non-expert guests who dispute the scientific consensus on human-caused warming.

  • For instance, a July analysis by the liberal Media Matters for America said that over two weeks from late June to early July, ABC, CBS and NBC aired a combined 127 segments on the major U.S. heatwave, but just one mentioned climate change.
  • "Meet the Press" drew criticism for a Nov. 25 segment in which Danielle Pletka of the American Enterprise Institute inaccurately suggested that the last two years have been among the coldest on record.

By the numbers: Federal datasets show that 2016 was the warmest year on record dating back to the late 1800s. NASA data shows that 2017 was the second-warmest, while the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which uses a slightly different method, said it's the third-warmest. Both agencies' data shows that the five warmest years on record have all occurred since 2010.

  • Meanwhile, 2018 will almost certainly rank as the fourth-warmest year on record, and NOAA is expecting 2019 to be another top five warmest year.

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Disclosure: NBC is an investor in Axios.