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A clear majority of the American public — 56% — is now either “concerned” or outright “alarmed” about climate change. That’s according to a new study by the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication, the gold standard in US climate polling. Yale’s findings are essential reading for US journalists in particular in an election year when voters will decide who governs the country that, more than any other, influences climate policy and outcomes around the world.
The percentage of Americans who want more coverage of climate change is “actually much higher than [56%],” Anthony Leiserowitz, the director of the Yale program, told Covering Climate Now. Only the 11% of the public that still denies climate change doesn’t want more information. The overwhelming majority of Americans do “want to learn more about the causes, consequences and solutions to climate change,” Leiserowitz added. (Separate surveys show that many Americans don’t recognize that burning oil, gas, and coal is the main cause of climate change, underscoring the importance of making that connection in news coverage.)
What makes Yale’s findings especially authoritative is that Leiserowitz and his colleagues have been surveying Americans’ opinions about climate change for 15 years. Their landmark 2009 “Six Americas” study identified six categories of thinking among the public: “alarmed,” “concerned,” “cautious,” “disengaged,” “doubtful,” and “dismissive.” Since 2013, the percentage of “alarmed” Americans has more than doubled, while the percentage who are either “alarmed” or “concerned” jumped from 40% to today’s 56%. The percentage of deniers has remained stable, at 11%.
Yale’s work measures how Americans’ views about climate change have shifted over time and thus implicitly cautions against how the media covers polls in general. Polls are snapshots of public opinion at a given moment in time, which should make reporters and pundits much more careful about drawing conclusions about what today’s polls mean about elections that are, in the US, still 10 months away.
The Yale findings do, however, have this lesson for 2024 campaign coverage: A clear majority of Americans would welcome more reporting on climate change as an election issue. “The Alarmed are the group who most prioritize climate change as a voting issue and thus are most interested in information on the positions of different candidates (and that’s not just at the presidential level, but for all federal, state, and local races),” Leiserowitz said. “The Concerned are also interested… although climate change is less likely to be one of their top voting issues.”
The 2024 elections — not only in the US but many other climate-critical countries, including India, Pakistan, Indonesia, across the European Union, the United Kingdom, South Africa, and Mexico — will be a top priority for Covering Climate Now this year. Stay tuned for further information about how you and your newsroom can be involved — and don’t hesitate to email us your own ideas via email@example.com.
CCNow’s executive director, Mark Hertsgaard, invites US local television stations to sign up for The Climate Station, our free, tailored climate change training program for TV reporters, managers, and newsrooms.
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2024 climate stories. The American Climate Corps kicks off this year with 20,000 young people signed up to work on climate projects. New household electrification and efficiency rebates in the US will become available. The World Bank is expected to begin dispersing climate reparations. Read about these and more stories reporters are following in 2024 at Grist…
- Bloomberg lists 12 things that could impact climate action this year, including the US Republicans’ planned gutting of climate policy, called “Project 2025”; EU elections; and new corporate disclosure rules.
- E&E News previews the climate battles ahead in a critical US presidential election year and the Biden administration’s climate regulation plans.
- High Country News outlines four major US climate court cases that could have major policy and accountability implications.
- Politico tracks policy issues to watch such as corporate ESG battles, local recycling reforms, and global plastics treaty negotiations.
- The New York Times shares the six major climate stories they’re watching: US elections, global fossil fuel expansion plans, climate activism, and more.
Grid reform. As it stands, the US needs a massive 75,000 miles of new high-voltage lines to achieve its renewable energy goals and grid experts warn the country is off track due to conflicts over permitting, cost-sharing disputes, and a lack of federal government authority. By Jeff St. John at Canary Media…
LNG exports. The US, the world’s top exporter of liquified natural gas (LNG) in 2023, is considering a new $10 billion LNG project in Louisiana that opponents argue would harm the local ecosystem and contribute to climate change. The Energy Department is expected to rule on the project in the coming months. By David Gelles, Clifford Krauss, and Coral Davenport at The New York Times…
Powder power? Scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have developed a way to convert planet warming carbon dioxide into a harmless powder that can be stored for decades underground and could produce clean electricity. By John Fialka at Scientific American…
Saving memories. “Go bags” with essential items like medications, identity documents, and water are essential for disaster preparedness. While safe evacuation from climate disasters is paramount, survivors can benefit from preparing a “bag of memories,” filled with beloved photos, small mementos, and other personal memorabilia. By Ayurella Horn-Muller at The Atlantic…
Resources and Events
Offshore wind. The Society of Environmental Journalists has a new issue backgrounder on US offshore wind, including the role the media has played in amplifying misinformation about windmills causing harm to whales (they don’t).
Climate communication. Potential Energy Coalition and Yale Program on Climate Change Communication will discuss “messaging that accelerates climate action in the G20 and beyond.” January 8. RSVP.
Just transition. Report for the World is holding a webinar on “The Role of Journalism in the Just Transition Across Europe.” January 15. RSVP.
2024 stories to watch. In a webinar, World Resource Institute’s President & CEO, Ani Dasgupta, will present four stories that examine the “political barriers to effective climate action, how to fix the world’s dysfunctional food system, the missing link in the clean energy revolution, and climate change’s ‘silent killer.’” January 23. RSVP.
Via X (aka Twitter)
After the UK’s Sky News platformed a climate denier, WFLA-TV’s Chief Meteorologist and Climate Specialist, Jeff Beradelli, took to X (Twitter) to remind media organizations to “do better.”
Attention media orgs. We are way past both siding climate change. The climate is warming. It’s due to the burning of fossil fuels. Those who claim differently are either blinded by ideology or paid by special interests. Do better. https://t.co/Bqyx8AbBux
— Jeff Berardelli (@WeatherProf) January 2, 2024
Right-wing media used concerning strategies in 2023 to thwart climate progress, including “facilitating comebacks for long-discredited climate deniers, cheering on violence against climate activists, and attributing deadly climate-driven events to conspiracies or religious calamity,” writes Ilana Berger for Media Matters. In 2024, expect right-wing media to double down in backing Republican attacks on Biden’s climate policy.
Jobs. The New York Times is looking for an editor for its Climate Forward newsletter. Grist is hiring a reporter (food and agriculture), senior editor (accountability), and staff writer (food and agriculture). Learn more.
Fellowships and more. A diversity fellowship is available to attend this year’s Society of Environmental Journalists conference in Philadelphia, Penn., from April 3-7. Apply by January 5.
The Society of Environmental Journalists is accepting proposals for story grants on the US clean energy transition. Submit by January 8.
Applications for the 2024-25 Knight Science Journalism Fellowship Program at MIT are open. Apply by January 15.
Earth Journalism Network is offering story grants and training to indigenous environmental journalists worldwide. Apply by January 18.
The Metcalf Institute is accepting applications for the 26th Annual Science Immersion Workshop for Journalists in Rhode Island, from June 3-8. Apply by February 12.
Awards. The Solutions Journalism Network Awards is accepting entries for 2023 solutions stories. Apply by January 16.