“Can we tell the story so people get it?” US tv journalist Bill Moyers said at the launch of Covering Climate Now, a project aimed at breaking the climate silence that has long prevailed within too much of the news media.
Co-founded by The Nation and the Columbia Journalism Review, in partnership with The Guardian, Covering Climate Now aims to convene and inform a conversation among journalists about how all news outlets—big and small, digital and print, TV and radio, US-based and abroad—can do justice to the defining story of our time.
Covering Climate Now has among its members tv networks (CBS News), major newspapers in the US (The Philadelphia Inquirer, Minneapolis Star Tribune, San Francisco Chronicle, Seattle Times) and Asahi Shimbun and la Repubblica in Japan and Italy. Nepali Times is also a member.
Other participating media include specialist publications (Nature, Scientific American, InsideClimate News, Harvard Business Review), distinguished digital publications (HuffPost, Vox, The Intercept, Slate) leading individual and institutional voices (author Bill McKibben; the radio and TV program Democracy Now!; Channel 4 UK correspondent Alex Thomson; veteran TV meteorologists Dan Satterfield, Mike Nelson, and Paul Gross); and many more.
Each of these outlets has committed to running one week of focused climate coverage, to begin September 16 and culminating on September 23, the day of the landmark international Climate Action Summit hosted by UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres in New York.
“We’re not here to tell people what to write or broadcast. All that’s required is for each outlet to make a good faith effort to increase the amount and the visibility of its climate coverage—to make it clear to their audiences that climate change is not just one more story but the overriding story of our time,” said Mark Hertsgaard the environment correspondent of The Nation and Kyle Pope, editor of CJR.
The point is to give the climate story the attention and prominence that scientists have long said it demands so that the public and policymakers can make wise choices, they said.
Covering Climate Now seeks to fulfill journalism’s most sacred responsibilities: to inform people and foster constructive debate about common challenges and opportunities. Arguably, no problem in today’s world is more challenging, or offers brighter opportunities.
In a report last October, scientists with the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned that humanity had just 12 years to slash heat-trapping emissions in half or else face catastrophic temperature rise and the record-breaking extreme weather it unleashes. Meanwhile, spectacular advances in solar, wind and energy efficiency illustrate how doing right by the climate can make our societies better, not worse, if we’re smart about it.
To elevate climate coverage is no more of a value judgment than it is to sideline such coverage. For many years now, most of the news media, at least in the US, has done the latter. The major TV networks devoted more air time in a week this spring to a new royal baby in Britain than they did in the entire year to the climate story. When last October’s IPCC report was released, 28 of the 50 biggest newspapers in the US didn’t bother to tell their readers about it.
The Covering Climate Now initiative includes: