Putting Climate Into Elections Reporting

Our new Climate Elections project can sharpen your 2024 campaign coverage.

A ballot drop box for voted mail ballots is displayed in a Clark County vote center on Election Day during the Nevada 2024 presidential primary election in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Patrick T. Fallon via Getty Images)

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Let’s start with three facts: More voters around the world face elections in 2024 than ever before. Last year was the hottest in recorded history. And scientists warn that oil, gas, and coal must be rapidly phased out if we are to preserve a livable planet.

Yet “news outlets around the world are largely sidelining the climate conversation … as climate questions are relegated to afterthoughts in candidate debates and interviews, if they’re asked at all,” Covering Climate Now’s co-founders Mark Hertsgaard and Kyle Pope wrote this week in the Guardian, The Nation, and Columbia Journalism Review.

“But there’s an easy shift” journalism can make, they continued. Don’t ask candidates whether they believe in climate change, a framing that falsely implies that the science is still debatable. Instead, “Ask candidates what they’re going to do about the climate crisis; specifically, what is their plan to rapidly phase out oil, gas, and coal, as science says is imperative.”

This week, CCNow announced The Climate Elections project, a nonpartisan series of efforts to help journalists and newsrooms everywhere center the climate crisis — and its solutions — in 2024 elections coverage. Our new weekly newsletter, “Climate on the Ballot,” provides tips and tools for integrating climate change into elections coverage at the local, state, and national levels. Every Monday, at 8am US Eastern Time, we’ll spotlight a fresh topic, offer up story ideas, and share examples of outstanding coverage we can all learn from and emulate.

The newsletter’s inaugural issue, about public opinion, highlighted the opportunity facing newsrooms: Most people want more information about climate change, and “the number of Americans who think global warming is happening outnumber those who don’t by nearly five to one (72% versus 15%).” Hertsgaard and Pope’s article noted that 56% of Americans are either “concerned” or “alarmed” about climate change, adding, “If a candidate won an election with 56% of the vote, political reporters would call that a landslide. Yet that landslide of public opinion is not seeing the climate story reflected on their TV screens or news feeds.

Members of CCNow’s Slack community might also have noticed a new rapid-response channel to tackle climate disinformation in our reporting. If you’re not a member, apply to join — and bring your disinformation questions.

The work continues next Tuesday, Feb. 13, with “Beyond the Stump Speech,” a Talking Shop webinar featuring Margaret Sullivan, columnist for the Guardian, and Ben Tracy, senior national and environmental correspondent for CBS News. In coming weeks, we’ll roll out additional resources, including a calendar with critical election and climate dates and a guide to help reporters and editors on politics desks get up to speed on the climate story.

And we want to hear from you. As journalists, it’s our responsibility in an election year to inform voters about what’s at stake, and what the candidates plan to do about it. How can CCNow help you and your colleagues deliver on that responsibility?

From Us

Talking Shop. Join CCNow on Tuesday, February 13, for “Beyond the Stump Speech,” a one-hour webinar about integrating climate into elections coverage. Margaret Sullivan, columnist for the Guardian and Executive Director of Columbia’s Newmark Center, and Ben Tracy, Senior National and Environmental Correspondent for CBS News, will join CCNow’s Kyle Pope. RSVP.

“The Climate Story in 2024.” See key takeaways, a recording, and transcript from our recent press briefing on the biggest climate stories to watch this year.

Apply Now to 2024 CCNow Awards! Submissions are open for the fourth annual Covering Climate Now Journalism Awards, honoring exceptional work published in 2023. Apply by March 1. Please share the application with your networks!

Climate on the Ballot. CCNow’s new weekly newsletter, Climate on the Ballot, helps journalists integrate climate into their reporting on local, state, and national US elections. Sign up here to receive it every Monday at 8am US Eastern Time.

Noteworthy Stories

Trump’s climate agenda. If re-elected, Donald Trump intends to ramp up fossil fuel production, restrict government scientists, reverse regulations, and withdraw from the Paris Agreement, according to sources close to the former US president. “Trump will undo everything [President Joe] Biden has done, he will move more quickly and go further than he did before,” said Myron Ebell, who led Trump’s transition team at the US Environmental Protection Agency in his first term. By Oliver Milman and Dharna Noor at the Guardian…

Stolen land profits. Fourteen public universities in the US are profiting from land stolen from Indigenous nations and used for fossil fuel production, resource extraction, agriculture, and more, according to a new Grist investigation. “Universities continue to benefit from colonization,” said Sharon Stein, a climate researcher and assistant professor at the University of British Columbia, adding “the actual income of the institution is subsidized by this ongoing dispossession.” Read more at Grist…

  • The Society of Environmental Journalists will host a webinar on February 21 with Grist reporters on “How To Use Data From Grist’s Land Grab University 2.0 Investigation.” Learn more.

Soot regulations. The US Environmental Protection Agency is tightening regulations on harmful soot particles from vehicle tailpipes, power plants, construction sites, and more. Soot leads to heart and lung problems, and the EPA expects the new rule will lead to health savings of $46 billion in 2032, when states must start meeting the reduced levels. By Ben Geman at Axios…

Atmospheric rivers. California was pummeled this week with heavy rainfall caused by an atmospheric river, which the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration refers to as “rivers in the sky.” More intense atmospheric rivers are linked to climate change. “The more fossil fuels we burn, we’re turning up the dial on the intensity of atmospheric rivers making them bigger, wetter, and more hazardous,” said Chase Cain, national climate reporter for NBC News…

Agriculture adaptation. The practice of agroecology, which blends ancient natural farming techniques with worker’s justice, is gaining popularity as a way to adapt agriculture to climate change and bring equity to farmers. In the Philippines, a farmer-led organization has trained more than 30,000 farmers to grow more climate resilient rice crops. By Meg Wilcox at Reasons to be Cheerful…

Resources and Events

Artificial intelligence. The Online News Association has a new guide for using AI in the newsroom.

Climate and disability. Unbias the News has a new tip sheet for journalists on how to connect disability to climate reporting.

Health in South Asia. Scroll, in collaboration with the Pulitzer Center, is holding a webinar on “How to cover the impact of climate change on health in South Asia.” February 13. RSVP.

Children’s health. Columbia Climate School is hosting a webinar on “Climate Change and Children’s Health: Challenges and Solutions.” February 13. RSVP.

EU policy. The European Roundtable on Climate Change and Sustainable Transition is holding a webinar on “Quo Vadis, EU: 2040 Climate Target.” February 14. RSVP.

Industry News

Climate justice coverage. After the Biden administration paused new permits to liquefied natural gas export facilities CNN’s Jim Acosta hosted a community activist to discuss the health impacts on frontline communities of living near fossil fuel infrastructure. It’s a “rare but welcome example of how TV news can cover major stories through a climate justice lens,” writes Media Matter’s Allison Fisher.

“Truth sandwich.” Journalists need to be even more discerning in the age of misinformation, says veteran CBS journalist Dave Busiek. He explains one technique to mitigate the spread of misinformation, developed by UC Berkeley linguist George Lakoff, called the “truth sandwich” — basically two truth bread slices with baloney in the middle.

In Appreciation

Climate journalism has lost a giant. Ross Gelbspan, a Pulitzer Prize–winning reporter who, in the 1990s, wrote some of the first exposes about the fossil fuel industry’s lies about climate change, died on January 27. After his early climate reporting was attacked, Gelbspan uncovered internal industry memos showing that attacks had come from industry-funded front groups which said their goal was to “reposition global warming as theory” rather than fact. Gelbspan authored two books on climate change, The Heat Is On in 1997, which gained national attention when President Bill Clinton told reporters he was reading it, and Boiling Point in 2004.

Watch Gelbspans’s edited 2007 talk at The International Forum on Globalization, which is as relevant today as when he delivered it, and which previews some of the issues we are now facing.

Jobs, etc. 

Jobs. The Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at The City University of New York is hiring a program director (Master’s in Engagement Journalism). Harvest Public Media is recruiting an editor (Kansas City, Mo.). The Narwhal is hiring a politics and environment reporter. The New Scientist is recruiting an assistant news editor (New York City). KSAN-TV is looking for a chief meteorologist (San Angelo, Texas). The Seattle Times is hiring a Climate Lab photographer.

Fellowships. The Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia School of International Affairs and Public Affairs is accepting applications for its Energy Journalism Fellows program. Apply by March 1. Applications are open for The Uproot Project’s Environmental Justice Fellowship. Apply by March 1.

Science workshop. The Metcalf Institute is accepting applications for its Annual Science Immersion Workshop for Journalists focusing on water and climate change. Apply by February 12.