Jill Hopke's blog

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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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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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I am attending the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) climate change negotiations, COP24, for the first time this week. In UN-lingo “COP24” means this is the 24th Conference of the Parties since 1995 when COP1 was held in Berlin, Germany. 

The COP24 is taking place in Katowice, Poland from Dec. 2 to 14. It has brought tens of thousands of people, including delegates, or “parties,” along with civil society representatives, to Poland’s Upper Silesia region. 

As media coverage has already noted, this is Polish coal country, with about 80% of the nation’s electricity coming from that fossil fuel. The major expected policy outcome of this round of international climate negotiations is the “rulebook” for putting the much-heralded 2015 Paris Agreement into practice. 

As a gathering of heads of state, multinational organizations and civil society, can the UNFCCC and other climate action stakeholders use these arguably esoteric negotiations as a mechanism to engage people in their home countries on climate change? 

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

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