Prepare Your Newsroom for 2024’s Extreme Heat

2024 is likely to be another record-breaking year for extreme heat, scientists say. Here’s how to step up your coverage.

Vehicles drive past a sign on the 110 Freeway warning of extreme heat and urging energy conservation during a heat wave in downtown Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Patrick T. Fallon via Getty Images)

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Last week, the World Meteorological Organization issued a “red alert: There’s a “high probability” 2024 will be another record-breaking year for extreme heat. Already, the conditions we’re seeing this year — from runaway ocean temperatures to unseasonable warmth on land — are a signal for journalists to prepare themselves and their audiences for what’s to come.

The rise in ocean temperatures has defied models, alarming scientists. In February, ocean temperatures hit a record high of 21.06 degrees Celsius, smashing the previous high record set in August. In Australia, the Great Barrier Reef is experiencing another bleaching event — its fifth in eight years — thanks to out-of-control ocean heat.

“It’s not like we’re breaking records by a little bit now and then,” Brian McNoldy, a hurricane researcher at the University of Miami, told the New Yorker’s Elizabeth Kolbert earlier this month. “It’s like the whole climate just fast-forwarded by 50 or a hundred years. That’s how strange this looks.”

Conditions on land are nearly matching the heating of the sea. Scientists have confirmed that February broke records for global surface air temperature, and last month marked the ninth month in a row of hottest months on record. Climate change made a dangerous heatwave in West Africa last month 10 times more likely. In Mexico City, 21 million residents are facing a water crisis as droughts supercharged by climate change have parched the region.

These conditions are yet another wake-up call for journalists — especially those who may have been caught unprepared by last year’s record-breaking heat. Now is the time to ready your newsrooms to step up your climate coverage and bring accountability to local, regional, and national governments:

  • Interview farmers about how 2023’s heat affected planting and harvest. Heat can exacerbate drought and water shortages — is your region prepared?
  • Reporters in urban centers might dig into how cities responded to last year’s heatwaves. Have politicians made changes to keep residents safe?
  • Journalists should understand and explain the links between climate change, extreme heat, and storms when they occur. Investigate whether your governments are ready for potentially devastating storms.

A new Media Matters analysis found that last year — the hottest on record — network coverage of climate declined in the US. Just 12% of reports about climate change mentioned fossil fuels as the driving cause. Networks still reported on extreme weather, but stopped short of making the climate connection.

Audiences deserve better, and this year, with all of these warnings, we’ll unfortunately have plenty of opportunity to show improvement.

From Us

CCNow at SEJ. Several CCNow staffers will be speaking at the Society of Environmental Journalists annual conference, kicking off April 3 in Philadelphia. CCNow’s Maya Kapoor will be panelist for the session “Making Obscure Animals and Ecosystems Compelling Main Characters” on April 5. And CCNow co-founder Kyle Pope will introduce the workshop “Nearby and Far Away: What Local Reporting and Global Investigative Collaborations Can Learn From One Another,” which CCNow’s Elena González will moderate on April 6. Please don’t hesitate to stop by and say hi!

Noteworthy Stories

Wake-up call. Despite 2023’s faster-than-expected record-breaking temperature rise, which scientists “alarmingly, do not fully understand,” oil company executives “preach a message of business as usual,” writes the Financial Times’ editorial board. “But neither they nor anyone else can afford once again to downplay what science is showing us about a climate threat that is now moving into uncharted territory.” Read it at The Financial Times…

  • Global fossil fuel producers are set to increase output from newly approved projects almost fourfold by decade’s end, according to a new Global Energy Monitor report.

Whale of a lie. Renewable energy opponents and fossil fuel interests are spreading disinformation about whale deaths along the US East Coast in a bid to discourage offshore wind projects, according to new research by Brown University’s Climate Lab. Scientists say the dead whales are often struck by ships or were diseased. By Sabrina Shankman at The Boston Globe…

Congestion pricing. New York City has become the first US city to approve congestion pricing, charging drivers a daytime toll to enter parts of Manhattan. The program, which aims to reduce traffic and pollution while raising money to improve the city’s subway system, is slated to begin June 15. By Stephen Nessen at Gothamist…

Mongolian livestock. Over 5 million livestock have died this winter in Mongolia due to extreme cold, which is becoming more common due to climate change. That number could reach 20 million by mid-May, according to the UN, a hardship for the country’s nomadic herders, which make up nearly a third of the population. By Alexander C. Kaufman at Huffpost… 

Reports and Resources 

“Net negative” emissions. This Carbon Brief explainer outlines what net negative means, countries committed to the target, and more. (Germany recently committed to net negative emissions by 2060.)

Ocean data. Global Investigative Journalism Network has a new tip sheet for using the vast amount of ocean data online, as The New York Times recently did in a story about how the North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un works around US sanctions.

EV misinfo. Electric vehicles are getting a lot of attention on the campaign trail in the US, and misinformation is rife. Heated’s Emily Atkin debunks myths and sets the record straight.

Livestock. Livestock emissions need to drop by 50% this decade to meet the Paris Agreement goals of limiting temperature rise, and some countries should take more action than others, according to a new study.

Unequal burden. Climate change will lead to more “outdoor days” — ones mild enough to spend time outside — for Global North countries, due to warmer winters, and fewer such “outdoor days” for Global South countries, a new study finds.


National security. The Environmental and Energy Study Institute will hold a briefing, “The National Security — Climate Adaptation Nexus.” April 2. RSVP.

Healthcare. The World Resources Institute will hold a webinar, “Health Facility Electrification: Lessons From Developing Countries.” April 3. RSVP.

US midwest. The Midwest Climate Collaborative will host the Midwest Climate Summit, a gathering of climate leaders, researchers, and more in Indianapolis, Ind. (and virtually). April 3-5. Learn more.

Energy transition. The Florence School of Regulation will hold a webinar, “Electric Transmission and the Energy Transition: Perspectives from Africa, Europe, and North America.” April 10. RSVP.

Via Social 

We’ve rounded up best practices for climate reporting in an Instagram carousel. Share with your colleagues to help them start integrating climate into their coverage today.

Are you on Instagram? Follow us there and tag us so we see your work!

Industry News

Planning for climate. The British broadcaster ITV has published its first-ever climate transition plan, outlining its climate goals and how it plans to achieve them, including the use of solar panels, electric vehicles, virtual studios, and more

Climate coverage. In media coverage, “there is no accountability for the fossil fuel industry and other industries that are driving the [climate] crisis” says Media Matters’ Evlondo Cooper. During coverage of extreme weather, “it would be very impactful” to connect what’s happening “to a key driver, [the] fossil fuel industry.”

Local Story Ideas

Stories on our radar that local journalists can consider for their own audiences:

  • Attend a climate cafe, in-person and online spaces where people meet up to discuss their feelings about the climate crisis, as The New York Times recently did.
  • Ask yourself: Is spring different this year? It is in Washington, DC, where the cherry trees bloomed early, as CBS News reported, a trend that’s expected to continue.
  • Ask your audience about the climate impacts they’re seeing locally, as North Country Public Radio is doing to help inform their reporting.

Jobs, Etc.

Jobs. The Austin American-Statesman is hiring a meteorologist reporter (Austin, Texas). The Boston Globe is hiring an investigative reporter. Maine Public is hiring a climate & clean energy editor (Lewiston, Maine). ProPublic is recruiting a senior editor (Washington, DC). Sentient Media is looking for a social media manager (remote).

Grants. Internews’ Earth Journalism Network is offering grants to organizations in support of activities that “strengthen media reporting on biodiversity issues.” Apply by April 9.

Fellowships. The Arizona Republic is accepting applications for its environmental reporting fellowship. Applications are open for NYU Stern’s two-day in-person fellowship, “Climate Economics for Journalists.” Apply by May 31.

Pitches. The BBC Future Planet is looking for pitches on climate solutions for its “Climate Guardians” project, which explores climate solutions by women and Indigenous communities in the Global South.