What journalists and editors can do

First of all: you must take a stand

Editors and journalists in the media world: You hold an important key to saving this planet — and your own children — from a climate catastrophe.

As a journalist or editor, you need to take a stand on this matter, and to begin digging, learning and understanding. Investigate, ask the right questions, find the right figures. Understand what is happening — and then, communicate what you discover. Unfold the truth about climate change, investments in fossil fuels and in innovation, disinformation campaigns, public subsidies, and the rest, to your readers, listeners and viewers.

Ask yourself: How come that journalists, of all people, seem to be unable to comprehend what is going on – and how they are being manipulated by the fossil fuel industry? How much does this phenomena have to do with that the same group of shareholders that own the energy industry also own corporate media?

Remember also to make recommendations to your readers and viewers as to how we can begin to make a difference and take action to solve the problems. One of the biggest problems with climate change is that these questions about the future are so large and dire that most of us give up in advance. We need to hear about the problems, but we have a perhaps even bigger need to get inspiration and instructions on how to tackle the situation, how to get started at an individual level with becoming part of the solution instead of being part of the problem.

» Blog-post: ‘Wake-up call for European industry and media’.


American newspaper rejects giving a voice to climate deniers

“Saying “there’s no sign humans have caused climate change” is not stating an opinion, it’s asserting a factual inaccuracy.”
Los Angeles Times

The world has at least one newspaper now that openly takes a stand on climate change and says: “Letters with untrue basis e.g. ‘no sign humans have caused climate change’ do not get printed in our newspaper.”

On 5 October 2013, Letters Editor for Los Angeles Times Paul Thornton wrote: “Simply put, this objection to the president’s healthcare law is based on a falsehood, and letters that have an untrue basis (for example, ones that say there’s no sign humans have caused climate change) do not get printed.”

Climate deniers were obviously not pleased to read this. But letters editor Paul Thornton was unswayed by their complaints, as he explained in a response on 8 October 2013:

“As for letters on climate change, we do get plenty from those who deny global warming. And to say they “deny” it might be an understatement: Many say climate change is a hoax, a scheme by liberals to curtail personal freedom.
Before going into some detail about why these letters don’t make it into our pages, I’ll concede that, aside from my easily passing the Advanced Placement biology exam in high school, my science credentials are lacking. I’m no expert when it comes to our planet’s complex climate processes or any scientific field. Consequently, when deciding which letters should run among hundreds on such weighty matters as climate change, I must rely on the experts — in other words, those scientists with advanced degrees who undertake tedious research and rigorous peer review.
And those scientists have provided ample evidence that human activity is indeed linked to climate change. Just last month, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change — a body made up of the world’s top climate scientists — said it was 95% certain that we fossil-fuel-burning humans are driving global warming. The debate right now isn’t whether this evidence exists (clearly, it does) but what this evidence means for us.
Simply put, I do my best to keep errors of fact off the letters page; when one does run, a correction is published. Saying “there’s no sign humans have caused climate change” is not stating an opinion, it’s asserting a factual inaccuracy.”

Paul Thornton’s response had received 5,000 Facebook-likes within three days.

Petition by FORECAST THE FACTS – 13 October 2013:

Tell the newspapers New York Times, Washington Post and USA Today: Stop publishing climate denial

Los Angeles Times – 8 October 2013:
On letters from climate-change deniers
By Paul Thornton

Grist – 10 October 2013:
L.A. Times won’t publish climate-denier letters
By John Upton

“At a minimum, good journalism — and the readers’ right to be fully informed — requires identifying a source’s stake. Is the source an environmentalist or coal or oil spokesperson? Their interests are clear.”
Dan Becker and James Gerstenzang in USA Today

» USA Today – 10 October 2013:
Climate deniers meet Joe Camel: Column
Don’t listen to the climate change smoke machine. By Dan Becker and James Gerstenzang

Below are some ideas and inspiration for questions you could ask, articles you could write, documentaries you could make.

Uncover the truth about public subsidies

The biggest scandal ever seen in human history is rolling right in front of our eyes: Not so much that there are people and companies who profit from wrecking the climate on this planet — but the fact that they do it with their respective governments’ blessing. They even get subsidised. What does that mean? It means that governments all over the world use public money to support the fossil industry.

Now that we have come to understand that carbon emissions will raise atmospheric temperatures to a catastrophic level, it is nothing less than a tremendous scandal that those governments who are supposed to be responsible for the well-being and security of their populations are letting this go on.

If all the public subsidies in the fossil fuel industry were moved to subsidise renewable energy, we’d have solved a large part of the global problem with carbon emissions, according to a UN report from February 2013.

Who decided that the oil industry should be subsidised for ever? How many journalists from the biggest media houses around the world have spent time and resources on digging deep into these kind matters and then revealed their findings to the public? Governments keep a lot of critical information about fossil fuel subsidies hidden from view.

Read more:
Crowdfunding to cancel fossil fuel subsidies
Why on earth didn’t they just fix it?

Uncover the truth about investments in fossil fuel industry

In The Guardian on 17 April 2013, Duncan Clark wrote:
“Companies to spend the best part of $1 trillion a year (comparable to the US defence budget, or more than $100 for every person on the planet) to find and develop yet more reserves.
If and when we emerge from this insanity, the carbon bubble will burst and those investments will turn out to have been as toxic as sub-prime mortgages. Don’t take my word for it. HSBC analysts recently concluded that oil giants such as BP – beloved of UK pension funds – could have their value cut in half if the world decides to tackle climate change.”

125 people commented the piece on the first day. The comments make quite interesting reading too. For example Tonester7 wrote:

“The big 6 energy companies basically reported record profits, yet our bills go up? That equation does not add up. The single reason our bills go up is greed, capitalism, money. Your bills rise because the companies want more profit, it has nothing to do with the afforementioned false reasons. Incidentally, some or even all of the big 6 dont pay their taxes either. N-power have been forced to admit they have paid ZERO coorporation tax for at least 3 years. Remind me again who the scroungers are supposed to be? The sleepers must awaken.”

How does it look in your country? Has anyone bothered to look more closely into these matters?

Take a deeper look at Donors Trust

A group named Donors Trust has been funneling far more money than ExxonMobil ever did to climate denial groups, but because the source of the funds remains largely hidden, the public has been unable to pressure the donations to stop as they did with Exxon. A small portion of Donors Trust’s funding was recently revealed by the Center for Public Integrity, yet even that small portion has significant ties to the Koch brothers and other fossil fuel interests.

Between 2008 and 2011, Donors Trust doled out over $300 million in grants to what it describes as “conservative and libertarian causes,” serving as “the dark money ATM of the conservative movement.” Donors Trust enables donors to give anonymously, noting on its website that if you “wish to keep your charitable giving private, especially gifts funding sensitive or controversial issues,” you can use it to direct your money.

One of the “controversial issues” that Donors Trust and its sister organization Donors Capital Fund have bankrolled is the campaign to cast doubt on the science of climate change and delay any government action to reduce emissions. The following chart created by The Guardian based on data from Greenpeace shows that as ExxonMobil and the Koch Foundations have reduced traceable funding for these groups, donations from Donors Trust have surged:

climate denial funds

» Media Matters – 28 February 2013:
How The Dirty Energy Money Funding Climate Inaction Slips By The Press

» Widener Law | Ethics and Climate – 12 February 2013:
10 Questions That The Press Should Ask Politicians About Climate Science In Light of This Responsibility
By Donald A. Brown, Scholar In Residence, Sustainability Ethics and Law, Widener University School of Law, USA

Clippings from the media newsstream

Articles and videoclips about climate-journalism and writing about climate change


CNN: Media’s global warming failure

Philippe Cousteau, president of EarthEcho International, and New York Times author Andrew Revkin appeared on CNN to discuss the recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report that discussed in great detail human’s impact on climate change.

They expressed concerns that the public and media tend to only cover the role of climate change during dramatic extreme weather events.

Journalists choose the easy solutions, said Philippe Cousteau.

» Video clip from CNN’s interview: livinggreenmag.com

Report: Media gives climate change deniers disproportionate amount of attention. Specifically, politically conservative news outlets like Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News and the Wall Street Journal were responsible for the lion’s share of the false balance, disproportionately representing climate contrarians in their stories about the IPCC report.”

» The Guardian – 11 October 2013:
Conservative media outlets found guilty of biased global warming coverage
New studies show conservative and politically neutral media outlets are creating false balance in climate change reporting. By Dana Nuccitelli

» Climate News Network – 18 September 2013:
Climate reporters ‘must explain risk’
Reporting climate change as a disaster story, or as something intrinsically uncertain, may be less helpful than describing it in terms of the risks it entails, according to a UK study. By Alex Kirby

» ThinkProgress – 16 September 2013:
NY Times Says Earth Has Unlimited Carrying Capacity, So Forget Climate Change and Party On, Homo Sapiens!
In a collective act of media irresponsibility, the New York Times and Washington Post have joined the Wall Street Journal in publishing “don’t worry, be happy” articles days before the big UN climate science report will say quite the opposite. | Memo to Jeff Bezos: If you want to fix the Washington Post, stop publishing anti-science pieces by Bjorn Lomborg. By Joe Romm

» The Guardian – 14 September 2013:
The first rule of climate change research: don’t mention climate change
“Data is important for decision making, but to get that evidence researchers must think carefully about the language they use.” Article by Sonia Whitehead

» Yale Environment 360 – 12 September 2013:
Finding a Better Message on The Risks of Climate Change
“To overcome polarization on the issue of climate change, Yale professor Dan Kahan says in an interview with e360, scientists and the media need to frame the science in ways that will resonate with the public. A message that makes people feel threatened, he says, simply will not be effective.” Article by Diane Toomey

» The Guardian – 9. september 2013:
Arctic sea ice delusions strike the Mail on Sunday and Telegraph
“Both UK periodicals focus on short-term noise and ignore the rapid long-term Arctic sea ice death spiral”. Article by Dana Nuccitelli.

Mail on Sunday and Telegraph

“These two articles at the Mail on Sunday and Telegraph continue the unfortunate trend of shoddy climate reporting in the two periodicals, particularly from David Rose. They suffer from cherry picking short-term data while ignoring the long-term human-caused trends, misrepresenting climate research, repeating long-debunked myths, and inventing IPCC meetings despite being told by climate scientists that these claims are pure fiction.
Based on their history of shoddy reporting, the safest course of action when reading a climate article in the Mail on Sunday or Telegraph is to assume they’re misrepresentations or falsehoods until you can verify the facts therein for yourself.”

» Slate – 30 August 2013:
Climate Change: Rare Medium Is Well-Done
“As the world warms, and the environment changes around us, it’s good—for a sufficiently broad definition of “good”—to see the media starting, just barely starting, to take the issue seriously.” Article by Phil Plait

» Grist – 23 August 2013:
How to write about climate: Pull up a barstool
“Climate change is an awkward fit for the conventions and institutions that make up today’s media. There are a bunch of reasons for this, but the main one is that not much happens.” Article by David Roberts

Solutions journalism

Consider using the Solutions Journalism Checklist

Climate Science Rapid Response Team

The Climate Science Rapid Response Team is a match-making service to connect climate scientists with lawmakers and the media. The group is committed to providing rapid, high-quality information to media and government officials. Climate Science Rapid Response team member scientists are chosen to cover a wide array of topics related to Climate Science. They have been selected based upon their publications in professional peer-reviewed scientific journals.

“There is a wide gap between what scientists know about climate change and what the public knows. The scientists of the Climate Science Rapid Response Team understand that better communication can narrow this gap. The media is in the best position to deliver accurate science information to the general public and to our elected leaders but only when they have access to that information. The Climate Science Rapid Response Team is committed to delivering that service. The team members are advocates for science education.
Media and government officials are encouraged to send requests using a inquiry form. For those who are not media or government contacts but have questions regarding climate, visit the Resources page. The informative links there can answer most questions.”

» Home page: www.climaterapidresponse.org

Press alerts from Environmental News Network

You can subscribe to the press alerts from Environmental News Network. They also distribute a daily e-newsletter to 36,000 environmental leaders.

The Environmental News Network is one of the oldest, and most unbiased sources of online environmental news on the web. The network has consistently earned the loyalty of the most respected insiders like the heads of sustainability at Fortune 500 companies, government leaders or leaders of the largest non-profits.

► You can sign up here

Climate News Network

The Climate News Network is a site and a news-service designed primarily for journalists. The free, ready-to-use factual service that brings you the latest news of climate change science. Climate News Network is run by four volunteers, all veteran journalists who have covered climate change for many years for leading British newspapers and broadcasters and are now freelancing.

“For journalists we offer news stories about climate change where the implications are spelt out explicitly and authoritatively as context and comment. Using trustworthy sources and straightforward language, we provide journalists with the stories they need in a ready-to-use form which they can use as it stands or adapt to their own circumstances. Our stories are typically about 600 words long. The service is entirely free of charge.”

When you sign up, you will be receiving interesting articles of high standard straight to your mailbox often before they are published.

» Home page: www.climatenewsnetwork.net

Where to get graphic material for climate change and sustainability articles

► Broadcast-ready graphics and animations from the Meteorologist Center at NASA Global Climate Change

► Check out Global Reporting Initiative’s sustainability image gallery on flickr.com

Recommended reading for all journalists and editors

‘State of the World 2013’ assembles the wisdom and clarity of some of the earth’s finest thinkers, visionaries, and activists into a dazzling array of topics that merge to offer a compellingly lucid and accessible vision of where we are — and what is the wisest and healthiest course for the future.”
Nina Simons, Cofounder, Bioneers

Get hold of this book — and find the time to actually read it: ‘State of the World 2013: Is Sustainability Still Possible?’

Here is a Preview Edition, 28 pages:

Understanding the inadequate climate change coverage


Americans Tell News To Cover Climate Change

“Twelve. That’s the combined number of segments that ABC, CBS and NBC’s nightly news programs devoted to climate change throughout all of 2012. This is woefully inadequate. We need coverage that’s consistent with the importance of dealing with this issue.

That’s why Mediamatters for America and the Sierra Club are joining the League of Conservation Voters in asking those three nightly news programs to do a better job covering climate issues in 2013 than they did in 2012.

You can help out by signing the letter to Michael Corn, Executive Producer of ABC World News, Patricia Shevlin, Executive Producer of CBS Evening News, and Patrick Burkey, Executive Producer of NBC Nightly News, asking them to give Americans more frequent, accurate coverage of climate change this year.”


What is it with journalists and their relationship to climate change?
Journalists often choose to focus on the easy accessible conflict stories and opt out more complicated material which requires research. Contrary what I often hear, it is not because journalists are somewhat dumber than the average citizens. Journalists are busy people in busy jobs and tight deadlines who can’t find the time to look deeper into the case of climate change, which is an overwhelmingly complex issue.

The result is that we often see journalists make silly mistakes in their reporting. They misunderstand and misinterpret the reports published by the scientific climate researchers. They think, “Hm, wasn’t there just someone who said he does not believe that science is right?” And then they give that person access to the columns and hold the microphone for him in the belief that in this way they ensure “balanced journalism”, where both parties in a case is being heard.

Critique of the media

The great failure of the journalistic profession

When researchers at Oregon State University and Harvard University published their findings on 8 March 2013 in the journal Science that the earth is hottest now, and getting hotter, the world’s biggest news agencies wired the story to newspapers around the world, and what did the editors do? Did they give it priority and a headline on the front page? No. Of course not. As seen in this example from Herald Sun in Australia, they squeezed it in on the bottom of page 19.


Climate change is the story of the decade and the century. And if we don’t slash emissions soon, it will be the story of the millennium (see NOAA study which concludes climate change is “largely irreversible for 1,000 years” with permanent Dust Bowls in Southwest USA and worldwide.)
But most of the mainstream media treat climate change as a second or third-tier story.

Todd Gitlin — professor of journalism and sociology and chair of the Ph. D. program in Communications at Columbia University – has a long critique of the media at TomDispatch:

26 April 2013:
Todd Gitlin slams media’s miscoverage of climate: It’s dumb journalism, stupid
On this page is an excerpt of the part on climate.

Thank you, Todd Gitlin, for speaking out about the greatest failure of the journalistic profession ever. Because sadly, that is exactly what we are witnessing.

Todd Gitlin writes that if the press has “largely failed us on the subject, the TV news is a disgrace. Despite the record temperatures of 2012, the intensifying storms, droughts, wildfires and other wild weather events, the disappearing Arctic ice cap, and the greatest meltdown of the Greenland ice shield in recorded history, their news divisions went dumb and mute.”

“The rolling default in climate-change coverage cries out for the most serious professional self-scrutiny.  Will it do for journalists and editors to remain thoroughly tangled up in their own remarkably unquestioned assumptions about what constitutes news?

Come on, people: Can you really find no way to dramatize the extinction of species, the spread of starvation, the accelerating droughts, desertification, floods, and violent storms?  With all the dots you already report, even with shrunken staffs, can you really find no way to connect them?

If it is held unfair, or naïve, or both, to ask faltering news organizations to take up the slack left by our corrupt, self-dealing, shortsighted institutions, then it remains for start-up efforts to embarrass the established journals. (…)

The press was never too great to fail. Missing the story is a tradition.  So now the question is: Who is going to bring us the news of all the institutions, from City Hall to Congress, from Wall Street to the White House, that fail us?”

2012: Eight minutes of tv on climate change in the U.S.

“In 2012, the Sunday shows spent less than 8 minutes on climate change… ABC’s This Week covered it the most, at just over 5 minutes… NBC’s Meet the Press covered it the least, in just one 6 second mention… Most of the politicians quoted were Republican presidential candidates, including Rick Santorum, who went unchallenged when he called global warming ‘junk science’ on ABC’s This Week. More than half of climate mentions on the Sunday shows were Republicans criticizing those who support efforts to address climate change… In four years, Sunday shows have not quoted a single scientist on climate change.”

» Source: www.mediamatters.org

International Energy Agency

The International Energy Agency is an autonomous organisation which works to ensure reliable, affordable and clean energy for its 28 member countries and beyond. The IEA’s four main areas of focus are: energy security, economic development, environmental awareness, and engagement worldwide. Energy Technology Perspectives, World Energy Outlook, Technology roadmaps, Oil Market Report, Scenarios and projections…

» See IEA’s newsroom: www.iea.org/newsroomandevents

Climate change is not allowed on the front pages, because this is not news. Climate change is just a bunch of scientists talking. News is something else. “It may be fundamentally important, but it’s not news and therefore it cannot be printed in the American press.”
According to Californian Governor Jerry Brown, people must instead “join with other individuals” and organisations to spread information about climate change and to work to combat it.

» Capitol Alert – 23 May 2013:
Jerry Brown: News media ignoring climate change
Gov. Jerry Brown complained bitterly this morning that the news media ignores climate change, in a speech attended by more than a dozen photographers and reporters. “If you take a look at Google and type in ‘global warming news,’ I venture to say on most days in the news, 20 to 30 percent, if not more, of the news, will be by climate deniers or skeptics”. By David Siders


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