The global news media is, after decades of looking the other way, finally waking up to what scientists have long called an emergency.
More than 300 media outlets on six continents, with a combined audience of more than a billion people – were brought together in an alliance by two American publications – The Nation magazine and the Columbia Journalism Review – to strengthen the media’s focus on the climate crisis.
The alliance called Covering Climate Now includes Al Jazeera and is currently running a week’s climate coverage in the lead up to a UN summit on the subject in New York.
“It’s good to put a human face to the climate change story and I think this is an opportunity to do that and at the same time track the conference in New York; track it as effectively as possible, look at what the government here is doing and what it plans to announce,” says environment reporter Jayashree Nandi with the Hindustan Times.
But there is also an irresponsible side of modern journalism, particularly the corporate kind.
Since the Paris climate agreement in 2016, the five biggest publicly traded oil and gas companies have spent around $1bn trying to shift the narrative on climate change.
“If you look at the billionaire press, the newspapers owned by billionaires, they have a very clear interest in not emphasising climate breakdown because doing so, directly offends the commercial interests of the billionaire class as a whole,” says George Monbiot, a columnist with The Guardian.
“In the broadcast media, it’s long been perceived as counter-aspirational.”
Mark Hertsgaard, cofounder of Covering Climate Now and environment correspondent at The Nation, explains that he made efforts “to reach out to most of the biggest US news organisations to invite them to be part of Covering Climate Now. The New York Times has declined. The Washington Post declined. The Wall Street Journal declined. The Los Angeles Times declined. CNN declined. NBC News declined. ABC News declined. They did not want to look like they were part of a campaign or trying to push a certain agenda on their readers.”
Hertsgaard and his team have a different point of view.
“We think that it fundamentally misses a key aspect of journalism which is to try and cut through the fog and tell citizens here’s what you need to know about your world and here’s what you can do about it.”
Mark Hertsgaard – co-founder, Covering Climate Now and environment correspondent, The Nation
Jayashree Nandi – environment reporter, Hindustan Times
Sipho Kings – news editor, The Mail & Guardian and Author, ‘South Africa’s Survival Guide to Climate Change’
George Monbiot – columnist, The Guardian
Source: Al Jazeera News
Record heatwaves in Europe and Africa. Droughts in southern India on an unprecedented scale. Hurricanes – more frequent and violent than ever. And wildfires in, of all places, the Arctic. The global news media is, after decades of looking the other way, finally waking up to what scientists have long called an emergency.