The Washington Post Goes Big on Climate

And reminds us post-COP27 that climate change is a story every day.

People view the rising sun over Lake Powell at Alstom Point on September 3, 2022 near Page, Arizona. (Photo by David McNew via Getty Images)

This is a landmark week for climate journalism, as one of the world’s most influential news organizations, The Washington Post, announced a dramatic expansion of its climate coverage. “We have nearly tripled the size of our Climate team — totaling more than 30 journalists — part of a newsroom-wide commitment to covering perhaps the century’s biggest story,” Sally Buzbee, the Post’s executive editor, wrote in a note to readers.

Covering Climate Now applauds the Post for its leadership, and we hope that other newsrooms will be inspired by its example. Of course, not every news organization has the financial resources that the Post does, thanks to the super-deep pockets of its owner, billionaire Jeff Bezos. But every outlet can recognize, as Buzbee noted, that climate change is a story for every beat in the newsroom, a story that merits coverage each and every day.

That lesson is especially relevant in the aftermath of the COP27 climate summit. The best coverage of the summit explained that COP27 scored one historic achievement — the establishment of a “loss and damage” fund — and one undeniable failure, the lack of stronger measures to limit temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. Now, journalists must follow up on both themes.

The decision to establish a loss and damage fund counts as a victory for climate justice, a recognition that the countries whose emissions have disproportionately caused climate change should compensate the countries that are suffering the worst impacts. But exactly which countries will pay? How much will they pay? These and many related issues will be negotiated in the coming months in the lead-up to the next COP, and journalists should monitor these developments. Meanwhile, climate reporting should remind audiences that the extreme weather events we will continue to see are driven in part by climate change, and the loss and damage fund was created to help people and communities recover from them.

But as a column by the Los Angeles Times editorial board pointed out, the loss and damage fund “will become a money pit” if the world doesn’t do much more to limit temperature rise to the 1.5-degree-C goal endorsed in the 2015 Paris Agreement. That failure, however, emphatically does not mean the global community should give up on the 1.5 degree C target, argued Fatih Birol, the head of the International Energy Agency (IEA), in an interview with the Guardian. “It is factually incorrect, and politically it is very wrong,” Birol said. “The fact is that the chances of 1.5C are narrowing, but it is still achievable,” he added, and warned that fossil fuel companies “will be the beneficiaries if the obituary of 1.5C is written.”

Last year, the IEA concluded that there can be no new fossil fuel development if the 1.5-degree-C target is to be met. The opposite, however, is happening. As a Guardian investigation revealed earlier this year, oil and gas companies are planning scores of “carbon bomb” projects around the world. And a new report by the climate advocacy group Reclaim Finance identifies new fossil fuel projects in 48 African nations — and the financial players backing them.

These projects demand scrutiny and accountability from journalists and news organizations the world over. At the moment, the world remains “on a highway to climate hell with our foot on the accelerator,” as UN Secretary-General António Guterres said at the start of COP27. Diligent and outspoken news coverage of the sort The Washington Post is promising can help reverse this trend by empowering the public to demand better from leaders before it’s too late.

From Us

CCNow Q&A. For our latest Q&A in Columbia Journalism Review, we spoke with Branko Brkic, editor-in-chief of South Africa’s Daily Maverick, about “20Twenties: Eve of Destruction,” an adaptation of a Vietnam-era protest anthem, produced by Daily Maverick to call attention to the climate crisis. Read our interview and watch the music video here.

Hope. The LA Times invited CCNow’s executive director, Mark Hertsgaard and eight others who work on climate and environmental issues to answer the question: What gives you hope? Read it here.

Noteworthy Stories

$384 billion. That’s the amount needed annually by 2025 — more than double current investments — to protect the world’s ecosystems against climate impacts and the loss of natural resources, according to a new report by the UN Environment Programme. By Isla Binnie at Reuters…

COP15 explainer. Next week, 195 countries will gather in Montreal, Canada, for COP15, the UN’s biodiversity summit to halt ecological destruction. Governments are tasked with agreeing on a new set of goals, a sister deal to the 2015 Paris Agreement. By Michael Taylor at Reuters…

Making the connection. Weathercasters often don’t make the connection to climate change when extreme weather strikes. That’s partly because official forecasts from the federal government that meteorologists rely on don’t include information on the role of climate. People who understand that climate change is exacerbating extreme weather events are more likely to prepare for future disasters and support climate policy. By Rebecca Hersher at NPR…

Feels like 136° degrees F. How does extreme heat affect human bodies and disrupt everyday life? Using thermal photography, integrated temperature readings, video, and graphics, reporters visited Kuwait City, Kuwait, and Basra, Iraq, during the hottest time of year to show what billions of people could experience as global temperatures rise. See it at The New York Times…

Sustainable aviation? Rolls-Royce says it has successfully run an aircraft engine using green hydrogen, a first for the aviation industry, which aims to reach net zero by 2050. It’s all in the early test phase. By Jasper Jolly at the Guardian… 

Word of the year. “Gaslighting,” defined as the “the act or practice of grossly misleading someone especially for one’s own advantage,” is Merriam-Webster’s word of the year. The term is increasingly used by climate advocates to describe the communications and advertising strategies of big oil companies. By Kate Yoder at Grist… 

Via Twitter

In a new report, the Reuters Institute looks at how people in eight countries — Brazil, France, Germany, India, Japan, Pakistan, the UK, and the US — access news and information about climate change. Key findings are described in this Twitter thread:

Free to Publish

The following stories deserve special consideration for republication by CCNow partners:

For partner outlets: The full list of stories available for republication and instructions to do so can be found in our Sharing Library. To submit stories for sharing, please use this form.

Resources & Events

The Environmental and Energy Study Institute will hold a briefing to review what happened at COP27 and why it matters for the US Congress. RSVP. 

The Boston Globe is holding its second-annual ‘Climate Week,’ an event series focusing on the climate emergency and solutions. December 5-9. The event kicks off with a fireside chat with the former National Climate Advisor, Gina McCarthy. Learn more.

Environmental writer Bill McKibben and climate scientist Dr. James Hansen will participate in a virtual discussion titled “Is There a Climate Emergency?” in conjunction with the pop-up exhibition “MAYDAY! EAARTH” at Ceres Gallery in New York City. In person, author Geoff Dembicki, will discuss his recently published book, The Petroleum Papers — Inside the Far-Right Conspiracy to Cover Up Climate Change. December 17. RSVP. 


Carbon Brief is recruiting a senior editor to cover China. NPR is looking for a journalist to join their new climate desk and report on vulnerable communities, particularly Indigenous communities.