“The fact that we are not talking about this every single day is in some sense a great moral failure of every leader in this country.”
~ Joe Romm
Politicians tell us it would be political suicide for them to say we are in a climate emergency, even though they recognise that is the case. They will not propose the sensible measures we know are necessary for a safe future because they say they can’t afford to “get ahead of public opinion”.
Mainstream media is equally silent about the climate emergency and the solutions we could easily implement if governments put their minds to it.
According to the dire predictions of our climate scientists, everyone’s welfare is now at stake. We are not on track for a safe climate even if the Paris Agreement is implemented. Yet large sections of the public are lulled into thinking it can’t be all that bad since neither politicians nor the media are talking about it… and politicians won’t dare take action until the public demands it. What a diabolical impasse!
ABC and SBS, as our public broadcasters, it’s up to you now to break this impasse.
As part of your civic duty you issue warnings about weather, fires, floods and UV levels in your news bulletins. We ask you in a similar spirit to start broadcasting daily segments on climate impacts and climate solutions.
You would have no trouble finding climate impact stories. Every day there are severe climate impacts or reports of record temperatures somewhere in the world. The public needs to know what is already happening in order to be motivated to take action.
But to solve this problem, we also need to know what action is necessary and feel empowered to make a difference. Each day you could broadcast a short segment about what someone ‘just like us’ is doing to reduce carbon emissions. This would build a sense of working together towards a shared and urgent goal.
Another short segment could report on far-reaching measures various local, state, and national governments are taking to address the climate emergency so that we know what policies our own jurisdictions could adopt if enough of us demand it.
In a series of radio interviews – the Climate Emergency Radio Relay, we call it – we have talked with prominent Australians about how to achieve an effective climate emergency response. Their view is that Parliament cannot solve the climate emergency without public pressure, and for that we need a public that is informed of the threat and the potential solutions.
The ABC and SBS can make all the difference here. You have the ability to make the climate emergency part of everyday discourse. You could be the ones to make it politically possible for governments to take the necessary action to protect all people, species, and ecosystems.
Mik Aidt and Anthony Gleeson
The Sustainable Hour on 94.7 The Pulse
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Sign our letter
• We invite our listeners and readers to sign our letter to ABC and SBS, and please – this is important: leave a short comment of your own for the directors of the two broadcasters at the end of the signing-procedure.
After you’ve signed the petition, please also take a moment to share it with others.
Why is this important?
Politicians tell us they can’t take climate emergency action to protect us all from climate impacts until the public demands it. Yet large sections of the public are lulled into thinking it can’t be all that bad since neither politicians nor the media are reporting on climate impacts or discussing solutions.
Our public broadcasters, ABC and SBS, might be the only body that is sufficiently trusted and powerful to break this impasse by reporting honestly and regularly about climate impacts and climate solutions.
The public need to know about current and future impacts in order to be motivated to act, and need to know we have the solutions at our fingertips in order to take action themselves and demand government action instead of ‘switching off’.
Join us in calling for honest and thorough climate emergency reporting from the ABC and SBS. And when you have signed this petition, please also consider signing the Climate Emergency Declaration and Mobilisation petition at www.ClimateEmergencyDeclaration.org/sign
“This is not alarmism, but a balanced assessment of the reality now being accepted around the world. It is, par excellence, why we must have a national, independent, broadcaster free of vested interest pressure. This is the biggest issue Australia will face in the 21st century. The ABC and SBS must rise to the occasion and ignore the incumbency luddites.”
~ Ian Dunlop, former Chair, Australian Coal Association & CEO, Australian Institute of Company Directors
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“Andrew Probyn, the 7.30 Report’s new political editor, like his predecessor, Chris Uhlmann, has got into the nasty habit of parroting fossil fuel myths as if they are fact. They’ve become obsessed with concepts such as “synchronous” generation and “baseload”, using them to slap down wind and solar without really understanding why or how.”
“This is a problem for ABC viewers because they are not getting a clear and unbiased picture of energy issues. A complex subject is being poorly served. Labor is accused by Probyn of being a “slave” to wind and solar ideology, while Uhlmann thinks more wind and solar will lead to a national blackout.”
~ Giles Parkinson
» RenewEconomy – 16 March 2017:
When will ABC stop parroting fossil fuel lobbyist lines?
The other day I was watching SBS World News as they reported about 877 climate change deaths in Haiti. Holy moly! – I’ve rarely seen more concentrated climate emergency footage roll out on my tv screen, right there, right now, as it is happening around the planet. The numerous extreme weather events are speaking for themselves about the emergency we are in – but as usual we didn’t hear a single word from the SBS reporters or news anchors about the climate emergency, or about what these extreme weather events have to do with climate change. Or global warming. Or greenhouse gasses. Nothing. Just those images of how it is all falling apart, and then on to the usual stuff: A politician has stated something about women that upset someone else. Someone has donated an instrument to an orchestra. A soccer team has won a match.
Couldn’t go on watching. Left the living room upset, thinking something like “What kind of unintelligent amateurish routine journalism is this? This is the tenth day in a row that a dramatic weather disruption makes it to the top of the news – and where is the analysis? Where is the background story? Why don’t we hear anything from those politicians who are to blame for all that destruction that we see unfolding here? Why is no one held accountable? Wasn’t that what the journalist’s job would be all about in the normal world: to figure out what is happening, interview those who are responsible, and then provide us, the people, with the insightful story or analysis?”
“877 people dead. Why don’t ABC and SBS follow this kind shocking news from Haiti and Cuba up with interviews with our leaders about the new coal, oil and gas projects they are opening up as we speak? Why don’t they show us how we can – and must – fix this problem with the climate emergency? Why don’t we, just as one obvious example on this particular day, the 8th of October 2016, broadcast a report about those people in various cities around the country who on this same day made a big thing out of closing their bank accounts and ‘divesting’ from their banks as they participated in the national Divestment Day event, something which they do exactly because our banks are funding this catastrophe with their billions of dollars? Why are they not asking our government questions about its scandalous subsidies to the fossil fuel industry, handed out at a time when we know that this industry has got to close down and be replaced by renewable energy sources? Why can’t we rely on our public broadcasters to at least try to make some kind of sense of all this?”
I didn’t formulate any of this. All I said, as I was leaving the room, mumbling in anger, was something like, “I am going to write to the directors of ABC and SBS…”
“Yeah, and then you will just sound like a nutcase,” was the response of my reality-detector (my wife).
Here’s the thing: Lately I have been watching the ABC and SBS World News evening after evening, and every evening is the same. Extreme weather events are the top news story again and again.
On another evening, SBS World News showed 4:45 minutes of one more catastrophic extreme weather scene after the next, in Victoria and overseas. After almost five minutes of intense news, as usual, not one single time were the two words ‘climate change’ or ‘global warming’ mentioned. No reflections – no background – no constructive interviews. Two days after, it was all happening in South Australia. Same story.
I find it appalling. Shockingly bad ‘service’ from two million-dollar enterprises that to a large extent are financed by the people, and have charters that describe how their role is to provide honest and credible information to the Australian people.
I know what the news editors are thinking. “Great footage!” first of all. They know that the more destruction and drama there is in the pictures, the better news tv ratings that night. That’s the main reason these weather catastrophe stories get that top priority ranking. An analysis with some ‘talking heads’ would not come across with the same level of drama and intensity. Worse, some viewers might drop out. Zap over to a commercial channel. It is all about numbers in the television world: how to keep – or grow – the ratings.
Everyone is under time pressure, no one has the time to stop and think for a moment about what really is going on, and what needs to be done at a much higher and more analytic level. This is the job for directors and executives. So I had a chat with my radio-partner at The Sustainable Hour about it, and we decided to direct our letter to the directors of both ABC and SBS:
Dear directors of ABC and SBS,
We write to you on behalf of a large chunk of your viewers and listeners. One recent survey, conducted by the Climate Institute, says we now are two thirds of the Australian population.
We, your viewers and listeners, are upset. We worry about climate change. And we want to know what we can do about it. Why are you not helping us?
We stand with unprecedented challenges ahead of us, and so far you have failed to guide us, to unite us and to give us confidence that our actions has the potential to make a real difference.
One example of what we mean. This was what singer Missy Higgins wrote on her Facebook page:
“For some time I’ve been intermittently crippled with anxiety about the notion of bringing kids into a world that seems more volatile and more uncertain than ever. Are there any other parents out there that have this anxiety that I have about the unknown, potentially catastrophic future that may be in store for our kids?
I honestly don’t know what to do with these feelings. It makes me want to cry on a regular basis when I read about the irreversible things we’ve done to the Earth and what it will almost certainly mean for the near future. Scientists are saying we are pretty much at the point of no return now. I was told at a humanitarian event last night that my child’s generation will probably not reach retirement age. It took everything I had to squash that thought down for the duration of the evening so that I didn’t run home in tears. But according to the smartest people IN THE WORLD, we are hurtling towards terrifyingly unknown territory as far as environmental disaster goes, that any day now we will reach a tipping point like we could never imagine in our worst nightmares.
This is dark and horribly uncomfortable stuff (not to mention sickeningly guilt-inducing as far as parenthood goes) to think about, I know. But it’s actually fucking happening. So surely it’s important not to shy away from it if we are to truly try to do something about it? If it’s not too late? I can’t be the only person out there losing sleep over this. Please speak up if you are too!”
The 1,000 comments and replies quite clearly illustrate that Missy Higgins is not alone out there with her feelings of anxiety and questions about the future. Close to 5,000 people responded to Higgins’ Facebook post during the first day. 700 shared it.
The climate crisis is beginning to show its true face around the planet, and everyone is scared. The scientists, who know what is coming, even more so.
This letter is longer than a standard letter should be. We won’t apologise for that, because this is no standard situation either. It is unprecedented, as the matter of fact. And so is our ask.
We are in a climate emergency. So people want to hear what we can do about it. We want to learn about solutions. As public broadcasters, isn’t this what you originally were put in the world to do?
We need you to stand up and be counted: recognise that we are in an emergency, and act accordingly. To act accordingly, when there is a society-wide emergency, means to throw the current plans and day-to-day procedures in the bin and start all over again. Move money, resources, staff and full attention over the new emergency plan which deals with the climate emergency. Serve and honour your people, your country and its future.
A public broadcaster has a duty of care to inform people about what needs to get done when we are in a society-wide emergency situation. If you have forgotten, maybe read your charter. This is one of the noble roles of a public broadcaster: you have an obligation to prepare and protect us, the Australian people, when alarms are ringing from all over that our national and personal security is being threatened.
At emergency kind of level, your journalists need to start exploring and communicate to us how we can quickly transform into a carbon-free society.
We understand that climate change reporting, and climate solutions reporting, is seen as a highly politisised topic in Australia. But really, it is not. The global climate emergency is not about politics.
The climate emergency has come to this point because of lack of education, credibility and trust – something which you have got and the politicians have not. Climate is about science, technology, innovation. It is about knowledge, and education to those who lack the knowledge. It is about finding and spreading the best ideas, showing what works. It is about solution-building at emergency speed. All of which has nothing to do with anybody’s political views.
The fact that some of our politicians take money from fossil fuel companies and therefore do what they can to cause delays and obstruct any effective climate action – first of all by denying that there even is a problem, denying that climate change is a serious threat to humans, animals, and the Earth’s ecosystems – has nothing to do with politics. It has to do with the fact that our political system is broken. It shouldn’t be allowed, and your journalists ought to have been the first ones to show us this.
Instead, we have to rely on social media and letters to the editor to understand what is going on behind the surface.
Margaret Beavis wrote in The Age: “Given the political grandstanding pitting fossil fuels against renewables, I would love to know exactly how much coal generators and coal mining and gas companies are donating to political parties. Also transparent should be other perks, including, for example, international jaunts to attend weddings. The federal government has proved to be a steadfast advocate for coal and gas, and is consciously not tackling the long-term damage from fossil fuel emissions. Until political donations from companies are banned, and individual donations capped, undue influence will continue to triumph over action in the national (and international) interest.”
Could that be a job for journalistic beacons such as Four Corners or Lateline? A documentary on the topic of fossil fuel donations to political parties, and the examples of how this influences politics. It is something we don’t like to talk about, even though the biggest fossil fuel companies are richer than most governments in this world. Only 28 governments are bigger than Sinopec, and BP is wealthier than 154 countries. Shell’s annual turnover is bigger than Thailand’s GDP. And Denmark’s.
This has nothing to do with politics. It is a sign of misunderstanding, or lack of understanding, if you think this is what we normally would frame as ‘politics’. The pollution of our atmosphere continues to grow because we to some extent have legalised corruption of our democracy. The fossil fuel industry’s influence on policy making is the reason we are in such deep trouble today. It is also the reason for society to move beyond politics now and get together in new constellations, civil leaders at all levels, to tackle the threats.
It may sound banal, but Gandhi was right: we need to start with ourselves, and ‘be the change’. Who would be able to explain these complex matters in a credible, sober and balanced manner?
This is your job, ABC and SBS. As it is the job of all public broadcasters in all countries on this planet.
“Although the magnitude of climate change may make individuals feel helpless, individual action is critical for meaningful change.”
~ Mia Armstrong, The State Press, 27 October 2016
Our governments are paralysed and have proved themselves unable to do the job. There are well-documented reasons for this.
“Our efforts to deal with climate change have been betrayed by a lack of leadership, a political cowardice, the like of which I have never seen…” said Malcolm Turnbull in 2010, and then what happened? He became one of the cowards himself.
However, this doesn’t mean that the leaders of the ABC and SBS have to be cowards as well. It also doesn’t mean that we, the people, are helpless. What it means, though, is that we now find ourselves in an unprecedented situation where solutions and carbon-reducing initiatives must come from somewhere else than from our elected leaders, as we have otherwise become so used to that they do.
Solutions must be invented, produced and implemented by individuals, by businesses and organisations. By communities and cities, rather than countries and federal governments.
Because of the complexity of what we are talking about here, media organisations could play an extraordinarily important role as educators and inspirational guides. The climate emergency has only been allowed to go this far because of the low knowledge-level about global warming science, emissions and renewable energy in the general population. Same reason the sensible Carbon Tax was suddenly scrapped.
Tv news programs highlight the catastrophes as top news stories every night as the climate emergency escalates all around us, near and far. It is simply no longer good enough that we, the people, the co-funders of our two public broadcasters, have to live in fear and despair – as was beautifully reflected by Missy Higgins’ Facebook post – just because you, the executives of the public broadcasters, don’t happen to think at this point and time that you have a ‘political environment’ which allows you to live up to your public broadcaster responsibility to make us, who have to live with and deal with the emergency, understand what is going on, enable us to see the solutions we have at hand, and empower us to act – so that we can begin, together, united as a people, to tackle this massive, frightening and life-threatening monster called climate change.
“We’d lose listeners and viewers if we did this,” is another standard media executive response, which only reveals that the seriousness of the matter has not been fully understood. Everything is at stake here, including your organisation’s own existence, and your viewer ratings will end up looking like a catastrophe anyway if we go where the fossil fuel companies and our governments currently are planning to take us.
We wrote in a submission to the Australian Government last week:
“Climate change is more important than anything else you have ever dealt with and will ever deal with. At the same time, unfortunately, it is also a much more complex and wicked problem than any other. For this reason, showing leadership in an international context plays a very significant role – an aspect of climate change and its solution which is often ignored because it is not properly understood.
Climate change is a wicked problem because of its size and the fact that it is transnational. No person or nation is able to solve this problem alone. We need to work together.
For this very reason, leadership is crucial here. Without someone taking the first steps and showing the way, everyone will continue to procrastinate and wait for others to start, as we have seen happening during the last decade – with the result that the transition away from fossil fuels is occurring way too slowly, causing irreversible damage to the Earth’s ecosystems, which causes conflicts over food and water between humans, which in turn is leading to massive numbers of deaths and horrific refugee migration problems.
With decisive climate action leadership from the Australian Parliament, state parliaments and the two public broadcasters, an entire nation’s mobilisation could quickly follow with technical and practical solutions to climate change. The key words are: Innovation, Engagement, Empowerment and Investment.
There are not only the moral and positive psychological benefits of taking decisive action, but also the concrete learnings which come from being in a state of collective action. This is why Australian leadership by example has a disproportionately greater effect than it would appear if only looking at the relatively small amount of greenhouse gases the Australian population is directly responsible for.
Australian zero-carbon leadership has the potential to influence and present solutions to other people and to other nations around the world, and in this way would result in a much larger emissions reduction than Australia can achieve on its own.
Leadership really is the key to solving the problem with climate change.”
The leadership we talk about here is not just political leadership. Australia’s two public broadcasters, with the credibility and trust we have in your work, would be able to make a tremendous difference in this country.
At the moment you, along with most of mainstream media, say nothing. You report about the terrible weather calamities, yes, and you cover the never-ending quarrels between politicians about renewable energy targets which are totally inadequate, yes. But then that’s all. You say very little of your own. The politicians also say nothing. Consequently, until recently, most people concluded that as long the tv news and our leaders say nothing, then it must obviously be because there is nothing to say – climate change is not important. The topic can be ignored.
In spite of that, according to a new survey by the Climate Institute, two thirds of Australians today have understood what is going on – mainly thanks to social media – and they want to see strong action on climate change.
What your news journalists lack an understanding of – or feel is too difficult to document, maybe? – is that there are good reasons for the current climate crisis and the scandalous political inaction in this area. Climate action is being postponed by politicians worldwide for one reason: the fossil fuel industry.
People’s general apathy and disinterest in the issues have been created by massive amounts of misinformation and denial circulating in some kind of a loop back and forth between media, the people, the politicians – and pulling the strings in the background, the fossil fuel industry. This has locked Australia – and the world – in a dangerous air pollution stalemate which you rarely talk about. Probably because of the same assumption as the one that makes mainstream commercial media stay away from the topic: the assumption that reporting on climate emergency and climate solutions will make people shut off.
The reality today is that there is so much to say that your tv and radio channels could be broadcasting 24 hours a day with climate- and solutions-related content and news, and most importantly, you could be using your position and resources as public broadcasters to cultivate optimism and hope. You could be the ones to provide Australians with educational and constructive, solution-oriented programs and series on a daily basis, teaching the Australian communities how to connect and engage.
You have what it takes in terms of intelligent, trained staff and millions of dollars. Considering the seriousness of the situation and what it means for this nation’s future, you actually don’t have one single excuse for why this is not already happening.
So dear ABC and SBS – it is time to step up to the challenge.
At management level in the two public broadcasting houses, both the necessary insight and the vision is totally lacking. What we are talking about doing here is untrodden territory – never tried before. Just like your viewers and listeners, the Boards of your organisations also need new ideas, they need input, knowledge … teaching!
Your leadership means to be willing to do something new that has not been tried or seen before. It means to actually speak up against that fossil fuel industry which has infiltrated so much of the decision making in this country.
“It’s not climate change that needs to be tackled. It is the political power of fossil fuel industry.”
~ Richard Denniss, Chief Economist, The Australia Institute
“Perhaps daily weather forecasts could include a few basic facts about the Earth’s vital signs, or details of where climate change is increasing the likelihood of damaging weather?”
~ HRH The Prince of Wales
The internal steps in your organisation
There is the ‘hardware’ and the ‘software’. With the hardware, its simple: get carbon-neutral, quickly. And tell us all about how and why you do it.
Councils and institutions, communities and businesses are doing it. ABC and SBS should be some of the first ones doing it, to set a good example for all of us. It will reduce your energy costs at the same time. Buildings consume 40 per cent of global energy, so the future of sustainability and the future of buildings go hand in hand.
There is not one single argument – apart from wanting to protect the fossil fuel industry – for not committing ABC and SBS to achieving zero carbon emissions for all operations in your organisations.
If you haven’t already produced a Zero Carbon Strategy, there are experts who can guide you with this, including advice from your own government. As well as walking the talk and achieving Zero Carbon certification for your own operations, you can show Australians what we all need to be doing and how we adopt the principles, house by house, business by business, city by city.
Stand up and be visibly counted as public funded organisations which care about our environment and about being sustainable for future generations.
Which bank operates your money? If it is one of the four big banks, you could show a good example by divesting out of fossil fuels. Australia’s four big banks have all failed to come anywhere close to meeting their commitments to help hold global warming to less than 2°C degrees, with each of ANZ, Commonwealth Bank, NAB and Westpac failing to meet even the most basic criteria: ending finance for projects that expand the fossil fuel industry.
Then there is the ‘software’. To kickstart a new climate action journey in your organisation you could initially organise internal climate emergency seminars for both the executives and for your staff.
It all begins with a combination of education and the simple act of a leader standing up and saying, “Listen folks, this is something we are going to pay a lot more attention to in our work.”
The ABC and SBS could then each establish a climate ‘task group’ or editorial group – working together in a kind of Climate War Room – with resources and manpower to create, co-create, sponsor and subsidise all the types of programs which the Australian people would benefit from seeing and listening to now.
The ABC and SBS should take up the role as incubators. Assist new ideas being hatched. An emergency of this scale and danger calls for ‘all hands on deck’ and sharing of knowledge and ideas among the various staff groups and sectors.
You must start facilitating, inspiring, supporting and eventually broadcasting newly produced Australian films and series about pollution, solutions and the transition to a zero carbon society. Films that give us tools and clarity. Documentary films like ‘Tomorrow’ that engage, entertain, and inspire to creating change. But also fiction and comedy. Films and series that make people want to make new things happen.
Provide new resources to film companies to get involved, so that solutions and constructive common sense long-term-future-focused answers can be rolled out. The news journalists must feel they have support from the management to ask the right questions, so they can take these questions to our politicians and to the leaders of relevant industries.
Solving the climate change crisis is very much about bringing factual information and pioneering inspiration to the people, but also at the same time very much about entertainment, humour and innovation – because we’d want to screen products which the mainstream audience is inclined to actually watch.
The wearisome road to ‘Destination Zero Carbon’ relates to education of millions of Australians. People must have their knowledge about science and technology upgraded, and they must know what is happening in the rest of the world, so that they are able to make some informed decisions – not only at election time, but also as consumers, when conducting surveys and polls on the subject, etc.
The two public broadcasters could be those two active, reliable players that help to unblock the locked situation with facts, education and entertainment. Of all media organisations, ABC and SBS really should be the ones who took the lead in this field – raising, debating and highlighting these fundamental issues.
Climate action is about showing leadership. There are many ways to do this – and with the many viewers and listeners you have, your leadership is bound to make a significant impact on the development.
If a united Australian Parliament declared a climate emergency and banned all new coal, gas, and oil projects, logging of native forests, and anything else that we know is exacerbating the existential threat, a large percentage of our resources could then be used to replace existing carbon-intensive processes and activities with beneficial alternatives, like renewable energy, vastly better public transport, electric vehicles, better land management, better energy efficiency, and so on.
During wartime nations have transformed their economies at astonishing scales and speeds to deal with existential threats, spending up to 40 per cent of GDP on battleships that were sunk, and planes that were shot down. In our case, we’d be investing our resources in things like renewable electricity and electrification of transport which ultimately will not just support society way into the future but do so with much lower operating costs, improved health and well-being, new jobs, increased prosperity and even happiness.
The only hard part? Convincing all sides of politics that the public demands nothing less than a full-scale climate mobilisation in order to protect all people, species, and ecosystems.
A group of Australians are asking: Why would we settle for less? – so they have started a “Petition to protect… Everything!” – also known as the Climate Emergency Declaration petition.
The campaign is building public awareness that we are in a climate emergency that threatens life as we know it, and it asks the Australian Parliament “to declare a climate emergency and mobilise society-wide resources at sufficient scale and speed to protect civilisation, the economy, people, species, and ecosystems.”
30 Australian climate and sustainability groups are supporting the campaign, and they need all the help they can get. As directors of our public service broadcasters, you would make a huge difference here if you would sign and endorse this campaign, here.
As for your Victorian broadcasting sections and media houses, you could ask the staff and executives there to take the Victorian Government’s Take2 Pledge.
Also, you could grab our Climate Emergency Radio Relay baton, which we’d be keen to see you run with. What that means in practical terms is simply to do have a radio chat with us about the climate emergency.
We started the relay earlier this year, when the global temperature graph from NASA suddenly crossed the notorious 1.5°C mark, inspired by the American presidential candidate Bernard Sanders who was talking about that we need a “World War II-scale mobilisation” – so we thought we’d begin to ask around to see if we could find an Australian ‘Climate-Churchill’ who could do for our country what Churchill did 75-80 years ago in the United Kingdom: unifying the country around one single goal.
We invite you to have a chat over the phone – live on air – about what your views are on this, and what your proposals and guidelines for us would be.
There’s never been a more important time to be a public broadcaster.
America has Hollywood film stars who are doing their bit.
Now show us what you can do.
Examples: Documentaries to screen on your channels
We think it is time ABC and SBS get over their fear of infected politics and start telling it as it is. Whether or not to present the range of decent documentaries on climate emergency and climate solutions which have already been produced to the Australian people is a simple question of choice.
Some great documentaries have been produced that are only waiting to be screened for a broader Australian audience. A few examples:
‘Before the Flood’
Two-minute trailer for Leonardo DiCaprio’s climate film ‘Before the Flood’.
‘The Age of Consequences’
This film was screened at the Transitions Film Festival in February 2017. It investigates the impacts of climate change on increased resource scarcity, migration, and conflict through the lens of US national security and global stability.
UPDATE: This film was actually screened by ABC on 20 March 2017
Trailer for documentary film ‘Tomorrow’ (‘Demain’)
An optimistic film about the people who are fully engaged with implementing solutions to the climate problems. It premiered at the opening of the United Nations climate summit in Paris in December 2015.
» Home page: www.demain-lefilm.com
TV-SERIES: ‘Years of Living Dangerously’
‘The Future of Energy’
‘The Future of Energy’ is “a one-hour documentary love story about the renewable energy revolution.”
This documentary shows what ABC and SBS could be doing in Australia: showing us what people are doing, how they are thinking, and how much capacity there is for positive change in the world. The stories of two pioneering American towns are told in the film:
• Lancaster in California was the first city in America to mandate solar panels on all new buildings. They are almost at net-zero carbon today, and their goal is to be one of the solar capitals of the world.
• Greensburg is entirely operated on 100% renewable wind energy. Their shining example urges the necessity for similar progressive actions in every city across the globe. Read more
“All around the world a powerful transition is taking place. Communities are building local movements to address economic instability and the worst effects of climate change. Energy lies at the heart of our global society, and how we consume it impacts everything from the air we breathe and the food we eat, to our jobs and the health of our families.”
» Home page: www.thefutureofenergy.org
TV weather news with climate explanation included
Climate scientist Michael E. Mann’s interview with Anne McNamara of ‘The Now’ News is an example how an extreme weather events can be put in the right context.
Climate Guardians descend on the ABC Southbank studios
“Climate Guardians descended on the ABC Southbank studios to lock out industry stooges who are hijacking Australia’s public broadcaster and national information provider”
“Australians trust the ABC because it employs journalists who understand that their job is to accurately and impartially convey information. For this reason it is a national treasure.
Meanwhile, the current ABC Board and executive team seem to be having problems understanding the traditional role that the ABC plays in informing and educating Australians with independent information. Sadly, these administrators don’t seem to recognise the difference between talented, dedicated journalists and industry spokespeople who are mouthpieces for vested interests.
At 5.45am Wednesday 14 December 2016, armed with the red line of fabric that led more than 10,000 climate protestors through the streets of Paris at the conclusion of COP21 this time last year, the Climate Guardians descended on the ABC Southbank studios to lock out industry stooges who are hijacking Australia’s public broadcaster and national information provider.”
» Read more on www.climacts.org.au
“More coverage on climate solutions, please, so that everyone knows what we could and should be demanding of our governments – and our public broadcasters.”
» Journalism.co.uk – 15 September 2016:
Why solutions journalism is guiding editorial decisions at The Huffington Post
“The publisher has found stories that explore solutions to problems, rather than just the issues themselves, resonate better with its audience”
American newspaper expands coverage on climate change
One of the biggest papers in the US, the New York Times, wants to give climate change the attention it deserves. The newspaper has formed team of journalists devoted entirely to climate issues. The team exists as its own desk in the newsroom, just like, say, the national desk or the sports desk, and consists of editors and reporters in New York and Washington. The goal is “to produce visual, explanatory and investigative journalism at a time when the calamities caused by climate change seem to be intensifying.”
» New York Times – 16 March 2017:
A Sea Change for Climate Coverage
When New South Wales burned in 2013, Tony Abbott was quick to point out that individual events can’t be attributed to climate change. But they can. So why didn’t the journalists at ABC and SBS challenge Tony Abbott on this? Probably first of all because the journalists didn’t know. Up till now, no news journalists have been receiving the scientific training and skills they need to be able to ask the right questions to our politicians.
» The Conversation – 31 October 2016:
Unnatural disasters: how we can spot climate’s role in specific extreme events
» World Meteorological Organization – Bulletin nº Vol 65 (2) 2016:
(Un)Natural Disasters: Communicating Linkages Between Extreme Events and Climate Change
“Is it still true to say you can’t point to any single extreme weather event and claim you can’t link it to human-caused climate change? Plenty of people seem to think this is still the case. But a rapidly evolving field of climate science suggests that it’s not. Attribution studies are letting researchers respond quickly to questions about human influence – before the news cycle turns elsewhere”
» The Guardian – 15 September 2016:
Was that climate change? Scientists are getting faster at linking extreme weather to warming
“Many broadcast meteorologists still say they experience significant barriers in reporting on climate change, including a lack of time to prepare and air stories, lack of access to high-quality content that can be rapidly used in their broadcasts, and a lack of access to climate scientists for advice and interviews.”
» ThinkProgress – 20 October 2016:
Miami meteorologist says others need to ‘have the courage’ to report on climate impacts
“The reason why our mainstream media doesn’t report on actual facts and evidence presented by actual experts, summed up in a single cartoon: because it is easier for the media to report on something utterly ridiculous to provoke laughter, then it is to take things seriously and call into question said ridiculousness.”
~ Australian Progressive Coalition
“Why does the media seem so determined to ignore this issue? It’s time to end the blackout on climate change as an issue. It needs to be front and center — and questions must be accompanied by real-time fact-checking, not relegated to the limbo of he-said-she-said, because this is one of the issues where the truth often gets lost in a blizzard of lies. There is, quite simply, no other issue this important, and letting it slide would be almost criminally irresponsible.”
~ Paul Krugman, in The New York Times on 7 October 2016, ‘What About the Planet?’
— Allan Margolin (@AllanMargolin) October 7, 2016
“If journalists aspire to protect the public, then producing stories that allow debunked climate science denial talking points to hang in the air like a bad smell is not going to cut it. What happens if journalists fail to give context, fail to expose potential vested interests or fail to distinguish between genuine expertise and fringe beliefs? The impact is not benign. Instead of protecting the public interest, we can end up doing harm.”
~ Graham Readfearn, in The Guardian on 8 November 2016, Tough choices for the media when climate science deniers are elected
Radio program about climate communication
“Simon Torok, a specialist in science communication talks about how he finds ways to communicate the climate crisis that will make sense to non-scientific people.
Then, Mik Aidt, journalist and climate action campaigner explains a petition he’s organized to send to the ABC and SBS calling on Australia’s public broadcasters to ‘break the silence on the climate emergency’.”
» Dirt Radio, Friends of the Earth Radio – 13 March 2017:
Australia, are you listening?: how to communicate about climate change
“If humanity fails to prevent climate breakdown, the industry that bears the greatest responsibility is not transport, farming, gas, oil or even coal. All of them can behave as they do, shunting us towards systemic collapse, only with a social licence to operate. The problem begins with the industry that, wittingly or otherwise, grants them this licence: the one for which I work.”
~ George Monbiot, in The Guardian on 3 August 2016, ‘The climate crisis is already here – but no one’s telling us’
“If the threat of climate change is a serious threat to humanity, why are we collectively setting emissions targets which are decades in the distance? We can’t afford to wait that long, not when we have the power to make a change at our fingertips. We don’t have to wait for someone else to tell us what to do. It’s as simple as flicking a switch.”
“Once businesses and households have access to real-time data they will be empowered to take affirmative action for a clean energy future. There’s no question that renewables are a big part of the solution, but being efficient with energy is something everybody, everywhere can do.”
~ Tim Bray, CEO Ecocentric Energy, in the October 2016 issue of the magazine Ecogeneration
Though we must hope this letter to the editor is satire, it illustrates the need for wider and better education on climate and renewables in Australia.
Why is mining lobbyist Vanessa Guthrie to sit on the ABC board?
The Coalition has handpicked Western Australian mining lobbyist Vanessa Guthrie to sit on the ABC board, bypassing the independent nomination panel. Guthrie was chosen directly by the government, which is allowed under the legislation but is not common practice.
The five-year appointment comes amid heated political debate about the role of fossil fuels and renewable energy in Australia, and follows government criticism of the public broadcaster’s coverage of coal mining and energy security.
Last year Vanessa Guthrie told the Australian Financial Review she was concerned about “social activists who want to stop development.”
The east coast “is severely under attack from social activism,” she said. “It needs all the help it can get. But it means that the rest of the minerals industry gets somewhat tarnished by the coal debate and I think unfairly. I think coal is under attack unfairly so, even though I am a very strong advocate of clean energy and renewables, but coal has a role as does uranium and nuclear power.”
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— The Sustainable Hour (@SustainableHour) October 20, 2016
Comments and statements
Below are some of the comments and statements written by those who signed our campaign letter to the ABC and SBS:
“Our ABC and SBS are the only trusted bodies with media capacity to break the climate action drought by reporting honestly and regularly about climate impacts and climate solutions. So the people know how they can be the change the planet needs.”
“As a health professional and concerned citizen I feel we have an obligation to take action on the health impact of climate change.”
“We need the media on board to solve this global problem”
“Australia needs to catch up with other countries who lead the way on managing & attempting to curb climate change. We need both stories about the effects of climate change internationally to arouse our sense of urgency & also lessons about the successful solutions that others have found that we can learn about & realistically adopt here too. Communication is key and these networks ABC & SBS can be crucial to enabling discussion and action in Australia’s English speaking and NESB communities.”
“Until a problem is fully acknowledged a commitment to finding a solution and acting upon it is unlikely. I ask those who control the content of our media to stop promoting gory stories of rape murder robbery car crashes and riots and start publishing news about the real threats to our existence on this planet.”
“ABC and SBS news always give stock market reports: they re a bit like the weather – up and down day-to-day but long term trends are more important and will affect us all. Surely we should be informed about the changing climate more regularly whether it’s storms or floods ice melts or new scientific results. These all indicate changes that are affecting us all already.”
“We must make the climate emergency front and centre of our national conversations in order to grow the will to create change amongst all Australians.”
“Let’s get the reality of climate impacts into our daily media, so people will come to accept the enormity of this threat and demand action from all our governments now.”
“This is clearly more important than all the other news stories. Every day.”
“Without an urgent call from an informed public our last chance to avert the most catastropic impacts will be lost. There are real people making fantastic programs and implementing genuine solutions. More would follow if they knew how and why. Please be Public Broadcasters broadcasting for the public.”
“This is the most frightening news of all. No more denial. Time for action.”
“It appears that jobs in mining is the main argument for fossil fuels and yet there are more jobs in renewables and less government subsidy. Mining companies invest in major political parties. for them it is well worth the investment. Public broadcasting is neutral or should be. Truth should be their maxim.”
“Our politicians must be made accountable as to why they persist in ignoring the climate emergency which Australia is both experiencing and exacerbating”
“Read the accompanying article. This is very important.”
“It is time our broadcasters took a more active role in reporting on climate change.”
“I’m signing this because climate change is a scientific fact. We seem to be hesitant to accept this in Australia. We need to include climate change is weather reports as this is infomation the public NEEDS to know. It’s the job of the media to inform us. ABC & SBS you need to listen.”
“We won’t be able to cope with the costs of sea level rise and implications if we do not face what awful possibilities lie ahead and we do nothing about climate change.”
“Ignorance is bliss – uninformed public make politicians lives easier. Public broadcasters have a duty to provide the facts, even if they are unpleasant.”
“I used to be worried for the future of my four grandchildren then I became worried for my two children I’m now signing for all of them all of humanity and all of the natural world. Global Warming is seriously bad for everyone and denying it won’t help at all.”
“This is the critical issue of our time – the heroes will be the ones who were prepared to speak out in spite of the risk to them personally because of the risk for all of us.”
“There is no land rights for gay whales on a dead planet or mortgages football results refugees company bonuses or OS holidays …… this is THE issue that could end all issues if we do not initiate an emergency response ASAP!!!”
“Because I will spend the rest of my life fighting against the mass murder/suicide that our own species is committing on all complex life through our continued support of fossil fuel expansion.”
“The mass media bears a great responsibility for climate change denial. By refusing to hold deniers to account for their incessant and outrageous lying and distortions of fact the mass media has become an accomplice in the greatest crime against humanity which has ever been committed. A crime of ecocide so great that it threatens the future of our entire civilization. the mass media /must/ begin to finally tell the truth about this planetary emergency. It has a duty to do so.”
“I like the idea of reporting on positive actions.”
“Its crazy that we have dedicated news segments on finance sport and weather but nothing on climate change and yet this is the biggest challenge we are faced with in our lives. Its time for the ABC and SBS to feature news segments on climate impacts and solutions as part of their regular news broadcasts.”
“We need our leaders to lead on the climate emergency. And we need our media to honestly inform us of the seriousness of our situation and the way forward.”
“To not tell the full truth on global warming is a form of denial and complicity with the fossil fuel industry ”
“Climate change is the biggest challenge we face. It’s imperative that the ABC and SBS feature news segments on the impacts of climate change and solutions as part of their regular news coverage.”
“This is THE moral and security issue of our times. To not take real and significant action in response to the climate emergency is to fail future generations food and water security and the planet’s bko-diversity”
“If we accept the evidence of climate change then that’s the starting point for debate – ABC and SBS need to avoid so called ‘even-handedness’ with climate denialists which only leads to endless chatter that obscures the reality.”
“Climate change will impact all aspects of human life and all aspects of human health. It’s already happening this isn’t the world I want to live in.”
“Australians are in denial. Not that they deny the science but they put climate change to the back of their mind. We need a campaign to shift people focus from the three Rs (Recipes Renovations and Resorts). And itâ€™s not just about more renewables. We need a shift from the status driven consumption fueling our growth economy to enjoyment of the simple things in life. Fancy a 3 day week?”
“Climate change is not just another environmental issue like asbestos and the ozone hole. It’s something that is going to change the world for us humans entirely.
To adapt and to mitigate climate change will change Australian life styles for ever. We will have to reduce our greenhouse gas pollution from an average of 20 tonnes a year to 2.
So we need serious discussions and planning then huge changes. Nobody is going to be able to ignore this for long.”
“‘Avoiding catastrophic climate change (will become) the organising principle for humanity.’
~ Joe Romm (2016)”
“There is nothing more important than action on climate change.”
“We are in a dire situation and this info is at least as important as other news items.”
“Climate Change is the most threatening challenge to civilisation our prosperity and a sustainable environment that we live within. It’s time to stop this false balance of pandering to narcissistic anarchists. It time to focus on real evidenced based news that educates informs and entertains in the best interests of humanity and our shared existence.”
“Why not have discussions and media coverage on what is happening around the world to combat global warming and climate change.”
“Even though the ABC and SBS have been way ahead of the media pack on spreading the science message about climate change, the word ’emergency’ is seldom used in public broadcasts. THIS NEED TO CHANGE!
Out rime for taking effective mitigation action is fast running out. What about having David Spratt and Philip Sutton on Q&A along with Josh Frydenberg and Daniel Andrews?”
“We need to use the news as a resource for positive action to do whatever we can to address the issues of climate change from a grass-roots local level to international global commitments. We’ve seen enough of war terror and crime. Let’s use the news to help humanity!”
“I learnt in science class in the early 90’s about climate change. For more than 20 years I’ve done nothing about it and nor has most of my generation. We are failing our children and our children’s children.”
“Profit seems to be trumping mass extinction. This is madness. And everybody’s business.But media is reporting little of the triumphs and obstacles to saving our world.”
“How can the public demand action from our pollies if they’re not aware of the dangers of the climate emergency? And how will they know since pollies and media won’t talk about it till there is public support? Crazy Catch 22!”
“I am doing what I can but only one person. This info needs to get out there if future generations or even some of us are going to have a habitable planet.”
“There is a climate emergency! Just because we are not suffering the full effects of human emissions of CO2 right now it does not mean that we are not bringing on an environmental catastrophe for the next few decades and the people who come after us. We are! We need to get active on stopping or at least mitigating climate change ASAP!”
“I think this might just finally give us the information we need to act.”
“Taking action is about phasing out fossil fuels. This will take time and every extra car plane ship bus truck gas heater etc we buy commits us to more fossil fuel burning.”
» If you’d like to sign and comment as well, click here
Communication Mixdown: Climate in the media
On Thursday 17 November 2016 at 6:00–6:30pm, Communication Mixdown – a new show on 3CR Community Radio – went on air with half an hour about how climate change and climate science is being communicated. Press play to listen here:
The program featured interviews with:
• Simon Torok, science communicator, director of Scientell
• Mik Aidt, independent journalist and climate activist, director of Centre for Climate Safety
• Presenter: John Langer
Simon Torok has worked in communication for more than 20 years. This included almost 13 years as a CSIRO Communication Manager in Melbourne, where he developed strategies and formed teams to deliver communication campaigns that – using new, social and traditional media – raised awareness of the impact of CSIRO’s research into understanding our oceans, coasts, climate and atmosphere.
Scientell is a science communication and marketing business specialising in planning and implementing communication strategies for scientific, environmental and technical agencies
Mik Aidt is a Danish journalist who moved to Australia in 2013, founder and co-host of The Sustainable Hour on 94.7 The Pulse which has been podcasting close to 150 hours of radio about energy, climate change and the environment, all available in iTunes and on www.climatesafety.info/thesustainablehour. Together with co-host Anthony Gleeson, he launched a petition calling on ABC and SBS to break the silence on the climate emergency.
Communication Mixdown is a new show on 3CR Community Radio which casts a critical eye on the myriad ways in which we communicate with each other in our increasingly interconnected, multi-media platform world. “Each week we mix down the who, the what, the where, and the how of particular communication events, messages, trends and technologies, and then consider: what impacts and what consequences?”
3CR is “Melbourne’s voice of dissent”, broadcasting on 855AM, Digital Radio, On Demand, and Live Streaming