Climate Elections vs. Climate Despair

Blockbuster Guardian and Washington Post reporting underscores the urgency of the climate emergency — and how to counter it

Night operations on the Pine Gulch Fire in Colorado. (Photo by Kyle Miller/Wyoming Hotshots)

Sign up for Climate on the Ballot, our weekly newsletter with ideas for reporting on climate and the 2024 elections. 

In “must reading” for journalists everywhere, blockbuster reporting this week by the Guardian and The Washington Post underscored the exceptional importance of the 2024 elections to the climate future.

The Guardian’s two-part series surveyed leading climate scientists and policy experts to analyze how bad temperature rise will get in the years ahead. The findings are grim, but not without hope.

Only 6% of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change scientists the Guardian questioned thought that the Paris Agreement’s goal of limiting temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels would be met. Almost 80% expected temperatures instead to rise at least 2.5 degrees C, “causing catastrophic consequences for humanity and the planet.” Numerous scientists felt “hopeless, infuriated and scared by the failure of governments to act,” the paper’s Damian Carrington reported. Not exactly the language you’d expect from people who spend their days in charts and data.

The dystopian future, however, is by no means locked in. “A world in which we pass 1.5 [degrees C] is not set in stone,” said Christiana Figueres, the former UN climate chief who oversaw the Paris Agreement, told the paper. The scientists “are telling us where we are,” she added, “but now it’s up to the rest of us to decide what this moment requires of us.”

This isn’t the first time IPCC scientists have sounded the alarm, nor is it the first time they’ve flagged the fact that humanity already has the tools and technologies needed to hold temperature rise to 1.5 degrees C. The problem, Bangladeshi climate activist Harjeet Singh told the Guardian, is that “governments, especially in rich countries, have consistently prioritized the fossil fuel industry’s interests over the wellbeing of their people. We have a narrow window to avert the worst outcomes, but it requires urgent, transformative policies that prioritize the wellbeing of people and the planet over profit.”

That will not happen, the Post’s exposé made clear, if Donald Trump returns to the White House in January 2025. Trump promised a roomful of oil industry executives last month that if they contributed $1 billion to his election campaign, he would “immediately reverse dozens of President Biden’s environmental rules and policies,” reported Josh Dawsey and Maxine Joselow. The Post called the quid pro quo “a remarkably blunt and transactional pitch [that] reveals how the former president is targeting the oil industry to finance his re-election.”

This week we saw, in two days of extraordinary reporting, a reminder of both the climate challenge and the extraordinarily high stakes at play this election year. Journalists have an obligation to point out both.

From Us

Collaborative workshops. Covering Climate Now and Report for the World, in collaboration with Climate Tracker Asia and the Pulitzer Center, are hosting an advanced climate journalism workshop series for journalists from our partner organizations. The series, focused on cross-border collaboration, includes two introductory workshops covering documentary and data/investigative journalism techniques. May 30 and June 6. Learn more and RSVP.

Local reporting. Watch the recording or read the transcript of our Talking Show webinar from this week, “Telling the Climate Story Locally.” Kaitlyn McGrath of Washington, DC’s WUSA9, Helina Selemon of New York Amsterdam News, and Kale Williams of Portland, Ore.’s KGW News shared tips and tricks with moderator David Schechter, National Environment Correspondent for CBS News and Stations. Watch now.

Local TV training. In this video, CCNow’s Kyle Pope talks about The Climate Station, our free training program for local US TV stations.

Noteworthy Stories

Trump’s quid pro quo. At a meeting with oil company executives last month, Donald Trump pledged to undo President Biden’s environmental policies if they gave $1 billion to help finance his reelection bid, according to people familiar with the meeting. Trump said the donation would be a “deal” because he would ensure the oil companies would avoid taxes and regulations. By Josh Dawsey and Maxine Joselow at The Washington Post…

Weather extremes. The world has seen a rash of extreme weather events in recent weeks, from deadly floods in Brazil to record-breaking heat in Asia. While a number of factors contribute to extreme weather events, “climate change is the most important one,” said Alvaro Silva, a climate scientist with the World Meteorological Organization. By Seth Borenstein, Suman Naishadham, Sibi Arasu, and Fabiano Maisonnave at the Associated Press…

  • NBC News national climate reporter and meteorologist Chase Cain reports on the connection between climate change and tornadoes.

Scientists’ fears. The Guardian asked 380 top climate scientists about their views on the future. Nearly all believe the world will breach the internationally agreed 1.5-degree-Celsius limit, expressing fears about looming climate impacts and frustration with the pace of climate action. “Unfortunately climate change has become a political wedge issue,” said one. By Damian Carrington at the Guardian…

  • A global economic system that is “based on the exploitation of people and nature” is hindering the urgent action needed to save humanity from climate change, said David Boyd, outgoing UN special rapporteur on human rights and the environment.

Climate funding. Governments around the world are considering how to quickly raise the necessary funds to meet their climate goals. An estimated $9 trillion per year by 2030 will be  needed globally to transition to clean energy, make buildings more resilient, and more. By Attracta Mooney at the Financial Times…

Loss and damage. The first board meeting of the UN’s loss and damage fund signaled that money to help developing countries recover from climate-related disasters could be delivered more quickly than previous climate financing projects. Developing countries have advocated for a more inclusive and simpler decision-making process allowing for more direct access to money. By Bob Berwyn at Inside Climate News…

Resources & Reports

Data journalism. The Association of Healthcare Journalists talks to ProPublica journalists about how they reported “Poison in the Air,” an award-winning reporting series in which they used EPA data to identify hundreds of US industrial air pollution cancer-risk locations.

Investigating Big Oil. “It’s a lot easier to get whistleblowers at a PR agency” than from high-level fossil fuel executives, said Drilled’s executive editor, Amy Westervelt, at a recent Global Investigative Journalism Network event. See more takeaways from the event.

Extreme heat. The Global Heat Health Information Network has a resource for “Reporting on Extreme Heat and Health.”

Press freedom. Journalism around the world is increasingly under threat, especially from government authorities, according to the 2024 World Press Freedom Index produced by Reporters Without Borders.

Local news. People in the US prefer to get their local news online, and fewer people are turning to TV and print, according to a new Pew-Knight Initiative study on local news consumption.

Via Social

Since late April, record rainfall has pounded the Southern Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Sul, resulting in what the governor called his state’s “biggest climate catastrophe.” The floods have killed at least 90 people and left over 150,000 without homes. The Guardian has a series of photos before and after the flooding showing the extent of the devastation. On social media, Nahel Belgherze shared videos of the region.


#FOIAFridays. MuckRock will discuss filing state and federal public records requests and answer FOIA questions. May 10 and June 14. RSVP. 

Mental health. Kaiser Permanente and the World Economic Forum are hosting an event, “Connecting Climate Change and Mental Health: Impact & Hope” on May 14. RSVP.

Clean cooking. The International Energy Agency is holding a summit on “Clean Cooking in Africa.” May 14. RSVP. 

Sustainable newsrooms. climateXchange is holding a webinar, “Sustainable News Products: Can Climate Pay its Way?” focusing on “sustainable approaches to climate journalism in the changing media landscape.” May 14. RSVP.

Jobs, Etc.

Jobs. The American Resilience Project is hiring a part-time development specialist (remote). Bloomberg Group is looking for a junior reporter: general assignment, reporting on environmental litigation (Arlington, Va.). The Boston Globe is hiring a weather reporter. Inside Climate News is recruiting a senior editor, an Alabama reporter, a North Carolina reporter, and a grants officer (various locations). The Star Tribune is hiring an outdoor editor (Minneapolis, Minn.). The Washington Post is recruiting a climate and environment photo assignment editor.

COP29 fellowships. Earth Journalism Network and the Stanley Center for Peace and Security are accepting applications from journalists in low- and middle-income countries to report from COP29 in Baku, Azerbaijan, from Nov. 11-22, 2024. Apply by June 6, 2024.

Health fellowship. The Nova Media Fellowship is accepting applications for its year-long fellowship to report on the “health of people, places, and the planet.” Apply by May 28.

Economics fellowship. NYU Stern is accepting applications for its “Climate Economics Journalism Fellowship,” taking place September 19-20 in New York City. Apply by May 31.

Awards. The American Association for the Advancement of Science is accepting entries for the Kavli Science Journalism Awards. Apply by August 1.