Climate Beat Climate Beat Newsletter March 31, 2021

The Clock Is Ticking: Are Journalists Serving the Public, or Themselves?

As journalists, it’s our job to serve the public. Too often, we forget that—and both the public and our reputations suffer.

As journalists, it’s our job to serve the public. Too often, we forget that—and both the public and our reputations suffer. Anyone wanting to understand why the press is held in low regard by so many Americans need look no further than the performance of White House correspondents at the first press conference of the Biden presidency last week. With rare exceptions, reporters’ questions exhibited the worst kind of inside-the-Beltway self absorption, focusing on trivial hypotheticals and partisan minutiae. Not a single question was asked about the pandemic that has killed more than 547,000 Americans. Nor was there a question about climate change, which only threatens, you know, civilization as we know it.

After four years of demonization by the previous administration, the press had an opportunity to show the public it can provide the information and insight needed to be informed citizens. Instead of asking Biden whether he would seek re-election in four years, why not ask what he plans to do over the next four months to overcome Republican opposition to his climate agenda? Or when Americans still suffering from the pandemic’s economic fall-out can expect to see the “millions” of green jobs Biden promised to create? And what about candidate Biden’s pledge to prosecute fossil fuel companies for their decades of lying and obstruction that helped cause this mess—when will the Justice Department bring its first case?

The public deserves better, much better. Which is why, during Covering Climate Now’s April 12 to 22 Joint Coverage Week, partner news outlets will focus on the human aspects of “Living Through The Climate Emergency,” running stories both about how people are experiencing the emergency and how all of us can survive it. Participants include some of the biggest names in news—Reuters, Bloomberg, Agence France-Presse, NBC News, CBS News, PBS, VICE, Noticias Telemundo, Al Jazeera, The Guardian, Asahi Shimbun, Times of India—and many local outlets around the world. And we plan to make a lot of noise.

New and Recent From CCNOW

REMINDER: April Joint Coverage Week. 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. Partners: please email us about your coverage plans, and how we might help amplify their reach. And please consider joining CCNow’s new slack channel (see below) to share ideas with other partners, as well.

**Next week, keep an eye out for a Joint Coverage Week preview.**

Our new community discussion space. We’ve just launched a Slack workspace dedicated to sharing ideas and resources, developing opportunities for collaboration, and learning together. All partners and member journalists received an email with instructions to join us! Please reach out to our engagement editor, Mekdela Maskal, mekdela@coveringclimatenow.org, if you’re having issues or didn’t receive the email. All journalists are welcome to join the conversation, and can sign-up here.

Wednesday, April 7: Texas Training. The next in our new series of region-specific events, focused this time on Texas (yes, we know it’s just a state—but it’s a big one!), will be held next Wednesday, April 7. 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 The Texas Observer, Indian Country Today, WFAA-TV in Dallas, along with the expert climate science communicator Katharine Hayhoe, of Texas Tech University. The webinar is set for April 7 at 1pm Central time, 2 Eastern. Learn more and RSVP here…

**And check out this recap of our last region-specific event, which focused on the South, with guests from Southerly, The Times Picayune | The New Orleans Advocate, Moms’ Clean Air Force, and Louisiana State University.**

Some of the Week’s Essential Climate Coverage

  • This evening, March 31, PBS airs a new documentary by the incomparable David Attenborough, “Extinction: The Facts.” Produced by the BBC, this report warns that the spectacular diversity of species found on this planet “is vanishing at rates never seen before in human history.” Human survival depends on that diversity, and climate change is hastening the destruction.
  • The U.S. Congress remains a hotbed of climate denial thanks to 139 Republicans who still dispute the overwhelming scientific consensus, an analysis by the left-leaning Center for American Progress reports. As cited in Politico, 109 members of the House and 30 of the Senate “continue to deny the existence of human-made climate change.” The CAP report further notes that these lawmakers have received more than $61 million in lifetime campaign contributions from fossil fuel companies.
  • On Monday, the Biden administration announced plans for an expansion of wind farms on the US East Coast, which officials said should trigger a “massive” clean energy effort to fight climate change. As The Washington Post reports, Gina McCarthy, Biden’s national climate advisor, said offshore wind projects will be as good for the climate as they will be for American jobs: “This is all about creating great jobs in the ocean and in our port cities and in our heartland.”
  • With Spring’s arrival, protests in Northern Minnesota over Canadian energy company Enbridge’s Line 3 pipeline are expected to heat up, NBC News reports. For Native American activists, the fight is about climate but also a way of life—for the tribes, who have harvested wild rice in the region for decades, and for the millions of people across the country who rely on the Mississippi River as a source of clean water. (For an explainer on the Line 3 controversy, head over to Vox.)
  • Climate change is shifting where and how we grow our food. CBS News reports on one company aiming to make central Appalachia a farming power house, at a time when that region is getting wetter and places like California and Mexico are suffering drought. Massive indoor growing facilities trap rain water and enable AppHarvest to grow tomatoes both year-round and around the clock.
  • Fossil fuel advertising frames companies as champions of clean energy and racial justice even as the companies’ actions belie such claims. But some ad agencies are now thinking twice before working for Big Oil. The move, The New York Times reports, echoes advertisers’ previous flight from the tobacco industry. “We believe that communication is powerful and, obviously, we should be using it to drive the change we want to see, rather than maintaining the status quo,” one PR executive told the Times.
  • Across the U.S., states are setting clean energy and emissions reductions goals. Yet at the same time, some of those states—namely California, Colorado, and New Jersey—are approving new fossil fuel projects, including hulking storage tanks for crude oil and gasoline. Such projects threaten to tie those states’ economies to fossil fuels for decades to come—and most are slated for lower-income communities of color, according to a new report by Capital & Main and USA Today.

Republication Recommendations

The following stories deserve special attention and consideration for republication and/or rebroadcast by CCNow partners:

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

Jobs. Vox is hiring a deputy editor for Science, Health, and Climate. The Society for Environmental Journalists is hiring, in a contracted role, an associate editor for its weekly environmental news magazine, SEJournal. And Internews is hiring an editor and content officer for its Environmental Journalism Network, which helps enable environmental journalism from reporters in developing countries.

If you have any feedback on this newsletter, or know of information that should be included here, shoot us a note at editors@coveringclimatenow.org.