One-Planet Talking blog

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Matthew Nisbet's picture

As climate change advocates, we are often told to be more like our political opponents: more ruthless, more cunning, more aggressive, more willing to bend facts to our side, and more committed to the most audacious and ambitious policies, regardless of their flaws.

We are all too quick to rally around the banner of those voices that emphasize “us versus them,” “good versus bad,” and “winning versus losing.” We view those opposed to action on climate change as extreme but seldom apply the same label to those on our side.

Yet the more we become angry and the more we catastrophize about the future, the less likely we are to find common ground or even be able to treat our political opponents as human beings, I argued in a May 1 address to the American Climate Leadership Summit held in Washington, D.C.

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Jill Hopke's picture

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.

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Matthew Nisbet's picture

The Green New Deal has done damage to the Democratic party’s chances heading into the 2020 elections, while hurting efforts to build momentum on behalf of climate and energy policy options capable of passing during an era of enduring divided government, I argue in a new “Sciences, Politics, Publics” column at Issues in Science and Technology magazine.

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Matthew Nisbet's picture

Last October, the headlines that ran across my computer screen left a sickening feeling in my stomach. “Major climate report describes a strong risk of crisis as early as 2040,” warned the New York Times. “The world has just over a decade to get climate change under control, U.N. scientists say,” echoed the Washington Post.

The next morning felt to me like the day after the 2016 election, I write in an essay published last week at Scientific American

The new U.N. climate change report had transformed society’s failures, so obvious yet overlooked for so long, into a reality that left me paralyzed by doubt. Given the stakes involved, should I remain a researcher and academic, should I turn to activism, or should I become something else?

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Matthew Nisbet's picture

The details of a proposed Green New Deal, announced this week by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Ed Markey, are sure to elevate the political agenda status of climate change and be celebrated by many political progressives.
 
But as I argue in a commentary at Scientific American, we should be wary about what the Green New Deal will do to the already contentious debate over climate change, since it poses deeply challenging consequences for how we think and talk about the problem moving forward, turning policy action into a litmus test for political leaders.
 
The Ocasio-Markey plan pairs the goal of zeroing out greenhouse gas emissions from the electricity and transportation sectors with longstanding progressive causes that include creating a government job program, increasing unionization, providing universal health insurance, reducing income inequality, and combating gender and racial discrimination.
 
With this new re-framing, actions to address climate change not only mean fully transitioning away from a fossil-fuel dependent society in a matter of decades, already a tough sell for conservatives and many centrists, but this historically unprecedented transition is now only achievable by transforming the U.S. into a social democracy.

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Etsuko Kinefuchi's picture

I was told that COPs are overwhelming, and it certainly was. Previously, my main source of information about what is going on at these conferences was the news. As we are well aware from media framing theories, all representations champion selected aspects of an event while leaving out others, constructing a certain reality for the audience. As my co-participant for the 2nd week of the conference, Mira, posted earlier, there were a whole lot more activities going on besides the diplomats’ negotiations to which observers had almost no access. At any given time, there were multiple concurrent side events – panel presentations, press conferences, workshops and more. Most of these are open to everyone, but some were accessible by invitation. It was interesting to attend the COP and compare my experience to news media’s reports. I want to focus this reflection on the aspects of the conference that did not get widely reported in the news media. The news media understandably focus on the progress of the high-level negotiations that were stagnant throughout the conference. However, what’s left out of the reports are vibrant grassroots and non-governmental efforts to connect, collaborate, and share across the nations. A roundtable discussion on climate education I participated, for example, was facilitated by the Center for Environmental Education in India. Participants across the globe discussed challenges, resources and indicators of meaningful outcomes in promoting literacy and capacity to face climate change. I was able to learn from and share ideas with people from countries in Latin America, Africa, and Europe.

[This post is part of a series offered by IECA members attending COP24 in Katowice, Poland.]

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Anna Palliser's picture

Chui-Ling Tam’s blog of Dec 4th ‘Why we should stop labelling people climate change deniers’ reminded me of a conversation with a Māori freedom diver on South Island New Zealand, several years ago. Many locals were saying the fish stocks in their harbor had declined dramatically because of overfishing but the diver refused to engage with these perspectives. He said the harbor was a strange place and he spoke a lot about Tangaroa, the Māori god of the sea. It was clear he passionately loved the sea and all its lifeforms, and I could not understand the position he took. I was a newcomer to Aotearoa New Zealand at that time, and while I still don’t fully understand, I think I understand better now. I think he considered the number of fish in the harbor was Tangaroa’s business, not ours, that it is arrogant for humans to assume the ability to control such things. Lately, wandering the endless corridors of COP 24 in Poland, I have been thinking about his perspective.

[This post is part of a series offered by IECA members attending COP24 in Katowice, Poland.]

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Jill Hopke's picture

The annual UN climate negotiations, COP24, concluded Saturday in Katowice, Poland with an agreement to bring the much heralded 2015 Paris accord to limit global greenhouse emissions into force. There is a stark disconnect between what would be required for nations to ramp up their climate commitments by 2020 and the lower level of public conversation these climate talks garnered.

I attended week one of the talks as an observer participant on the behalf the IECA. If the 2015 Paris climate summit ended with a message of hope and resolve to collectively stem dangerous anthropogenic interference, COP24 underscored the importance of domestic politics for climate policy. The change in national political contexts on the part of not only the United States but also Brazil was fully apparent. The “Yellow Vests,” or "gilets jaunes," protests that have rocked France, a key player in advancing global climate action, since mid-November highlight the critical nature of public support for domestic climate policies and that such policies must include mechanisms to blunt their impact.

[This post is part of a series offered by IECA members attending COP24 in Katowice, Poland.]

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Mira Rochyadi-Reetz's picture

[This post is part of a series offered by IECA members attending COP24 in Katowice, Poland.]

What actually happened at COP24 besides the negotiations between parties? The answer is: countless side events and press conferences. Since most of the negotiation process at the second week was not open for observers like me, I spent my time visiting pavilions from countries, banking institutions and transnational organizations like the EU. Those pavilions remind me of the world’s biggest book exhibition in Frankfurt or the tourism industry exhibition in Berlin, which is also held every year. Almost every pavilion was built in a sophisticated way, not simply a square box with chairs and desks. Most of them were well designed with huge LCD walls, meeting rooms, professional light and sound system equipment, private media center and even luxury kitchens. Do they really need all of that to inform the world what each of them is doing to mitigate climate change? What will happen to those pavilions after the COP? I cannot imagine how much total carbon and waste all those pavilions produced during COP.

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Anna Palliser's picture

[This post is part of a series offered by IECA members attending COP24 in Katowice, Poland.]

If ever there was a time to trespass beyond the conventional boundaries of what is said and not said in the different arenas of our lives, it is now. In the first couple of days of COP 24, representatives of the UN and of the World Bank, along with Sir David Attenborough, urged the parties (the representatives of governments from around the world) to act decisively, to be brave and uncompromising in making the changes that are needed, within the brief 12-year window given to us by the latest IPCC report. One week later and forward movement at the conference has been halted by four oil-producing nations refusing to “welcome” the IPCC report, in this way preventing the consensus that would lead to a full embrace of the action it calls for [1]. At the same time, the US is permitted to extol the virtues of coal, and gas within the conference venue [2]. It seemed to me, while I was at COP 24 for week one, that there are elephants in some of these conference rooms that are the size of blue whales.

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