On Tuesday the Columbia Journalism Review and The Nation jointly announced a new project, “Covering Climate Change: A New Playbook for a 1.5-Degree World,” with the goal of improving climate change reporting among U.S. media with a one-day town hall in New York City at the Columbia Journalism School.
In the interest of not contributing carbon-emissions by traveling from Chicago to New York, I followed along via the event’s live-stream, an archive of which is available on YouTube. In an important element of user-generated content, London-based freelance environmental journalist Juan Mayorga provided Spanish translation via Twitter.
One theme of the day was that climate change is the context for all sorts of stories, not just ones about climate science. “Climate is not a story,” said panelist and author Naomi Klein. “It is the backdrop for all of our other stories. It is life.”
The #CoveringClimateNow project is well-timed and needed. It’s long overdue, for that matter. The IPCC’s special report on 1.5 °C warming in the fall, along with the U.S. Fourth National Climate Assessment, again sounded the alarm on climate change. Media coverage of climate change in relation to extreme weather events in 2018, from heat waves to wildfires, or the lack thereof, elicited public discussion, especially commentary that media outlets weren’t doing enough to draw connections to climate change. NPR Public Editor Elizabeth Jensen opined on factors that continue to make climate change a challenge for journalists to cover, particularly for non-climate beat reporters covering breaking news. My research on the extent to which media coverage of extreme weather events discusses climate issues shows that for both heat waves and wildfires, climate change issue attention increased significantly from summer 2013 to 2018.