Key Takeaways From “Climate Changes Everything”

Last week’s climate journalism conference was energizing and attendees were brimming with ideas.

Winners of the 2023 Covering Climate Now Journalism Awards posing together at the “Climate Changes Everything: Creating A Blueprint For Media Transformation” conference at Columbia Journalism School in New York City. (Photo by Isabel Epstein)

The “Climate Changes Everything: Creating A Blueprint For Media Transformation” conference last week at Columbia Journalism School in New York City was a roaring success on all levels. If you missed it, watch the livestream here. Meanwhile, a few highlights:

  1. Our live interview with former UNFCCC executive secretary Christiana Figueres made news around the world. The Guardian, Agence France-Presse, and NBC News reported that the Paris Agreement’s key architect said Big Oil companies should not attend the COP28 climate summit if they’re only going to obstruct global decarbonization. Figueres added that the deployment of solar, wind, batteries, and EVs is increasing exponentially as costs plummet, a trend she urged the media to convey to audiences. (CCNow will have more to say soon about how journalists can cover this story.) “The way you report climate is going to have an impact on the quality of life for the planet for the next several decades,” Figueres declared. “So no pressure!”
  2. Presentations and conversations shared by the hundreds of journalists attending the conference (in person and via video link) sparkled with best practices, pioneering innovations, and commitments to new collaborations, especially with Global South newsrooms, as well as constructive criticisms (e.g., visual journalists deserve more attention).
  3. During the Thursday town hall and Friday working group sessions, we made solid progress on the conference goal of creating blueprints to transform how outlets respond to climate change. (Attendees will receive a survey soon to share further thoughts.)
  4. The enthusiasm and engagement among attendees was extraordinary and energizing; many didn’t want to leave the room after the event had concluded. “I met so many colleagues who can help me, or who I can help,” one participant said. That sentiment, shared by countless others, bodes well for the true value of any conference: what happens after it ends.
  5. We honored the 2023 Covering Climate Now Journalism Awards winners, many of whom were present in person. Their work exemplifies standards of excellence that journalists and newsrooms everywhere can emulate in their own climate coverage going forward.

CCNow extends our immense thanks to everyone who helped make this conference such a powerful experience: our co-hosts — Columbia Journalism Review, The Nation, the Guardian, and Solutions Journalism Network — Columbia Journalism School; our supporters, especially the Waverley Street Foundation; our panelists and special guests; and, above all, the hundreds of journalists in attendance, who brought their heads, hearts, and souls to the mission of helping lift journalism’s coverage of the climate emergency and its solutions to the level this historic moment demands.

In short, we feel so good about what was accomplished last week that — who knows? — we may have to do this again sometime.

From Us

Explaining 1.5 C. To better understand the Paris Agreement global temperature target, as well as how to include it in your reporting, see our newly updated resource, “Reporting on the 1.5-degree-C Target.”

En español. See the Spanish translation of our resource, “Climate Science 101,” adapted from the work of renowned climate scientist Dr. Katharine Hayhoe. Take me there.

CCNow Award winners. Colleagues across the media continue to showcase the 2023 Covering Climate Now Journalism Awards by interviewing winners and sharing their work. See coverage at Climate One, who interviewed Naomi Klein and Carolyn Beeler, THIRTEEN MetroFocus, who spoke with Mark Albert, Cameron Oglesby, and Alleen Brown and WNYC’s Brian Lehrer Show, who interviewed Manka Behl, Alleen Brown, Amanda Burrell, Damian Carrington, and Amy Westervelt.

Noteworthy Stories

Hope for 1.5. There is a path to reach net-zero emissions by 2050 and limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius, which is needed to keep the worst impacts of climate change at bay, according to a new International Energy Agency report, an update to its 2021 Net Zero Roadmap. “The pathway to 1.5 degrees C has narrowed in the past two years, but clean energy technologies are keeping it open,” said Fatih Birol, the IEA’s executive director. By Akielly Hu at Grist…

  • See a “cheat sheet” of key takeaways on X (aka Twitter) from the report by Carbon Brief deputy editor and senior policy editor Simon Evans.

Youth suit. “The [2017 Portugal] wildfires made me really anxious about what sort of future I would have,” said Claudia Duarte Agostinho, one of six Portuguese youth suing EU governments for inadequately addressing human-caused climate change in violation of their human rights. If the youth win, European governments could be legally-bound to act on climate. By Selin Girit at the BBC…

Solar surge. As electricity demand soared in Texas amid record heat this summer, solar energy played a crucial role in helping the grid run smoothly, according to a new analysis by the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis. During a 93-day period of high summer usage, solar energy consistently supplied 10-16% of peak-hour electricity requirements. By Sharon Udasin at The Hill…

Targeting activists. The Atlas Network, a global coalition of over 500 think tanks that receives funding from the ExxonMobil Foundation, uses its influence to vilify climate activists with ripple effects across government, law enforcement, and the media. WNYC’s On the Media explores the coalition’s tactics, and speaks with Amy Westervelt, the host-producer of the podcast Drilled, who investigated the group with climate reporter Geoff Dembicki. Listen at WNYC’s On the Media…

Lacking ambition. Despite its aim to inspire world leaders to bolster their efforts in combating climate change, last week’s UN Climate Ambition Summit is facing criticism for yielding few ambitious climate pledges. “There is simply a huge mismatch between the depth of actions governments and businesses are taking and the transformative shifts that are needed to address the climate crisis,” said David Waskow, director of the World Resources Institute’s International Climate Initiative. By Kristoffer Tigue at Inside Climate News…

Resources & Events

Carbon offsets. Carbon Brief takes a deep dive into carbon offsets, a way for one organization that emits carbon dioxide to pay another to pollute less. Businesses rely on carbon offsets to sell “carbon neutral” products and services, and countries are using them to meet their Paris Agreement emissions targets. Are they a good tool for tackling climate change? Check out the series at Carbon Brief.

Covering COP28. The Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism and the Oxford Climate Journalism Network will hold a conversation with climate scientist Dr. Friederike Otto, co-founder of World Weather Attribution, to talk about how journalists can cover this year’s UN climate summit. November 15. RSVP to attend in person or online.

Reporting on climate. The Global Landscapes Forum is co-hosting an online seminar with the Pulitzer Center, Grist, Deutsche Welle, and more, on how journalists can best cover the climate and biodiversity crises. October 4-5. Apply ASAP to attend.

Industry News

Cross-beat coverage. The Los Angeles Times has launched a new section called “Climate California,” which will include reporting from the Times’ newly formed environment, health, and science department, as well as commentary from the Times’ first-ever climate columnist, Sammy Roth. Read more.

Via Twitter (aka X)

Author and Guardian columnist George Monbiot explains “The Pollution Paradox,” whereby industries and billionaires with the “greatest incentive to invest in politics are those involved with the dirtiest and most anti-social businesses.” Businesses that are the heaviest emitters also treat their workers the worst, exploit their customers, and are the ones most likely to “invest in politics, because if they don’t they’ll be regulated out of existence,” Monbiot says. As a result, “politics comes to be dominated by the dirtiest and most anti-social companies.”

Jobs, Etc.

Jobs. China Dialogue is hiring an ocean editor for its London office and a part-time, remote regional social media officer, Africa. High Country News is hiring a remote Indigenous affairs editor. Reuters is recruiting an early career photojournalist for a one-year internship from their South Asia Picture Editor at the Reuters Delhi bureau. 

Photographer grants. ART WORKS Projects is accepting proposals from emerging and early-career photographers with projects that “build awareness for underrepresented communities and stories addressing climate change, pollution and environmental justice.”