Climate Journalism Is Getting Its Day in the Sun

From The Poynter Report with Tom Jones:

Two years ago at this time — well into the summer of 2020 — COVID-19 was the dominant news story. Well, that and the contentious race to see who was going to win the 2020 presidential election.

But the pandemic had a stranglehold on the world and this country. Obviously, because of its devastating impact, COVID-19 had to be the prevailing news story. It was too critical to be anything else .

While writing this newsletter, I naturally talk to news leaders and journalists all the time. As we started to see some optimism regarding COVID-19 because of vaccines, I often would ask journalists this question just to get a gauge: “Is there one important story right now that isn’t getting the attention it warrants because much of our resources are about covering COVID-19?”

The answer I got most often: climate change.

COVID-19 hasn’t completely gone away and it’s still in the news cycle, which feels like a dizzying daily scramble. We have Donald Trump, the upcoming midterms and many of the key issues that could impact those midterms, such as the economy and abortion.

But we are starting to see more attention paid to climate coverage for this reason: We are beyond a critical stage.

The lead story on CNN.com for much of the day Tuesday: “New water cuts coming for Southwest as Colorado River falls into Tier 2 shortage.” CNN’s Ella Nilsen and Rachel Ramirez write, “An extraordinary drought in the West is drying up the Colorado River and draining the nation’s largest reservoirs — Lake Mead and Lake Powell. And amid the overuse of the river and the aridification of the region, the federal government is implementing new mandatory water cuts and asking states to devise a plan to save the river basin.”

What does this mean? Nilsen and Ramirez write, “The Tier 2 shortage means Arizona, Nevada and Mexico will have to further reduce their Colorado River use beginning in January.”

Meanwhile, the homepage of Tuesday’s Washington Post had these two headlines:

Earlier this week, a study from the First Street Foundation claimed that more than 100 million Americans may experience a heat index greater than 125 degrees by the year 2053.

By highlighting these stories, news organizations are showing the potential and real impacts that climate change is having on everyday lives. It’s one thing to talk in generalities about global warming and such, but it’s another to reach audiences by saying, “Here is how your life is being impacted today and here is how it will be affected tomorrow.”

It’s also encouraging to see news outlets dedicating resources to covering the climate. In March of this year, for instance, The Washington Post announced its leadership team for its new Climate and Environment Department. At that time, the Post said, “The department of more than 30 reporters, visual journalists, data experts and editors will anchor a newsroom-wide and globe-spanning effort to cover climate and extreme weather and their impact on humanity through revelatory reporting, visual-first storytelling and innovative forms of data-driven journalism.”

The result is this landing page of impressive climate coverage.

Meanwhile, Tuesday was a big day as President Joe Biden signed into law the Inflation Reduction Act, which helps tackle climate change. The Associated Press’ Lisa Mascaro wrote, “… the bill brings the biggest investment ever in the U.S. to fight climate change.”

Mascaro wrote, “The bill would infuse nearly $375 billion over the decade in climate change-fighting strategies that Democrats believe could put the country on a path to cut greenhouse gas emissions 40% by 2030, and ‘would represent the single biggest climate investment in U.S. history, by far.’”

Check out the work from Francesca Paris, Alicia Parlapiano, Margot Sanger-Katz and Eve Washington of The New York Times’ Upshot team: “A Detailed Picture of What’s in the Democrats’ Climate and Health Bill.”

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