Journalism is failing climate change – we can do better



Catlin Seaview Survey Underwater Earth

Misha Ketchell, The Conversation

On a sunny day in Sydney last Sunday Tim Flannery, former Australian of the Year, appeared on a panel of international journalists convened to discuss the reporting of climate science. Kerry O’Brien kicked things off by asking about the prognosis. Flannery said he wouldn’t answer until the young people at the Sydney Opera House had been given a chance to leave. Things were so dire he feared for their mental health.

My first reaction was that Flannery had developed a taste for the theatrical. No. In the conversation that ensued it became clear that the world cannot avoid 1.5 degrees of warming and the devastating damage that entails, and many far worse scenarios were in play. Flannery’s deep anger and distress was palpable. He said that once he’d viewed climate sceptics with the same indulgence you might afford an eccentric uncle, but now the gloves were off. Deniers were destroying the lives of our children.

Many countries are gripped by policy paralysis, he said, Australia chief among them. And journalism has utterly failed to convey the urgency and magnitude of the problem. Kyle Pope, the editor and publisher of Columbia Journalism Review, told the Antidote festival audience that in 2018 the major TV news networks in the US aired just two and a half hours of climate coverage. In the three prime-time US general election debates in 2016 there was not a single question on the topic.

So how do responsible journalists sound the alarm without sounding alarmist? At The Conversation we are committed to bringing you the voices of scientists and researchers who understand the evidence. We think the proper role for journalism is to provide the clean information that is the lifeblood of democracy. But we also understand it’s vital that these messages gain traction beyond the academic communities from which they emanate.

The Conversation’s Energy + Environment editor Nicole Hasham.

With this in mind we have recently appointed a new editor to lead our coverage of Environment & Energy. Nicole Hasham is a Walkley Award-winning journalist who for the past four years has been based at Parliament House covering environment and energy for the Nine/Fairfax newspapers.

Nicole will remain in the Canberra press gallery for The Conversation, bridging the gap between policymakers and scientists, and promoting a more informed discussion based on evidence and solutions. She will work alongside the deputy section editor Madeleine De Gabriele and will build on the work of her predecessor Mike Hopkin, who is now our Science and Technology editor.

The Conversation Australia has also joined more than 170 other media outlets in an initiative called Covering Climate Now, co-founded by the Columbia Journalism Review and The Nation. The idea is to provide a single week of dedicated high quality coverage of climate change ahead of the United Nations Climate Action Summit in New York on September 23.

We see this as the beginning of a new phase in our climate coverage, a vital conversation between scientists and politicians. We don’t want to be alarmist, but if Flannery and the scores of scientists who share his view are right, we are sleepwalking toward disaster. We cannot rest until the scientists are being heard, and solutions are in place that can provide a secure future for all our children.The Conversation

Misha Ketchell, Editor & Executive Director, The Conversation

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Copenhagen Summit Fails to Deliver


In news that has delighted the ears of climate change sceptics the world over, the Copenhagen summit on climate change has failed to deliver anything of real value that will actually make a difference. It is truly disappointing that even in the face of a massive environmental disaster that will affect the entire planet, global leaders have failed to lead and work together in finding solutions to the major issues we face over the coming decades and century.

Newspapers in Australia have reported the failure of the summit and are reporting on the leader of the opposition gloating over the failure of the summit. His solution is to ignore the real issue and hope that the Australian people prove to be as oblivious to climate change as the coalition he leads.

Typically, the usual anti-Kevin Rudd biased journalists and climate change sceptics of the newspaper (The Sunday Telegraph) I read this morning, were also quick to pour further scorn on the Prime Minister and the problem of climate change itself (which they deny). One particular vocal climate change sceptic in the Sunday Telegraph has very little credibility with me and I find his obsessive anti-Rudd tirades more than a little tiring. This self-opinionated buffoon is little more than an embarrassment for both the Sunday Telegraph and the Daily Telegraph for which he also writes. His columns are becoming more of a personal vendetta against Kevin Rudd than anything resembling real journalism.

I’ll be finding a better way to become acquainted with the daily news than continuing to read the biased diatribes that continue to be put forward by these papers in future. I’ll also be hoping that our leaders can overcome the various preoccupations each have with self-interest (whether it be personal or national) in order to reach a real workable agreement on dealing with the growing threat of climate change