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‘Antidotes to despair’: five things we’ve learned from the world’s best climate journalists
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‘Antidotes to despair’: five things we’ve learned from the world’s best climate journalists

Mark Hertsgaard and Kyle Pope of Covering Climate Now (CCNow) hail the winners of their organization’s annual global climate journalism awards, and here describe some lessons they have taken from the more than 1,250 entries.


  1. 1. If you live in France, you can watch global warming happening live on the evening news – and it’s a hit with viewers

    The woman behind this landmark innovation is Audrey Cerdan of France Televisions, France’s public broadcaster.

    As announced on Tuesday, Cerdan is one of three winners of a 2024 journalist of the year award by our organization, Covering Climate Now, which for the past five years has been helping hundreds of newsrooms worldwide cover the climate crisis.

    At a time when extreme heat is leaving hundreds dead from Mexico to India, when a category 5 hurricane is “flattening” entire islands in the Caribbean, and when US supreme court rulings are granting corporate polluters and their political patrons unprecedented legal protections, Cerdan and 50 additional Covering Climate Now Journalism Award winners are a stirring antidote to climate despair.

    woman wearing glasses points to monitors

    Their work demonstrates that telling the climate story well helps the public understand not only that the world is on fire, but also how to put the fire out.

    In March 2023, France Télévisions stopped including a traditional weather report in its 8pm newscast and replaced it with a weather-climate report: in French, a Journal Météo-Climat.

    Viewers of the new weather-climate report still saw maps dotted with numbers depicting the day’s high and low temperatures in Paris, Marseilles and other cities in France. The on-camera presenter, Anaïs Baydemir, still told them whether it would rain or shine tomorrow. But now, that basic weather news was communicated in the context of climate change.

    From the opening seconds of the report, stretching across the bottom of the screen was a row of blue-and-white digits. The digits depicted, to an exactitude of eight decimal points, how much hotter France was now compared to a century ago, before humans’ burning of large amounts of coal, oil and gas began trapping excessive heat in the atmosphere.

    The night Journal Météo-Climat premiered, on 13 March 2023, the dashboard registered 1.18749861C above the pre-industrial level. After 37 seconds, the dashboard’s last digit clicked up a notch to 1.18749862C; then, after two minutes and 28 seconds, another notch to 1.18749873C.

    That was global warming, happening and presented in real time – an explicit rebuttal of the lie that climate change is somehow a hoax.

    Within weeks, France Televisions’ ratings for that part of its evening news began climbing, according to the network. Cerdan, who spearheaded the innovation, credits the ratings boost partly to the fact that most of the show’s segments included a viewer’s question about climate change, answered by a scientist. (For example: will France still have four seasons under climate change? Yes, but they will be hotter.)

    In short, if journalists tell the climate story in a creative way that genuinely helps people make sense of the world around them, people will watch or read that news.


  2. 2. Members of frontline communities often tell the climate story best

    For this year’s awards, CCNow’s judges evaluated more than 1,250 entries from every corner of the globe. The reporting in the places most affected by the climate crisis stood out for its urgency, its compassion, and its commitment to telling personal stories.

    For example, a second CCNow journalist of the year winner is Tristan Ahtone, a member of the Kiowa Tribe who wrote a blistering expose for Grist about US universities profiting from oil and gas production on stolen Indigenous lands.

    A third “Journalist of the Year” is Rachel Ramirez, a climate reporter for CNN, whose upbringing in the Northern Marianas Islands informs her reporting on climate change’s disproportionate impact on women and girls and other issues of climate justice.


  3. 3. Climate crisis is a crime story

    The planet didn’t overheat itself. Some of the best climate reporting highlights who the bad guys are, what they’re trying to get away with, and how they can be held accountable. The UK-based Centre for Climate Reporting, in collaboration with the BBC, revealed how Sultan Al Jaber – the CEO of the United Arab Emirates’ state-run oil company and president of the COP28 UN climate summit – used the latter role to lobby for oil and gas. Agence France-Presse reported that the global consultant firm McKinsey & Company, which publicly supports climate action, nevertheless used Cop28 to promote its clients’ plans to continue oil and gas production for years to come.


  4. 4. There is incredible bravery in some of the best climate reporting

    Sometimes that bravery means angering sources who then no longer talk to you, or stirring up the trolls on social media. Other times, bravery takes a much more serious form.

    In June 2022, the British journalist Dom Phillips and Indigenous activist Bruno Pereira were killed in the Vale do Javari, the second-largest indigenous area in Brazil, apparently in retaliation for their journalism exposing the destruction of the Amazon rainforest.

    In 2023, 16 news outlets around the world, led by the Paris-based network Forbidden Stories, joined together to continue Phillips’s and Pereira’s work. Forbidden Stories’ investigations revealed how illegal industry and organized crime continue to stymie protection of the Amazon, whose health is vital to its Indigenous inhabitants and the world’s climate future.


  5. 5. There is good news on the climate beat

    Solar, wind, storage batteries and other pillars of the green economy are growing by leaps and bounds, as mainstream business media have reported. But less publicized are solutions emerging from the grassroots, including in some of the most climate-vulnerable locations on earth. IndiaSpend, a digital outlet in India, won its award by profiling a frontline community’s ingenious efforts to cope with drought, illustrating how local knowledge and involvement can be key to successful climate change adaptation.

    Covering Climate Now has long maintained that better news coverage is itself an essential climate solution. Without it, there simply won’t be the mass awareness and public pressure to drive governments, business, and society as a whole to make the rapid, far-reaching changes required to preserve a liveable planet.

    The 51 winners of 2024 Covering Climate Now Journalism awards are certainly doing their part. We hope their example inspires fellow journalists everywhere to do the same.


  • Mark Hertsgaard is executive director and co-founder of Covering Climate Now, a global journalism collaboration committed to more and better coverage of the climate story, and the Nation magazine’s environment correspondent

  • Kyle Pope is executive director of strategic initiatives and co-founder of Covering Climate Now, and a former editor and publisher of the Columbia Journalism Review

Source: theguardian.com