COP 15 Links the Climate and Biodiversity Stories

And journalists don’t need to be at COP15 to tell them.

People visit the immersive video experience hosted by the National Geographic Society at a press event during the United Nations Biodiversity Conference (COP15) in Montreal on December 7, 2022. (Photo by Andrej Ivanov/AFP via Getty Images)

“Humanity has become a weapon of mass extinction… with a million species at risk of disappearing forever,” UN Secretary-General António Guterres told reporters on Wednesday at COP15, the UN Biodiversity Conference in Montreal. The conference gives journalists everywhere the opportunity to explain how halting the extinction of species is as crucial as halting the overheating of the planet — and that, as Guterres added, “defeat[ing] climate change is only possible if at the same time, we… reverse the biodiversity loss.”

Journalists need not be at COP15 to tell this story — there are local angles galore. You can spotlight the animal and plant species in trouble in your region and explain why. Talk to local people about why they love certain species of plants and animals, and to activists and scientists about how to protect species through collective measures such as community-based conservation and individual steps like volunteering as a nature observer. A key goal at COP15 is for the world’s governments to agree to protect 30% of the Earth’s land and sea by 2030 through “systems of protected areas and… other measures.” Could your region be part of that effort?

The interconnected web of life, including animals, plants, and micro-organisms, provides humanity with food, water, medicine, a stable climate, and more than half of the world’s total economic product. Nature’s majesty also is a wonder that deserves protection in its own right. But the connection between our daily lives and, say, coral reefs (which are vital to the marine food chain) can feel abstract. So go easy on the jargon and instead favor basic explainers. For data insights, Resource Watch, a project by World Resources Institute, has hundreds of datasets on the state of the planet’s natural resources.

Bear in mind that the climate connection to biodiversity works in both directions. Flooding, drought, and other climate-driven extreme weather can wipe out ecosystems, transforming carbon storage sites into carbon emitters. The destruction of peatlands, for example, accounts for about 5% of global emissions. On the flip side, preserving peatlands, forests, wetlands, and more will pull carbon from the air and “lock it away,” as activist Greta Thunberg and journalist George Monbiot explain. Such “nature-based” solutions could deliver up to a third of the emission reductions scientists say are needed by 2030.

Indigenous peoples who hold traditional knowledge about living sustainably with the land are a key authority. Roughly 80% of the world’s biodiversity survives on land inhabited by Indigenous peoples, who have been historically persecuted and displaced. Ethically learning from Indigeous communities will be essential to halting and reversing biodiversity loss. The International Indigenous Forum on Biodiversity, a caucus of Indigenous representatives established to advocate at international meetings, wants the final COP15 agreement to include language protecting Indigenous rights.

“Humanity’s war on nature is ultimately a war on ourselves,” Guterres declared. COP15, which concludes on December 19, offers an opportunity to end that war. Journalism that informs the public and holds the powerful to account can help make the peace.

From Us

#ICYMI. Brian Lehrer, longtime host of The Brian Lehrer Show on WNYC in New York City, talked to CCNow about his decision to expand climate coverage on his show, how to make climate stories more relatable to audiences, and what he’s learned along the way. Read it. 

Justice. CCNow’s Andrew McCormick spoke with five journalists in the Global South — from Pakistan, the Philippines, Mauritius, Puerto Rico, and Peru — about what climate justice means and what that might entail for their colleagues in the West. Read it.

Noteworthy Stories

Big tech. Large technology companies are making the climate crisis worse due to their massive energy consumption, their amplification of misinformation and conspiracy theories on climate change, and more, according to a new report by environmental nonprofit Global Action Plan. “Big Tech billionaires are the oil barons of the 21st century and their impact on climate change is no less destructive.” By Kristoffer Tigue at Inside Climate News…

Big oil. A group of communities in Puerto Rico that were battered by Hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017 are suing Shell, ExxonMobil, Chevron, and other fossil fuel producers in a first-of-its-kind, class action climate liability lawsuit in the US. The suit alleges that the companies promoted climate denial and defrauded consumers by concealing the climate consequences of fossil fuels for their own gain. Several of the companies sued have denied the charges. By Dana Drugmand at DeSmog…

Big deal! A report by the International Energy Agency forecasts that renewable energy will overtake coal as the biggest source of electricity by 2025. “The first truly global energy crisis, triggered by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, has sparked unprecedented momentum for renewables,” it said. By Anmar Frangoul at CNBC…

Are you mad? The new UK government has approved the country’s first new coal mine in 30 years. The vast majority of coal is expected to be exported. The mine will produce an estimated 400,000 tons of carbon emissions a year, the equivalent of putting 200,000 cars on the road. By Fiona Harvey at the Guardian… 

Post-dairy. Climate change and industry shifts are driving away businesses, including producers of maple syrup and dairy, from the US state of Vermont. A slew of new ventures are stepping into the void, producing everything from farmed shrimp to saffron. By Laura Reiley and Zoeann Murphy at The Washington Post… 

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Climate, biodiversity, and health. Internews’ Earth Journalism Network and Health Journalism Network held a webinar on how journalists can report on the linkages between human health, climate change, and biodiversity loss. Watch. 

Methane. New rules for curbing emissions of methane, which has roughly 80 times more warming power than carbon dioxide in the near-term, are expected to go into effect in the US in the near future. A tip sheet by the Society for Environmental Journalists offers an overview, story ideas, and resources. Check it out.

Industry News

Climate newsletter. The Miami Herald is launching “Stemming the Tide,” a weekly climate newsletter focused on how communities in South Florida “are getting ready for climate change.” Learn more.

Course change. Jill Hopke, an associate professor of journalism at DePaul University, argues that “everyone is a climate reporter now,” meaning more training for journalists is needed and climate literacy education should be included in journalism school coursework. Read it here. 

Visualizing climate. The Environmental Photographer of the Year 2022 competition from CIWEM, WaterBear, Nikon, and Arup, showcases stunning photojournalism of the climate story. See the photos.