The way the news reports on the climate emergency we face is vital. News platforms, whether they’re online, on tv or still in print, are the sources of information for millions of people and it shapes our viewpoints on local and global issues. The way that they convey the climate emergency message is vital if the public is to be well informed with the knowledge and how we can all play our part.
When it comes to reporting on the climate emergency there tends to be a very simple general rule for how it’s covered. The further left-leaning the news source, the more likely it covers climate change or goes as far as calling it the climate emergency or breakdown. And of course, the opposite is generally true. The further right-leaning the news source, the less climate change is covered or climate denialism is pushed more intensely. The level of denialism is dangerous, and also shows why America is ground zero for it.
Here are just a few examples across the political spectrum of news programmes and how they convey the climate emergency.
I quite often watch a Fox News video segment every now and then just to see how they respond to the biggest environmental news stories, or basically anything Alexandria Ocasia-Cortez says. Every time I do I feel that little more pessimistic that we can all come together as a global society and take action on the climate emergency we all face.
The fact that there is a scientific consensus on mankind’s role in the climate emergency doesn’t phase them. Often they pass it off with links to the opinion polls that got the outcome of the 2016 presidential election very wrong — perhaps not understanding the difference between opinion polls and factual science.
The way they discuss the climate emergency always brings me back to thinking about this cartoon…
Will their stance on the climate emergency ever change? Not likely.
Fox News (and a lot of other right-wing media) is funded by Rupert Murdoch; media magnate and staunch climate emergency denier. With the help of fossil fuel interests helping to fund the misinformation campaigns and discredit climate science, Fox News has become the home of climate emergency denialism.
Rarely does any host or show guest have any factual information to present and defend their denialism stance and more often than not have very strong links to the fossil fuel industry or well-known climate emergency deniers.
I could go on and on about just how bad Fox News is and how they’re the hotbed for American climate emergency denialism but it’s time to look at a UK news channel that is ‘supposed’ to be a ‘middle of the road’ news network.
The BBC and ITV are often competing to the top ratings and it’s not different when it comes to News programmes. Neither the BBC or ITV are particularly great at discussing the climate change emergency, but the BBC has a very poor record of giving air time to climate emergency deniers or not discussing the role of climate change in any way.
Back in 2017 when Hurricane Harvey devastated Houston and many other areas of Texas, the BBC avoided all mention of the role of the climate emergency in the development and intensity of the hurricane. I’m not saying that climate change was solely responsible, but myself and many other climate scientists that weighed in at the time commented that changes to ocean temperature and air moisture, caused by the climate emergency, played a role in the storm.
The BBC has also recently been under fire for hosting climate emergency deniers on news programmes. Arguing that it was to ‘balance the debate’, well-known denier Nigel Lawson was part of a panel and allowed criticise climate science without providing facts to counter the scientific consensus.
The point of the scientific consensus is that there is no longer a need for debate on the subject. It’s the same reason that those supporting big tobacco or the flat earth society don’t receive air time. If we have any chance of avoiding the worst impacts of climate change then it’s something we must do much sooner rather than later.
If you’re a regular reader of The Guardian then you know that they regularly report on environmental and climate emergency topics, often with scientists or other big names that have the qualifications to comment on the topic. The Guardian has now gone further than all in reporting on the climate emergency by changing the language in which many of the writers discuss stories related to climate change.
Chief Editors have argued that this change will help to better communicate climate emergency that is developing right in front of us in a way that is more scientifically precise.
Instead of using ‘climate change’, terms like ‘climate emergency’ and ‘climate breakdown’ will be used instead. ‘Global Warming’ will be changed to ‘Global Heating’, and those that argue the science will no longer be ‘climate skeptics’ but ‘climate science deniers’. They’re only small changes but they all better reflect the crisis and those that continue to try debate the scientific consensus.
You may have noticed that I have also attempted to use similar language in this blog and its something I will be striving to do in all communications through blogging and social media. And if you’re also writing or discussing the climate emergency we face then I implore you to do the same to help others understand the scale of the threats that we face.
Reporting to a Better Standard
The way the news communicates information through the many platforms they are part of is vital to ensuring that the message of a climate breakdown is received by the public and acted upon.
Hosting climate emergency deniers is the wrong way to discuss the climate emergency. People that have studied the climate for years, and continue to do so, are in a general consensus that humans are having a detrimental impact on the planet and contributing to the climate emergency. Continuing to debate climate science deniers takes the priority away from the real debate we should be having: how do we tackle the climate emergency?
This isn’t shutting down free speech either. This is exactly what happened when science consistently showed that smoking is bad for your health. Big tobacco and its supporters were no longer given air time because the science was clear — this is exactly the same. You still have the ability to shout your nonsense from the rooftops if you so wish, but the rest of society will move on without you into a cleaner and greener future.
Originally published at http://thinksustainabilityblog.com on May 21, 2019.