Climate Solutions

Many solutions to the climate emergency are already at hand. Our audiences need to know this is a problem we can solve.

Updated February 2021

Here are Climate Solutions story ideas that can be done fairly easily, even by newsrooms simultaneously occupied with Covid-19 coverage.

These story recommendations—scalable and adaptable for every publication’s needs, regardless of medium and location—will be updated regularly to reflect the latest developments in the climate story.

Keep it Simple

Climate 101. You can’t solve a problem you don’t understand, so give audiences a simple explainer piece. Focus on basic concepts such as the carbon budget and the need to flatten the global emissions curve (yes, just like with Covid-19). And debunk myths that still hamper public understanding of the climate crisis and its solutions.

Examples and Further Reading:

Why is it an emergency? To many in our audiences, the differences between “global warming,” “climate crisis,” and “climate emergency” might appear as simple rebrandings. Explain the nuance behind these evolutions in language—quote top scientists or peer-reviewed studies explaining why scientists warn that climate change and prefer the term “climate emergency.” What does this mean for people’s lives, and what would it look like if governments actually did treat it like an emergency? (The global Covid-19 response gives a hint.)

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It’s Political, not Partisan

What are politicians doing about it? Science is not partisan: the Earth’s climate system is destabilizing, and if governments do not take fast, radical action, humanity will be in very deep trouble. Tell your audiences what their local and national leaders are doing about this scientific imperative, for good or ill. Check voting records and consult watchdog groups to learn whether elected officials respect climate science or dismiss it, want to limit fossil fuel production and subsidies or expand them, etc.

Examples and Further Reading:

Climate voting. Climate and environmental voters played a critical role in the 2020 US elections, and they will likely continue to shape the climate discourse in the world’s most powerful country. And, for all the importance of the 2020 election, these voters will maintain a critical voice in local elections and elections elsewhere in the world. Are groups like the Environmental Voter Project finding traction in your region?

Examples and Further Reading:

Would a Green New Deal save us? The term Green New Deal originated in the US, and, in variations, it has become the de facto position of its Democratic party. The term has also been applied to similar green investment-and-jobs programs in the European Union, India, and South Korea, even as an enormous disinformation campaign has been mounted to derail them. Offer audiences explainers, based on interviews with proponents (e.g., the Sunrise Movement) and fair-minded critics: What exactly is a Green New Deal, how would it work, who would pay, and who would benefit?

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Solutions at Hand

We Can Solve This. An irony of this stage in the climate crisis is that many of its technical solutions are already in hand. Audiences will be keen to hear this, especially if coverage can highlight solutions being implemented in their own communities. Check Project Drawdown’s comprehensive solutions guide for concrete examples you can localize and illustrate with further reporting.

Examples and Further Reading:

Get Personal. The more people learn about the climate crisis, the more they want to know how they can help—and how to cope. Eating less meat is a fix most people can easily implement, so why not run a short piece on local restaurants that offer veggie-forward menus? What home products and technology are available, including on a budget, to help people lower their climate footprints? For what it’s worth, stories like these tend to do quite well, traffic-wise. 

Examples and Further Reading:

Local Action

Avoid the unmanageable, manage the unavoidable. That’s the mantra experts use to emphasize that climate policy must not only slash ongoing greenhouse gas emissions but also cope with the impacts that are inevitable, for example by building sea defenses. What are governments and businesses doing in your region to protect vital infrastructure—subways, roads, airports, water systems, the electricity supply? Are real estate markets taking sea level rise and other impacts into account, or putting people and property at greater risk?

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The Good Fight. Activism by individuals can make a big difference, too. Who are the voices in your community or field who are pioneering solutions, regardless of action from the top? Greta Thunberg’s climate strikes made her famous, but there are thousands of young people doing their part—find them! Try starting with local chapters of groups like the Sunrise Movement and the Sierra Club to see who is making waves. Educators, farmers, churches, shops, and individual families might all be working to change the game in your area.

Examples and Further Reading:

 The Weather

Make the climate-extreme weather link. Hurricanes, droughts, floods, wildfires, and heat waves are worsening as global warming accelerates, but many news stories (at least in the US) still ignore the climate connection. This leaves audiences ill-informed about climate change even as they experience it. Climate change usually isn’t the sole cause of extreme weather, but it is often a major contributor. The next time extreme weather occurs, correct the record by citing scientists such as Katharine Hayhoe and Michael Mann, or, better yet, scientists from your own region.

Examples and Further Reading:

Ask public officials what they’re doing about it. If you’ve done stories about how climate change will bring harsher heat waves or rising seas to your area, update those stories. Ask the mayor’s office—or governor’s, or president’s—what solutions they’re pursuing. Then run those plans by scientists, activists, and other independent voices. How do they measure up?