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With the $1.9 trillion Covid-19 stimulus package now signed into law, the Biden administration is turning to a new spending bill: $3 trillion to boost the economy, much of it focused on jumpstarting America’s transition to green energy sources. As The New York Times reports, an expected pair of proposals promises heavy spending on clean energy deployment, 1 million affordable and energy-efficient housing units, and “nearly $1 trillion in spending on the construction of roads, bridges, rail lines, ports, electric vehicle charging stations, and improvements to the electric grid and other parts of the power sector.”
This news was welcomed by environmental groups, and it’s consistent with Biden’s pledge to put climate at the center of his agenda across government agencies. (In other environment news, former NOAA head Jane Lubchenco was appointed to a top job in the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy to coordinate climate and environmental issues.)
But has climate been central to most media coverage of the still-new Biden administration? Not like it should be. Too much White House coverage has been marked by false equivalence with the previous administration, lame efforts to frame Republican intransigence as a failure by Biden to achieve “unity,” and, lately, an altogether cringeworthy focus on the president’s dog.
This Friday, reporters will get an opportunity to do better, as Biden holds the first press conference of his presidency. In addition to a slate of urgent topics—the Covid recovery and a recent spate of mass shootings—it’s likely Biden will come prepared to talk about his new spending plan and, by extension, his prioritization of climate action. Here’s hoping reporters ditch the faux Beltway controversies and seize the opportunity to center issues that affect us all, especially including climate.
New and Recent From CCNow
REMINDER: April Joint Coverage Week. Per our announcement in February, CCNow’s next joint coverage week is set for April 12-22, in the lead up to Earth Day and President Biden’s global climate summit. Our theme of coverage is “Living Through the Climate Emergency.” In addition to reporting the science that calls today’s circumstances a climate emergency, partners will run human-centered stories drawn from every beat in the newsroom. To help newsrooms prepare, we’ve created a new reporting guide, which unpacks what we mean when we say that climate is a story for every beat. And last Thursday, we sent an email detailing just some of the great coverage our partners have planned.
Thursday, March 25: South Regional Training. The next in our new series of region-specific events, focused this time on the South, will be held THIS THURSDAY, March 25. Similar to our February Talking Shop, “Boosting Your Climate Confidence on Every Beat,” we’ll offer basics on the science, politics, and economics of climate change, as well as ideas for how to tell human-centered stories that engage audiences. Panelists will include journalists from Southerly, WCBI-TV in Mississippi, and The Times-Picayune | The New Orleans Advocate, along with guests from Louisiana State University and Mom’s Clean Air Force. The webinar is set for March 25 at 1:30pm Central time, 2:30 Eastern. Check out the panelists and RSVP here…
**And check out this recap of our first region-specific event, which focused on the Great Lakes, with stellar journalists from Wisconsin Watch, ProPublica, Bridge Michigan, Minnesota Public Radio, and Great Lakes Now at Detroit Public Television.**
Some of the Week’s Essential Climate Coverage
- The Environmental Voters Project, which claims to have mobilized hundreds of thousands of voters in the 2020 elections, is expanding its operations to five new states—Alaska, Texas, Kansas, Iowa and New York—bringing its total operations to 17 states, HuffPost reports. The group was founded to address the apparent inconsistency that a majority of Americans care about climate and want the government to act—but often don’t vote. “The climate movement’s problem is not a lack of solutions, it’s a lack of political power,” EVP’s director, Nathaniel Stinnett, tells HuffPost. “We need to mobilize every day in every election in every state to amass so much political power that we’re impossible to ignore.”
- In a thorough expose, The Guardian shows that oil and gas companies knew the grave air pollution risk of burning fossil fuels decades ago—only to lobby against clean-air regulations and spread disinformation designed to create uncertainty about the science. Sound familiar? As with climate change, one expert says, the response has been the same: “first they know, then they scheme, then they deny and then they delay.”
- The former head of China’s energy grid, Liu Zhenya, currently the head of a Beijing-based think tank, believes his country can reach peak carbon emissions by 2028, two years earlier than projected, and reach net zero by 2055, 5 years earlier than projected, reports Bloomberg Green. That’s not official policy from the Chinese government—but it may signal a hastening of China’s efforts to assume leadership in the climate space.
- Much of the American West faces its worst drought in years. As Bloomberg Green reports, drought has “captured” roughly 75 percent of the land in 11 states, “setting up a climate disaster that could strangle agriculture, fuel deadly wildfires and even hurt power production.”
- Building solar panels over California’s expansive canal system could both help the state reach its emissions reduction targets and address perennial water shortages and drought, according to a new study covered by Earther. Over-water solar panels are increasingly popular worldwide; at present, they’re more expensive than land-based panels, but the cost gap is narrowing, and over-water panels carry inherent benefits—water helps cool panels, reducing overheating problems on land. In California, the study estimated, over-water panels “would generate between 20% and 50% higher return on investment than would be achieved by building those panels on the ground.”
- A Conservative Party leader in Canada urged colleagues to embrace environmentally friendly policies, lest they suffer defeat in likely federal elections this year. Yet this weekend, per Reuters, conservatives in the country voted against a measure to recognize climate change as real—consistent with broader efforts to protect the country’s oil industry, as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal Party makes climate action a priority.
- An under-examined part of Biden’s climate-focused executive order, signed in January, “pairs the urgent issues of leaking greenhouse gases with the creation of new jobs for energy workers and people who live in heavily-polluted neighborhoods,” Capital & Main reports. Across the country, poorly capped wells are leaking methane into the atmosphere. Resealing them could provide scores of well-paying jobs, including for women and people of color in areas hit by environmental pollution—though some advocates worry those jobs might not actually go to fenceline communities in need.
The following stories deserve special attention and consideration for republication and/or rebroadcast by CCNow partners:
- What Biden’s Climate Justice Pledge on Leaking Oil Wells Means | Capital & Main
- Feds Move Forward with New Mexico Drilling Plan Despite Community Outcry | Capital & Main
- We have turned the Amazon into a net greenhouse gas emitter: Study | Mongabay
- ‘I can feel your breath’: when COVID-19 and environmental racism collide | The Narwhal (Canada)
For partners: to submit stories for sharing, please use this Google Form. As always, instructions for republishing and the full list of stories available for republication can be found in our Sharing Library.
Odds and Ends
Grist unveils 2021 “Grist 50.” CCNow partner Grist has unveiled its annual list of 50 “Fixers,” people working for a better climate and environment, including “emerging leaders in climate, sustainability, and equity who are creating change across the [U.S.].” Check out the full list here…
CNN announces climate coverage expansion. Last week, CNN announced a major expansion of its climate coverage efforts, with a new team standing up both to report on climate and integrate climate into CNN’s coverage of other subjects. To staff this team, the network is HIRING a digital editor, a Washington reporter, a general assignment writer, an international editor, and a data & visuals editor. Learn more…
More jobs. CapRadio in Sacramento is hiring an environment and climate change reporter. Wired is launching a “Resilience Residency” program, targeting professionals whose industries have been upended by climate change, the pandemic, and technological advances; the program is hiring for six-month residencies, beginning in June.
New DEI Coalition Slack space. OpenNews and the DEI (Diversity, Equality, and Inclusion) Coalition have launched a new “digital community space dedicated to sharing knowledge and taking concrete action in service of a more anti-racist, equitable and just journalism industry.” Members can use the shared community space, hosted on Slack, “to tackle challenging conversations, create new resources, equip themselves to be better allies and advocates, and together, change newsroom policies, systems, and culture for the better.” Learn more and register, free, here…
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