Covering Climate Now Journalism Awards 2022 Finalists
Celebrating the best of the best climate journalism. Congratulations to the finalists selected from 900 entries submitted from 65 countries!
We’re thrilled to announce the journalists and media outlets from around the world selected by an international jury of 90 distinguished judges as finalists for the second-annual Covering Climate Now Climate Journalism Awards!
Finalists were selected in 19 awards categories, including long and short form print coverage, long and short form video and audio coverage, investigative reporting, commentary, social media engagement, photography, student and emerging journalists, and newsroom innovation.
“This outpouring of submissions — a 50 percent increase over last year’s entries — reflects how news organizations increasingly recognize that climate change demands more and better coverage from all journalists,” said Kyle Pope, the editor and publisher of Columbia Journalism Review and the chair of the CCNow Awards judging process.
The full list of finalists, as well as work we recognized with an honorable mention, is below with links to their outstanding work. See the press release here.
“Better news coverage is an essential climate solution, a catalyst that makes progress on every part of the problem—from politics to business, lifestyle change and systems change—more likely,” said Mark Hertsgaard, executive director of CCNow and environment correspondent for The Nation. “The rapid shift in energy, agricultural, and economic practices needed to defuse the climate emergency simply will not happen without the informed and engaged citizenry that strong journalism fosters.”
Among the finalists for the 2022 Covering Climate Now Journalism Awards are journalists from such big-name outlets as The New Yorker, Bloomberg, Agence France Presse, the Guardian, Reuters, BuzzFeed, Al Jazeera English, Channel 4, and Scientific American. Joining them are journalists representing more regional or targeted media including the Polish daily newspaper Gazetta, the news collaborative Next Blue in Bangladesh, the independent website Scroll in India, Politico’s Westminster Insider podcast, TV Globo’s Bom Dia Brasil.
A jury of 90 distinguished journalists from around the world selected Finalists as well as work deserving of Honorable Mention. Below, see the submissions and thoughts from the judges about what made the work exemplary.
- Emerging Journalists
- Student Journalists
- Video — Long Feature
- Video — Daily Coverage
- Video — Short Feature
- Audio — Long Feature
- Audio — Daily Coverage
- Audio — Short Feature
- Radio Podcast Series
- Writing — Long Feature
- Investigative Reporting
- Writing — Daily Coverage
- Writing – Short Feature
- Social Media & Engagement
- Industry Innovation
Sullivan, a special correspondent for Indian Country Today, reports on her Indigenous Alaska Native community with stories that illuminate the impact of climate change on the lives and lands of Alaska Natives. She covers a breadth of subjects with compelling character-driven narratives, from the loss of traditional food gathering and subsistence fishing to how melting permafrost has exposed illegal nuclear waste sites. Sullivan’s reporting for Indian Country Today has been picked up widely — from tribal newspapers to major media outlets. In just two years, her stories are having an impact far beyond Alaska.
Enano, a freelance journalist from the Philippines, has produced a body of fine journalism reporting on the stories of people in vulnerable countries and their fight for climate justice. She has chosen interesting new angles such as the psychological toll of climate disasters. Through excellent storytelling Enano captures the struggle and suffering of people confronting rising seas.
Winner: Shannon Osaka
Osaka, a staff writer at Grist, takes a more analytical approach than most, with a writing style that is accessible and clear. She finds engaging angles on complex or potentially dry issues and then guides the reader through difficult topics. Given the complexity of climate change, being able to explain and engage readers on dense topics is a crucial part of the beat. Having these skills so early in her career makes Osaka a talent to watch.
Mounir’s work stood out for its unique perspective in highlighting the intersection between the impacts of war and climate change in the Arab region. Her in-depth, immersive reporting from Egypt, Yemen, Libya, Palestine, Syria, and Iraq bears out the reality of a changing environment exacerbated by human migration. With five years of reporting experience — and the last two exclusively focused on climate reporting — Mounir’s work showed exemplary skills in finding underreported stories, supporting reporting with hard data, and stripping down a narrative to its most compelling parts.
Yeung, a Paris-based freelancer, travels the world showing how climate change is already ravaging countries often missing from the news cycle. Reporting from Indonesia to Colombia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, his accountability reporting is compelling. Judges found his work notably industrious and appreciated that Yeung never skips over mention of climate solutions.
Zoledziowski, a staff reporter at VICE World News, shines skillful light on how the climate emergency brings special harm to Indigenous groups and communities of color. Stand out reporting highlighted the efforts of Indigenous land defenders in British Columbia — and the aggressive, often dangerous tactics that loggers and Big Oil employ to challenge them. Judges commended Zoledziowksi’s work as compassionate and highly engaging.
Chaddah, who studies at Durham University, brings a wide lens to climate reporting, exploring the many ways the climate crisis interweaves with politics, culture, and the lives of young people and marginalized communities. Her stories are polemical, asking whether it’s hypocritical to stage energy-intensive musical performances in support of climate action, and taking to task right-wing media for downplaying the crisis and maligning climate activists. Her reporting on the Silvertown Tunnel explores how this massive infrastructure project in East London is being pushed through by the authorities even though it would undermine their own climate targets and harm the health of neighborhoods of color. Her confident voice and in-depth reporting captures the passion and clarity of a new generation of climate reporters.
Winner: Audrey Carleton
Carleton has gone deep into investigative reporting with a tenacious social justice lens through her course work at CUNY’s graduate school of journalism, an internship, and freelance assignments. She excels at field work, spending hours during her first semester at sit-ins and direct actions, live tweeting protests and writing data-driven explainers about the campaign to stop construction of a fracked-gas pipeline through communities of color in Brooklyn. For a course-work audio documentary she went to the Pennsylvania oil fields, tracked campaign donations, pored over legislative records, and dug through state archives. The quality of her student reporting was so high that some of it was published by The Guardian.
Shankar, a student at the University of Glasgow, was in the right city at the right time and took advantage of the unique opportunity to cover COP26 while interning at Mongabay-India. New in the climate reporting space, she was very effective at going after stories that highlighted issues relevant to the Mongabay-India audience such as climate resilience in vulnerable cities, the role of gender equality, and more. We also appreciated her inclusion of climate solutions in her writing.
Rinaldi, who studies at Hertie School & Bocconi University, was a student reporter covering politics at SPIEGEL’s capital city bureau when major floods happened in West Germany. Rinaldi was sent to cover the disaster, and found a passion for climate journalism. In his career as a political journalist, Rinaldi said, he wants to hold politicians accountable for their action, or lack of it, on climate. The judges recognize his work as a way to highlight the contributions of a reporter from another beat — politics.
Video — Long Feature
Beautifully shot, this film about Thermal, a town in Southern California, gives us a glimpse into an uncertain future with too many people and not enough water. The documentary was part of a full story package on ProPublica about a community that’s both a playground for the rich and home to immigrant farm workers who live in uninsulated, sun-baked trailers in some of the hottest farmland in the world. The access and intimacy are extraordinary, and we really feel the experience of the people the filmmaker portrays. This film is a clear representation of environmental-justice journalism at its best, which not only tells untold stories, but changes lives and local policies.
This episode of the HBO Max series, produced in cooperation with Sesame Workshop, tells two modern day stories of climate change from the perspective of children, a point-of-view that is often overlooked in climate reporting. While the concept of a “climate refugee” might feel far away, it is powerful when you see the routine of an ordinary US family being disrupted. What seems like a small story becomes a large and important one.
Capturing Change: Australia’s Black Summer Warning — Al Jazeera English
By Chris Phillips, Katy Roberts, Emile Guertin, and Fiona Lawson-Baker
This film in Al Jazeera English’s “Witness” series, is a riveting documentary by a journalist about a journalist. In the opening scene, Phillips accompanies acclaimed Australian photojournalist Matt Abbott in 2019 as he races towards the flames of a bushfire that erupted after Australia’s hottest year on record. With fearless dedication to the story, Abbott was able to shoot an apocalyptic image of a kangaroo fleeing bushfires that captured the world’s attention. Phillips’ extraordinary film about Abbott examines how you capture the narrative of the climate change story, and how you inform and inspire people.
At the Coalface: The Impact of Mongolia’s Fight for Clean Air — Al Jazeera English
By Anu Hasbold, Joe Hamilton, Emile Guertin, and Fiona Lawson-Baker
We really appreciated the “just transition” narrative of this film, and we’d like to see more reporting like this. The push to green energy is great, but this film shows there are consequences for people that must also be addressed.
Vikings, Mining, Elvis: The Story Of Greenland’s Melting Ice Cap — Al Jazeera English
By Nick Clark
Clark takes us somewhere most of us will never see to learn something all of us need to know. The judges appreciated the creative use of graphics, such as superimposing maps on the side of icebergs. The film is nuanced, providing both scientific information but also a portrait of how people are living in an environment that is defrosting, with existential implications.
Video — Daily Coverage
Amazon Rainforest in Brazil Has Several Fires and Scars Left by the Deforestation — Bom Dia Brasil (TV Globo)
By Fabiano Villela dos Santos and Antenor Filho
This report shows how fires and deforestation rage in the southern portion of the Amazon rainforest, despite the fact that the area is protected by law. The story does what television does best: it shows you the problem in graphic detail as the journalist flies over affected areas to reveal the magnitude of environmental crimes that are directly contributing to climate change. It is notable that the project required a high-level of coordination with environmental groups who track this problem, because it can be exceedingly difficult and dangerous to find and document environmental crimes in the Amazon.
Winner: Climate Ravages: Sea Swallows Parts of Senegal’s UNESCO World Heritage Site — Al Jazeera English
By Nicolas Haque, Eva Kasprowicz, and Hugo Boogaerdt
This report is a powerful depiction of the impact of climate change on real lives through the story of Saint Louis, a coastal community and UNESCO world heritage site in Senegal, where tens of thousands of people have been uprooted by rising sea levels. The story is constructed through an artful mix of the reporter’s observations, interviews with the local mayor, and footage that succinctly shows the impact of the rising seas on the landscape and the lives of local citizens. Each of the storytelling components adds to the emotional weight of the report. Haque’s clear, scientific explanation and use of statistics provide a striking link between climate change and the catastrophe of population displacement worldwide.
PBS NewsHour’s coverage of COP26 includes three segments from near-daily pieces that ran during the two-week summit, exhibiting a serious commitment of resources and airtime to climate change coverage. While COP26 was the news peg, the field reporting went far beyond Glasgow. Through original on-the-ground reporting we hear directly from those disproportionately impacted by climate change in Bangladesh, Belgium, California, The Philippines and more. Correspondent William Brangham connects the emotional scenes of suffering with the science of climate change in a way that is accessible and digestible.
Video — Short Feature
Winner: Parched and in Peril: Weather Extremes are Forever Changing California — The Weather Company | weather.com
By Andy Coates, Jonathan Petramala, and Brandon Clement
From the first line in the introduction: “The Golden State is brown,” the three-part series “Parched and in Peril” sets up and delivers visually compelling, scientifically driven, and impactful storytelling on both the perils of climate change in California and a search for strategies to combat it. From the deeply personal accounts of survivors who lost their homes to wildfires and residents who have been without running water due to drought, to the scientists with data-based information, the interviews drive the narrative arc throughout. Visually riveting footage showcases the devastation up close, while drone footage captures the larger scope of the disaster. The overall storytelling is informative and provides a thorough look at the real life impacts, future consequences, and policy concerns surrounding climate change.
“The environmental bombshell of the year.” That’s what Channel 4 UK called its expose of a senior Exxon lobbyist who disclosed on camera that the oil giant has long lied about climate change and obstructed government action. Public spirited journalism at its best, this story packed a punch in real time and scored what ranks as a landmark scoop in the history of climate journalism. Channel 4 did not initiate the “sting” of the Exxon lobbyist — that was the work of Greenpeace UK — but it did tell the larger story, putting into devastating context the lobbyist’s incautious remarks about Exxon’s attacks on climate science, its weekly meetings with Joe Manchin and other key US senators, and its disingenuous support for a carbon tax.
The Last Holdouts is a cinematic portrait of the Pointe-Au-Chien Indigenous community in Louisiana who are at risk of losing their homeland to climate change. Beautiful aerials and satellite photos reveal how much of the land has disappeared under the rising seas. Historic archival material conveys past infrastructure mistakes and how oil drilling compounded the effects of flooding in this region. Intimate interviews with community members share the tribe’s connection to the land and the heartbreak of having to decide to stay, or to go. Using clear and understated narration, the piece ends by revealing the other cities around the world at risk of disappearing under the rising seas — suggesting that this devastating loss will be felt by many more of us in a not-so-distant future.
The Planet A video series presented an innovative and creative way to draw in and educate viewers on topics that went well beyond some of the typical climate change narratives in easy to understand narratives. Their look at debunking bioplastics, the rising popularity of climate litigation, and what other countries can learn about flood prevention from Bangladesh were all compelling.
Audio — Long Feature
This program describes how climate change is affecting Nigeria, West Africa’s most populous country, where global warming is fueling conflict between farmers and traditional nomadic herders. Reported by Anyaka-Oluigbo in her home country, the story explores why some people in the food basket region of Nigeria are not able to buy food. Presented as part of a series called “The Repair” by Scene of Radio, this story describes the many effects of climate change through skillful use of audio and a variety of voices. As one judge put it, “I think everyone in the global north should listen to this story, to understand how our carbon-intensive lifestyles are already ravaging the global south.”
The History of Climate Change from the Great Ice Age to COP 26 and Beyond — Politico Westminster Insider
By Jack Blanchard, Cristina Gonzalez, and Whistledown Productions
Blanchard covers how people in prehistoric, ancient, and medieval periods coped with freezing and drought, adapting by migration if they didn’t die from starvation and violence. But the slow-moving climate change of the past is very different from the rapid climate change that human activities have driven since the Industrial Revolution. Blanchard does a deep dive into modern British politics, using interviews with highly-placed observers to discuss the maneuverings of political parties over the past thirty years to make climate progress, or not.
In September 2020, the Slater Fire devastated hillsides in Northern California, burning through overgrown forests. Previously, the Indigenous Karuk people had kept the forests healthy for thousands of years by intentional burning to deny wildfires fuel. Venton interviews tribal members about their traditional practices before asking a range of modern fire-management experts why those practices have been prohibited on tribal lands controlled by the US Forest Service.
This feature made the judges think a lot about the power of metaphor, and how we could communicate climate change better. The piece made great use of archival audio and creative “commercials” to sell the climate change message.
Audio — Daily Coverage
The last hours of COP26 were filled with drama as the governments of China and India threatened to scuttle the entire deal unless one word of text was changed. In conversation with Politico’s Chief Policy Correspondent Sarah Wheaton, Mathiesen brings listeners inside the conference venue with exclusive audio that captured the buzz as a backroom deal among the world’s four largest annual emitters accepted China’s demand to replace “phase out” coal power with “phase down.”
In these two stories Beeler does a great job with audiocraft, taking the listener behind the scenes at the UN climate summit in Glasgow. Palau, a string of low-lying Pacific islands, had a lot to gain or lose at this conference. Beeler shadows Palau negotiator Xavier Matsutaro, who offers clear, heartfelt comments on the stakes for countries like his at the frontlines of climate change. Her second story about low-resource countries seeking financial aid against climate change does a good job of explaining the concept of “loss and damage,” an increasingly important topic in UN climate negotiations.
To Fight Climate Change: Grow a Floating Forest, Then Sink it — Scientific American
By Teresa Carey
While many green technologies focus on reducing humankind’s carbon footprint, reducing ongoing emissions is no longer enough to avoid catastrophic amounts of temperature rise and its associated climate impacts. As the latest IPCC report concluded, it will also be necessary to remove significant amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. In this interesting and unusual story, Carey explains how a young company in Maine plans to grow vast quantities of kelp — thus extracting carbon from the atmosphere via photosynthesis — and then sink the kelp to the bottom of the ocean. Because of the great pressure in the deep ocean, the carbon locked into the kelp will, the company claims, be rendered harmless for hundreds to thousands of years.
Audio – Short Feature
This feature story about a Ventura, California couple who combine sustainable cooking and regenerative agriculture to make and sell tamales shows how smart climate change solutions can be a win-win-win. Stone weaves together audio interviews with this entrepreneurial couple, who use traditional agricultural methods to grow corn for their tamales, with reporting on how industrial farming releases greenhouse gases. This story is an effective retort against those who say we have to choose between the climate and the economy.
Winner: Wildfires Are Ravaging the West. Research Shows the People in Their Paths Vastly Underestimate the Risk — Colorado Public Radio
By Miguel Otárola
About half of the population of Colorado live in wildfire-prone areas, and fire experts want to close the gap between people’s perception of fire safety and the reality around them. This report is a model of excellent audio craft. What could have been a dull feature on a fire-preparedness report comes alive with the voices of local characters.
Hot Days: Heat’s Mounting Death Toll on Workers in the US — NPR
Reported by: Christina Stella, Jacob Margolis, Allison Mollenkamp, Julia Shipley, Brian Edwards, David Nickerson, Stella Chavez, Sara Ernst, Robert Benincasa, and Cheryl W. Thompson
This series of short stories from NPR in collaboration with a variety of partners investigates the human toll of climate change on the most vulnerable if no protections are in place. The report explains how extreme heat has killed hundreds of workers in the US, many of them in the construction or agricultural sectors. Strong federal standards might have prevented these deaths, but state-based regulations and dysfunctional enforcement are instead allowing avoidable suffering and deaths.
Radio Podcast Series
This series takes a deeply reported, nuanced look at the challenge of transitioning away from fossil fuels. One solution is to electrify everything, but that requires a lot of lithium. The podcast production team found very specific parts of this complicated story to break out in each episode, building their listeners’ understanding over the course of the series. Wood centers characters and human stories with storytelling that is unique and compelling, making an often-abstract conversation real and close to home.
How To Save A Planet — Spotify
Stories here, here, and here
By Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson, Alex Blumberg, Kendra Pierre-Louis, Rachel Waldholz, Caitlin Kenney, Anna Ladd, Lauren Silverman, and Peter Leonard
It’s difficult to make learning about the climate crisis engaging and even fun. How To Save A Planet, a Spotify original podcast, manages to do that. Conversational and lively, with good-natured banter between hosts Johnson and Blumberg, the podcast conveys complex ideas with humanity and curiosity. Strong research and reporting gives you the facts. Narrative storytelling maintains suspense to keep you listening. Colorful characters make you care; great sound transports you outside the studio; and they do it all with people you’d happily spend an hour with.
This radio series broadcast during COP26 highlights the gap between what people say they will do and what they actually do to address the climate crisis. Well written and researched, the program brings a human focus to difficult, highly-charged topics, such as how reducing emissions from agriculture will affect individual farmers. Through calm conversation, the series probes the forces stopping us from moving quicker to address climate change, spotlighting often invisible levers of power.
Residents of Pacific Island nations are often depicted as having the most to lose in a warming world. Rarely, however, have we been given such an intimate view of what that actually means. In “An Impossible Choice,” highly personal stories are woven together with descriptive details to pack an emotional punch, leaving listeners with a better understanding of what it feels like to live with existential uncertainty as a daily reality.
Chesapeake Bay Journal is a scrappy team of journalists covering a big, important ecological region. This podcast does an excellent job of going beyond notable local events and into the climate science behind them. The series uses breaking news as its foundation and centers human stories without losing sight of the bigger picture.
Themes of environmental justice and equity are increasingly woven into narratives about climate change. Living Downstream goes a step further and makes them the main event. The host and reporters take an expansive view of climate justice, illustrating in an episode about Ithaca’s Green New Deal, for example, how decarbonization efforts must also address economic and social issues.
Writing — Long Feature
This story is the rare solutions piece that examines the political and social barriers to “solving” climate change. As scientists lay out ever more clearly what must happen technically to cut emissions, the bigger challenge is how society will get it done. So, France asked 150 ordinary people to make climate policy, working through a citizen’s convention. They ended up clashing with President Macron and influencing the direction of France’s policy to mitigate climate change. The strong narrative makes readers feel like they were on the inside of the process, while Osaka regularly broadens the story to show how other countries could follow the model of this unconventional approach.
This feature follows a small, varied group of environmental caretakers — the matriarch of a farming family, a pair of ecologists, and an atmospheric chemist — who bear witness to deforestation in the Amazon. Eisenhammer takes up the notion of a “tipping point” past which the rainforest will fail to sustain itself, an event that would sabotage attempts to limit global climate change. Rather than fix on one massive threshold, however, Eisenhammer reveals a number of smaller ones, some of which we may have already crossed. Shrewdly reported and intimately sourced, he points to consequences both global and hyper-local.
A Battle Between a Great City and a Great Lake — The New York Times
By Dan Egan and Lyndon French, Jesse Pesta, Anjali Singhvi, Jugal K. Patel, Dave Horn, Michael Beswetherick, Ruru Kuo, Matt McCann, Claire O’Neill
This engrossing portrait of an American city ties Chicago’s fortunes to water. Egan explores how Chicago’s history may doom the city as the level of Lake Michigan has begun to rise and fall, sometimes causing massive flooding and other times dropping low enough to jeopardize waterfront commerce. With the lake now threatening irreversible damage to the city, how will Chicago survive? Egan includes multimedia elements which effectively illustrates the dire situation at hand.
Kaufman describes how an appetite for wood-burning in Europe has called forth an extractive industry in Mississippi that harvests trees and ships wood pellets across the ocean. It’s mostly poor Black Americans in a small Mississippi town who have been left with the industry pollution, and the respiratory illnesses that come along with it. Kaufman’s storytelling evokes empathy with those living near the pellets mill and anger at the timber industry’s greed. His prose explains the science clearly as he also reveals how government subsidies meant to fight climate change instead lead to other environmental problems.
Through the eyes of a tailor and his wife who invest in solar panels to help protect their clothing business from power failures, Mehrotra describes what happened when solar was introduced to the impoverished Indian coal state of Maganpur. While some locals are interested in going solar, they face obstacles, including a lack of money to invest. Others worry that if they go solar, power companies will no longer maintain the conventional grid. This story helps readers understand the complexities of implementing a climate solution on a local level, especially in a poor state.
In this beautifully written story, Bartelme helps readers in Charleston, South Carolina, feel the connection between the causes of climate change and their everyday lives. After traveling to Greenland to explore how melting ice will raise global sea levels, he applies those findings to his hometown, making the global climate crisis vividly local. The writing moves assuredly between detailed narrative observation, including the exploits of Greenland’s very own “Climate Elvis.”
This is a deeply reported investigation into how the term “regenerative agriculture” is being positioned as a response to climate stresses despite the concept being little understood, and open to manipulation by major agri-business interests. The story deserves credit for challenging the reigning assumptions that lie behind a term the public is likely to hear more about in the years ahead.
This engaging piece helps readers understand the realities of climate change in Kenya. Judges were impressed by the number of interviews with locals, especially the farmers who most directly witness the impacts of climate change.
Diversified Energy has quietly become the largest owner of oil and gas wells in the US. Most of these wells are dying, but Diversified claims that it can keep them operating in order to avoid having to pay to plug the wells. Adams-Heard and Mider identified the company’s well sites on public land, trained themselves to use leak-detecting equipment, and found decrepit wells leaking methane, a powerful greenhouse gas. Their story package included a video with effective explainer graphics to contextualize their print coverage. This package was an innovative investigation that held a corporate polluter accountable for its role in the climate crisis.
A growing tribe of migrant laborers in the US are helping communities rebuild in the aftermath of climate disasters. At the tail end of murky subcontracting chains, these laborers are routinely subjected to inhumane, even fatal, working conditions, with wage theft, assault, and labor trafficking all tragically common. For this story, Stillman joined labor teams at more than 20 disaster recovery sites and reviewed thousands of pages of documents to demonstrate problems that appear to be widespread and due partly to inadequate government regulation. This is a fresh angle on the well-trodden disaster beat, and Stillman’s story is elevated by eloquent prose and vivid character detail.
Winner: Extreme Heat’s Deadly Toll — The Los Angeles Times
By Tony Barboza and Anna M. Phillips, Sean Greene, Ruben Vives, Genaro Molina, Logan A. Arnold, Paul Duginski, Madalyn Amato, Alex Wigglesworth
This series deployed data digging and analysis to project that California’s death toll from searing temperatures and stifling humidity — our changing climate’s greatest killer worldwide — may be six times higher than the state’s official count. The series included satellite imagery supporting the science behind increasingly extreme heat, revealed disproportionate impacts on vulnerable communities and warehouse workers, and delivered “news you can use” for families and officials seeking to keep cool when temperatures rise. Following its publication, new regulations promoting solutions were instituted at multiple levels of government.
Planting trees is a commonly-cited climate solution, but it takes much time and care for trees to grow into effective tools for storing carbon. In this short but inspired investigation, Syal uncovers what happened to one much-hyped tree nursery after it faded from the public eye.
The Gassing of Satartia — HuffPost
By Dan Zegart
In 2020, a pipeline explosion washed a small Mississippi town in toxic green gas that sickened residents and left cars dead in the streets. The disaster faded quickly from headlines, but Zegart reconstructs it in harrowing detail; his investigation constitutes a needed warning about the dangers of carbon capture technology, which is gaining favor in some political circles.
Even ardent climate deniers sometimes position themselves as environmental champions. Case in point: Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro, who mobilized his country’s military to thwart illegal deforestation in the Amazon. In this clever investigation, Spring shows that the deployment was in fact a spectacular failure, with deforestation surging even as Bolsonaro and military officials cheered their supposed accomplishments.
Writing — Daily Coverage
This coverage of British Columbia’s trio of climate disasters in the summer of 2021 combined personal accounts of loss from record-breaking heat, fires, and flooding with strong visuals and data analysis. It communicates not only how devastating the disasters were and their connection to global warming, but also paints a clear picture of what life is — and will be — like in a warmer climate. As temperatures climb, every aspect of society will be impacted, from overburdened emergency services, to infrastructure damage, to the personal grief of “‘solastalgia’ — the homesickness or longing that sets in when rapid environmental change makes the familiar suddenly unfamiliar,” as one of the stories puts it.
House successfully explains how the climate emergency is already altering life for people in Michigan. She contextualizes how the state’s winters are as “thin as ice” due to the burning of fossil fuels and what that means for local residents. House’s dedication to reporting on the emotional toll warming temperatures have on people made this story stand out. The reporting package is a stellar example of how local journalism can tell part of a global story in a way that honors both science and humanity.
Weather Attribution — Bloomberg Green
Scientists have struggled for more than a decade to harness a widening array of statistical tools to determine how much of a given extreme weather event is attributable to human-driven global warming. This package does an excellent job of describing why this process became news in 2021 and how it relates to growing efforts to link loss and damage with sources of heat-trapping emissions.
This story on violent police responses to unrest around a coal-fired power plant in Bangladesh provides a vivid frontline look at how China’s global Belt and Road Initiative and developing nations’ interests in expanding electricity production can trample local land rights and worker rights. Illius’s story does not directly address climate change, but it does show why it’s hard to reduce coal use in developing countries and how energy policy and justice are deeply intertwined, for better or worse.
This series was a close contender for the judges. Each of Chelsea’s three stories were strong daily news pieces that provided a different window into the challenges of understanding and reporting on climate change. Most of the other submissions were framed around weather events themselves or COP26.
Writing — Short Feature
These gut-wrenching stories from the frontline of the climate crisis are rigorously researched and sharply, empathetically written. In one story Montu probes the heart-breaking impact of mass migration in Bangladesh, where families have had to relocate time and again to escape the water, as they lose their livelihood and fall into debt. In other coverage shaped by diligent reporting, Montu focuses on how the climate crisis is impacting women, including how rising waters obstruct their access to medical care, thus boosting infant and maternal mortality.
Water in the American West is a subject that has long fascinated journalists, and rightly so — which is why the bar for publishing something fresh about it is so high. But BuzzFeed News demonstrates that it’s up to the challenge with an examination of how “megadrought” is threatening the stability of people’s lives and the region’s industries. The moving and deeply informed narrative is illustrated with eclectic photographs, creating a story package that communicates both the scale of the threat and the hardship for the people living through it.
The first two stories of this three-part entry take us on emotional journeys to some of the most remote corners of the world — rural Somalia and Afghanistan — where the lives of some of the poorest people on Earth are made unimaginably more difficult by the global climate crisis. Through terrific photos, intimate videos, and a sharp, distilled narrative, this team of journalists brings home the starkest effects of a crisis caused largely by the world’s rich but that punishes most harshly those who are least at fault. The bleak realities of the first two pieces are offset by stories of young activists fighting for strong climate action in the face of despair and threats of violence.
Climate reporting on oceans is often negative, but Jones is positive and forward looking as she highlights the role oceans can play in combating climate change. She reports on new research showing that coral reefs can recover from bleaching if given a few years’ respite from rising water temperatures; indeed, The Coral Triangle in East Asia, which hosts nearly a third of global corals, is already experiencing coral growth. On the controversial issue of carbon credits, this piece provides fresh analysis on how oceans can better absorb carbon and how new “blue carbon” credits can help finance marine projects to restore ecosystems and soak up carbon dioxide.
Trees or Tourists? Jamaica’s COVID Recovery Push Threatens Green Aims — Thomson Reuters Foundation News
By Kate Chappell
This story examines the tension between Jamaica’s climate change initiatives and its economic development goals. Chappell reports on how some hotel companies are trying to balance the ecosystem impacts of their business by planting mangroves, seagrass, and corals. As the Caribbean struggles to restore tourism following Covid, Chappell asks whether this destroy but replace strategy is likely to be effective.
In a small town in Kyrgyzstan, radioactive material is buried just beneath the surface of unstable hillsides increasingly vulnerable to floods, mudflows, and landslides spurred by climate change. Kruzman reports that there are dozens of such sites in a region inhabited by 14 million people. Nuclear waste and the risk of meltdowns often are the focusing the nuclear energy discussion, making this account on the threats from uranium mines unusual. The article features compelling individuals and successfully combines their emotion-filled quotes with relevant historical context and climate data.
In this solutions-oriented piece Van Boom questions whether the widely held perceptions against nuclear energy serve to harm the world’s efforts to transition away from fossil fuels. Far from the typically adversarial tone taken in much of the Western media’s coverage of China, the author argues that we can — and should — learn from any country that can teach us about addressing the climate crisis. In a commentary well supported by statistical and historical context as well expert insights, Van Boom builds a compelling case.
Winner: Climate Scientists: Concept of Net Zero Is a Dangerous Trap — The Conversation
By James Dyke, Robert Watson, and Wolfgang Knorr
This isn’t just a compelling piece of science communication, it’s also an incisive indictment of the net-zero concept, which too often goes unchallenged, particularly with the level of detail and nuance we see here. The three authors, all leading academics, make a technical, evidence-heavy argument that nevertheless is accessible to the average reader. It’s no surprise this analysis caught the attention of climate campaigner Greta Thunberg and was widely shared through social media.
Environmentalism With Chinese Characteristics — Noema Magazine
By Yifei Li and Judith Shapiro
With precise language and sharp analysis, Li and Shapiro present an argument that is borderline taboo in many Western countries: that China’s sometimes coercive environmentalism is key to reducing greenhouse gasses from the world’s largest annual emitter, and that Western policymakers need to set aside their moral condemnations in order to solve the global climate emergency.
With humor, crisp writing, and thorough analysis, Oram guides the reader through the many players and agendas behind the climate pledges by corporations.
The Frontline covers issues at the intersection of climate change and social justice, giving a platform to people around the world whose voices are rarely heard. Its coverage is broad, ranging from human-centric stories to technical issues such as direct air capture of carbon, all presented in an accessible way. The Frontline stands out for its bravery, commitment, and unique viewpoint. Most of all, as its strapline says, it reminds us that the warming of the world is unjust.
My World’s on Fire covers disasters at a local level but with an eye to the global picture that is both informative and gripping. A series on climate migration forced by extreme storms and flooding across the southern US focused on the particular challenges of low-resource communities. A story on a FEMA program dug into the difficulties of a small community in Three Forks, Montana complying with the complicated requirements of the funding application. Newsletters offer a chance for journalists to develop a personal voice, freed from some of the restrictions and conventions of more traditional formats. Hagerty strikes the right note, with a voice that is distinctive and engaging.
China is key to the future of Earth’s climate, yet its internal politics and decision-making are largely a mystery to most Westerners. China Briefing shines a light on the inner workings of Chinese state policy, business and — to a lesser extent — society. The newsletter explains the most important climate and energy stories unfolding in China in a weekly digest that breaks down what happened, where, and why it matters. The writing is punchy and includes original reporting. For anyone with an interest in global climate policy, this is a valuable service.
Winner: The Last Of The Marsh Arabs — Noēma
By Emily Garthwaite
Garthwaite transports us to Iraq to see and feel both the humanitarian and environmental impact of climate change on the local community. Published alongside an in-depth article in Noēma, these photos show fishermen, families, and children living life in a dying landscape, amid the glow from industrial smokestacks across the marsh. With exquisite composition, these compelling images capture what our future could look like if we don’t tackle climate change. These photos capture not only landscapes in decay but also the emotions of people and their struggles. You can understand the story these photos tell without reading the captions, a telltale sign of great photographs.
Melting Greenland — Reuters
By Hannibal Hanschke
This series of photographs takes audiences to a place they are unlikely to see with their own eyes, a landscape on the frontlines of climate change that, because of its remoteness, is largely inaccessible. With tremendous artistry and technical skill, Hanschke has captured striated icebergs, melting glaciers, gorgeous sunsets, and, in one especially haunting image, a human graveyard filled with white crosses in the shadow of a jagged iceberg. These panoramic images capture the grandeur and isolation of the frozen reaches of our planet, a snapshot in time of a place that may soon slip away.
Climate-Fuelled Disasters Across the Globe in 2021 — AFP
Photo submissions here
During a year when indisputable evidence of climate change seemed to burst into the headlines across the world, AFP mobilized its global network of photojournalists to document what that means on the ground. This submission presents dramatic images from five continents. From an epic aerial shot of Siberia to the exquisite detail of a swarm of locusts in Kenya, from the pathos of a couple stranded by the rising waters of Hurricane Ida in Louisiana to the determined bravery of a Greek firefighter, this extraordinary photojournalism captures the global realities of climate change as people struggle to protect their communities, their livelihoods, and the nature around them.
In Bangladesh, a Community Lives and Dies on Boats — The Third Pole
By Abdus Salam
The Sardar community in Bhola, Bangladesh, lives exclusively on boats. More than 1,000 families — many whose homes have been lost to river erosion — have fled to these floating refuges, where they fish and live full-time. The judges nominate this piece as an honorable mention because it is an excellent example of local journalism.
Who Will Pay To Protect Tech Giants From Rising Seas? — NPR
By Lauren Sommer with graphics by the NPR team
On the shore of San Francisco bay, tech giants are building billion dollar campuses where sea level rise and flooding from climate change are only a matter of time. Also at increasing risk are adjacent low-income communities. The question is who will pay to protect the land, and the people, from the coming waters — will it be public tax dollars or private interests? This exceptional project with responsive scrolling uses smart maps, revealing photographs, data visualization, compelling video, and diagrams to walk the viewer through the story in a clear and precise manner.
This piece is an elegant multimedia explainer combining text, illustrations, and photographs to reveal how scientists measure the carbon content of trees, leaves, and soil to demonstrate the importance of the Amazon rainforest to a healthy climate. Spring traveled into the jungle to report on the meticulous work of botanists, agronomists, biologists, and other forestry engineers. Theirs is rigorous and elaborate work, often in humid and insect-infested conditions, involving chainsaws, spades, corkscrews, and calipers. Hernandez turned Spring’s report into an immersive multimedia experience that is integral to the storytelling.
From Qaitbay to Deir Ah-Ahmar: Egypt’s Monuments in the Grip of Climate — Masrawy.com
By Marina Milad Girgis Khalil
Finding ways to connect climate change reporting and storytelling to the tangible things in our daily lives is not easy. Milad Girgis Khalil reports on climate change in Egypt by looking at how it will affect the country’s monuments — along the coast, in the desert, and in the cities. With Intimate visuals that juxtapose the past and an already damaged present, she provides a well-rounded story that takes the reader inside Egypt and shows how the planet’s future is affecting Egypt’s past.
In this beautifully illustrated interactive feature, The Third Pole invites you to float (or in this case, scroll) down India’s Brahmaputra river and listen to the songs of the people along its banks who have been displaced by flooding and erosion exacerbated by climate change. The villagers lament the many losses they have endured in recent years, chronicling departed loved ones, livelihoods, and homes. It’s a feature that stays with you long after you experience it, weaving history, policy, and science with the culture of the people of Assam.
Ottaviani focused on an area of the world often ignored unless it’s being exploited. From tropical forests to biodiversity to peatlands, Jacopo shows why the Congo Basin is invaluable and what deforestation means for the region’s biodiversity, climate, and health.
This story simulates and explains the reality of sea-level rise in both France and its island territories. Judges felt it was important to highlight as an honorable mention because it conveys the reality of climate change in France while averting doomism through the skillful use of video interviews, simulation, and maps.
Social Media & Engagement
Power Postcards combines journalism and art to communicate climate realities and solutions from around the globe. Outrider newsletter subscribers opt in to receive a digital postcard with a watercolor illustration every two weeks, educating them about a town or city impacted by the climate crisis and its efforts to overcome and adapt. This project illustrates the potential for journalism that works outside the traditional lines of the field to engage an already invested audience more deeply.
With an interactive, choose-your-own adventure Twitter thread, Grist deftly guided its audience into a greener, more climate-friendly holiday shopping season with charming illustrations that connected to an editorial on Grist.org. This was a creative and engaging use of Twitter that allowed users to select options that best fit their priorities and capabilities. It’s an excellent example of making climate information actionable.
Drutman’s Brown Girl Green Instagram account has created a platform for a diverse audience where she engages on a level that makes the account feel personal and welcoming to a range of followers. The committee was impressed by Brown Girl Green’s ability to tackle an array of subjects including explainer guides to job opportunities, social commentary, and climate solutions — all while feeling inclusive and direct for a young BIPOC audience.
Climate Alert/Alarm Dla Klimatu — Gazeta.pl and Climate Coalition
Poland is a heavily coal-dependent country with scant public support for reducing emissions. On the eve of COP26, the Polish newspaper Gazeta.pl and the NGO Climate Coalition jointly launched an awareness campaign called Climate Alert. Six major Polish cities sounded their city sirens, previously reserved for commemorating World War II or national uprisings. By Polish law, use of sirens must be pre-announced along with the reason. This requirement resulted in the spread of news about the climate crisis and the significance of COP26. Millions turned to search engines to find out what the emergency was — and traffic spiked to climate change stories. Climate Alert garnered 500 million global impressions.
Lucia Priselac, Yessenia Funes, Justin Worland, Jane Hu, Yvette Cabrera, Paola Rosa, Monica Samayoa, Rachel Ramirez, Maya Kapoor, Iris Crawford, Manola Secaira, Naveena Sadasivam and Maddie Burakoff
Launched early in 2021, the Uproot Project’s mission is to support environmental journalists of color and diversify the field so that coverage of climate change incorporates a range of perspectives. While establishing its organizational infrastructure, the Uproot Project is already making a difference, offering reporting stipends and producing public events to bring climate editors together with journalists of color and explore issues like climate change solutions and covering indigenous communities.
Winner: Imagine 2200: Climate Fiction for Future Ancestors – Grist
Tory Stephens, Galia Binder, Josh Kimelman, Jaime Buerger, Chuck Squatriglia, Claire Elise Thompson, Mignon Khargie, Mia Torres, Michael Weslander
Imagine 2200 is a contest that encourages diverse and underrepresented voices to envision the next 180 years of equitable climate progress through short fictional stories. The project received over 1,100 submissions from 85 countries with a final collection of 12 stories showcasing visions for a better future. In Grist’s Climate Fiction issue the stories were paired with reported articles, grounding the stories in today’s solutions. Judges appreciated this inclusive, innovative, and imaginative approach to broaden the voices and perspectives responding to climate change.
AFP has undertaken a herculean effort to reorient the global commitment of this widespread news organization toward climate change, backing up its commitment with resources, expertise, and training. This is a smart blueprint for transformation that any news organization can replicate. AFP trained its staff in the essentials of climate change journalism, teaching reporters who may be unfamiliar with science about cause and effect — how to draw accurate links between events and global warming. They created a new central hub with expertise on key climate issues and created reference guidelines so journalists could find important research and background. AFP’s strategy resulted in a major increase in its climate coverage, which is used by thousands of newsrooms worldwide.
Nextblue trained 20 local journalists, development workers, students, and activists in Bangladesh to produce content about water and climate challenges and solutions in their own environment. This ground-breaking project broke the model of the foreign correspondent coming to an unfamiliar place to tell a story. Instead it trained local people to be journalists, placing the locus of expertise in their hands. Amplifying the voices of people on the frontlines, the stories described the intricate relationships between ecology, economics, and community, seamlessly interlacing global climate forces with powerful personal experiences. The project transfers power, resources, and public voice from “professionals” to people who are disempowered through poverty, race, and political invisibility — and are the most affected by political dithering and inaction.