Covering Climate Across Beats

Climate change is a story for every beat. Here are key points for several traditional news beats to help jumpstart your reporting.

From rising seas to raging wildfires, from sizzling heat to devastating storms and hurricanes, climate change is reshaping daily life in communities around the globe. Many in our audiences know this. They want reporting, and they want action. As described below, there are countless stories to be told about how the climate  is playing out in people’s daily lives. These are urgent stories not only for the science and climate desks but also for journalists covering business, politics, housing, health, food, and more.

Threaded through all coverage should be a recognition that the climate crisis generally hits the poor and people of color hardest — the very people who’ve done the least to cause the problem. It’s also critical to include climate solutions and highlight the many tools available for taming climate change.

The suggestions below are by no means exhaustive. Our aim is to jumpstart journalists’ brainstorming and encourage newsrooms to approach climate change as the broad and multi-faceted story that it is.

Sections below include: Health, Food & Agriculture, Housing & Real Estate, Consumer Life, Culture & Society, Migration, Business & Finance, Politics & Government, Activism & Climate Advocacy, Social Justice, and Solutions


The British Medical Association declared a climate emergency in 2019, calling climate change and air pollution “two of the biggest global public health challenges.” Roughly one in every five deaths globally is caused by the burning of fossil fuels, researchers from Harvard and Oxford universities have concluded. News stories about the people and communities behind these statistics, and how to protect them going forward, are an excellent way to convey the urgency of the climate emergency.

  • Are there fossil fuel-based power plants, oil or gas wells, mining operations, or other fossil fuel infrastructure such as pipelines near you? Visit them, the folks living nearby, and local medical professionals, to tell stories about public health impacts of the climate emergency.
  • How are the health consequences of climate change experienced unequally as a matter of race, class, gender, or other social determinants? How has historical government funding affected the healthcare these communities can access?
  • How are hospitals and healthcare systems responding to the extra burdens of climate-related conditions, such as rampant heat exhaustion?
  • How is climate change affecting peoples’ mental health?
  • How will excess heat and extreme weather impact sports and outdoor recreation? What are the adverse effects on athletes, from the professional to peewee levels?
  • How is climate change affecting how diseases spread and affect humans? And how does habitat destruction, especially deforestation and biodiversity loss, set the conditions for the spread of new viruses, such as Covid-19?
  • How is climate change affecting wildlife health and survivability? (Beyond pictures of emaciated polar bears, the effects of climate change on wildlife are visible on every continent; and animal stories are often audience favorites.)

The Lancet Countdown has a wealth of information and resources to dig deeper into the health story. The Society of Environmental Journalists also has a useful collection of resources for covering health as a climate story.

Food & Agriculture

Climate change is already having a massive impact on the food we eat. In some places, crops that once flourished now wither from excess heat and insufficient rain. Elsewhere, extreme weather flattens crops and sends food supply chains reeling. Food is also where we observe climate solutions through efforts to reduce the carbon footprint of farming and food innovations, like the alt-meat movement, that replace fossil fuel-intensive agriculture.

  • How is climate change threatening the foods and drinks that we need (and love)?
  • What new foods, including alternative proteins, are entering our diets? Some people have changed their diets to help mitigate climate change. What specifically drove them to make the switch?
  • How are farming and food production practices changing to cope with climate impacts on farmland, or to reduce their emissions?
  • How are industrial farming practices contributing to climate change? And how might farming technologies change to be more sustainable for the planet?
  • How are farming interest groups, like the American Farm Bureau Federation, and other stakeholders, like the sugar lobby, helping to lead farmers and other food workers into a more sustainable future, or opposing change?
  • How are stronger and more frequent extreme weather events affecting the well-being of subsistence farmers (a majority of the world’s population)?
  • How is climate change affecting fish populations, which many societies rely on as their foremost source of protein?

For more, check out CCNow’s Food & Water Reporting Guide and extensive reporting by our news partners for CCNow’s Summer 2022 Joint Coverage Week.

Housing & Real Estate

The climate crisis is increasingly affecting where and how people live. Again, its effects are disproportionate, though they threaten rich and poor alike. Many disadvantaged communities live in locations especially susceptible to storms and flooding, such as along rivers or coasts; as climate change drives more extreme weather, these people stand to suffer further if adaptation measures aren’t taken. And in places where wildfires or rising seas imperil housing, even folks wealthy enough to own their own homes are finding it much more difficult to obtain and afford insurance. Lack of insurance in turn makes it impossible to sell property, rendering many household’s single largest source of wealth all but worthless.

  • For homes and buildings in your region, how are natural disasters, including hurricanes and wildfires, affecting property owners’ ability to obtain and afford insurance, and what effect is this having on the housing market?
  • At a time of rising homelessness in some countries, including the US, how will climate change be experienced by those living on the streets?
  • Are renters, landlords, and property owners climate-proofing buildings? Is the cost of climate-proofing subsidized by governments? And are long-term savings, in energy and utilities costs, passed on to renters?
  • How are people working to climate-proof their homes? Are governments working to climate-proof public housing? Are they providing subsidies to help low-income homeowners do the same?
  • How does wealth influence whose property is protected from climate impacts and whose is left vulnerable to damage?
  • How are building codes and architecture practices changing to support more sustainable construction?

Politics & Government

Climate change is deeply political, but it should not be partisan. That is, it will take strong policies to defuse the climate emergency, and those policies will be decided through political activities including elections, lawmaking, and public debate. But covering the politics of climate change is not itself a partisan act, even if some try to frame it that way. Helping our audiences understand the key role of politics in the climate story — and the urgent necessity of political action —  is foremost a matter of accuracy.

  • How are governments enabling or inhibiting a transition to greener sources of energy?
  • Are government leaders responsible for disinformation in the climate space?
  • How are national and local climate policies synchronized, and how is their alignment or misalignment experienced by communities?
  • Some countries (and companies) have targets to reach net zero emissions in the next few decades. What’s the status of those plans, and how will they reshape daily life?
  • Some countries and communities have declared a climate emergency. What did that mean practically for people there, and what happened after the formal declaration?
  • How are governments supporting a just transition for workers historically employed in fossil fuel-related jobs, including new training and employment opportunities?

For more, see the extensive reporting by CCNow’s news partners for the fall 2020 Joint Coverage Week; although many of those stories are dated, they remain a good source of inspiration.

Business & Finance

At a time when climate coverage is finally catching on with audiences, we should expect climate business stories to have wide appeal — whether they examine accountability for the fossil fuel industry, rapidly shifting cultures of investing, or the wide range of startups and mom and pop shops that will thrive or falter amid a clean energy transition.

  • As renewable energy sources rise, how is their production and use changing communities?
  • As major financial stakeholders divest from fossil fuels, will money be reinvested towards climate-friendly innovations?
  • What does a declining fossil fuel industry mean for investments and employee pension funds, across industries, and how might investment management companies and pension funds restructure to mitigate losses?
  • How are employees and shareholders pressuring specific companies to change their behavior related to climate change? What are companies doing in response?
  • How are businesses using advertising and other public relations strategies to shape views around climate change, fossil fuels, and renewable energy? What strategies are working to either educate or mislead the public?
  • As documented by rigorous investigative reporting, fossil fuel companies knew as far back as the 1970s that their products threatened humanity’s future, but executives chose to lie about that to the public and policymakers. What do the people affected, from low level oil and gas workers to  communities ravaged by drilling and mining, think should happen now to these companies?
  • What is the status of the many lawsuits that governments and activists have filed against oil and gas companies, and what will the suits’ outcomes mean for the plaintiff communities?

Consumer Life

People want to know how climate change and new, climate-friendly technologies will affect their daily lives. Corporate advertising that implies individuals bear primary responsibility for fixing climate change is wrong and self-serving, but the choices consumers make can help. Bringing the climate story into the home and people’s daily routines enables them to visualize what a greener future will look like.

  • Are high-efficiency, low emissions appliances — refrigerators, dishwashers, washing and drying machines, etc. — widely available and affordable for consumers? How are governments and companies supporting their availability and adoption?
  • How will electric vehicles change life for consumers and how are governments setting the conditions, or not, for their widespread adoption and use?
  • How are public utilities enabling or inhibiting a greener, more efficient electrical grid? Are they making it easy, for example, for property owners to install and reap the financial benefits of solar panels, or are they rigging the system against change?
  • How have corporations tried to convince consumers, falsely, that individual actions — as opposed to reform of far-reaching government and corporate practices — are paramount in countering climate change?

Culture & Society

Climate change, especially climate anxiety, is already a common theme in new arts and media, and it’s also changing how people think about such basic aspects of the human experience as having children. At the same time, certain climate solutions are changing how people think about their relationships with the planet and each other, often for the better. As climate change intensifies, and we ramp up efforts to combat it, what’s changing about how we think, feel, and live?

  • How are the climate emergency — and corresponding emotions of climate despair and fortitude — reflected in art, literature, music, and film?
  • Are there examples of art that convey a sense of climate emergency and its solutions in resonant ways that journalism and activism have not?
  • How is the climate emergency affecting would-be parents’ decisions to have children? For those who are already parents, how are parents talking to children about climate change?
  • How do different communities’ beliefs and ideas about health impact their understanding of the climate crisis and its solutions and vice versa?
  • As climate change causes people to come and go from various communities, what are the effects on culture, language, and other social institutions?
  • How is climate change disrupting or otherwise affecting outdoor pastimes like hiking, camping, fishing, hunting, and skiing?


Climate disasters are already driving migration within countries and across national borders. As disasters worsen, displacement will increase, radically altering both the places people leave and the places where they resettle. How societies experience and prepare for these changes — and whether climate migrants are welcomed with compassion or scorn — will define much about the future we’ll live in.

  • How are climate impacts driving migration at the local level, within countries, and across national boundaries? Within cities, how is climate change driving gentrification?
  • How are cities and regions that are relatively “climate safe” preparing to cope with a possible influx of people?
  • Do government entities recognize the existence of “climate refugees,” and what policies exist to aid the resettlement of climate migrants in societies around the world?
  • How will increased transnational migration stress already tense immigration debates, especially in wealthy countries, which are more likely to be the recipients of climate migrants?
  • In areas that people have fled for climate-related reasons, what does life look like for those who stay behind?
  • How and where are governments supporting moves to migrate (i.e. managed retreat)? What does that look like? Who is benefitting? Who is left behind?

For more, check out CCNow’s “Flight for their lives” special reporting project, with coverage from AFP, Al Jazeera, The Times of India, and more.

Activism & Climate Advocacy

For decades, climate activists have pressed for action, even as most governments and companies have resisted change. In recent years, younger climate activists in particular have set the pace for climate debate and action, prioritizing racial, gender, and economic justice in the name of fighting the climate emergency. How will these groups affect events going forward, including by holding political and business leaders accountable?

  • What issues are climate and environmental activists tackling on a daily basis in their own communities? What stories are they paying attention to that nobody else is?
  • How are activists seeking to change minds, in communities, on campuses, and online?
  • How are the climate and environmental movements intersecting with other social movements, especially including racial equality? And how are climate and environmental groups righting the exclusionary wrongs of the past?
  • What is life like for climate activists in places where the majority opposes climate action, leaving the activists to go it alone?
  • How are different generations of activists approaching the climate problem differently? Where are activists of different age groups (or other demographics) clashing, and where are they finding common ground and collaboration?

Social Justice

Environmental problems are often worse in places predominantly populated by people of color, Indigenous people, and the poor. This is true at the global, national, and local levels, where these same groups also often bear the earliest and harshest burdens of the climate emergency. A complete telling of the climate story includes the people affected by it and the people trying to solve it — and often that means people and communities of color or limited means.

  • How is climate change experienced differently by different communities?
  • As governments move to mitigate climate change, are people of color and other groups that experience disproportionate climate impacts given a seat at the table, and are they included as a part of the solution?
  • When extreme weather hits, how are recovery funds doled out between wealthier and poorer neighborhoods and communities?
  • How has the exploitation of natural resources endangered marginalized groups?
  • What solutions have Indigenous communities and people of color pioneered that should be adapted at scale to aid humanity’s climate fight?

For more, see CCNow’s Climate Justice Reporting Guide. The Solutions Project also has a comprehensive resource on covering climate equitably. And the group Reporting in Indigenous Communities has a can’t-miss Reporter’s Checklist.


Climate coverage dominated by doom and gloom can give audiences the mistaken sense that the future is already lost. But in fact most of the solutions needed to reign in emissions and reverse damage to the planet already exist. The question is whether our societies will commit to using them with haste and at scale; as journalists, it’s critical that we convey the message that success in the climate fight is indeed possible.

  • How are governments setting the conditions for private entities to make their own green transitions? For example, are they subsidizing or otherwise facilitating the adoption of green building materials for homes and businesses?
  • As renewable energy sources rise, how is their production and use changing communities?
  • How are hospitals and health systems responding to climate-related conditions, such as rampant heat exhaustion?
  • How are construction-codes and architecture practices changing to support more sustainable buildings?
  • What new foods, including alternative proteins, are entering our diets? Some people have changed their diets to help mitigate climate change. What specifically drove them to make the switch?
  • How are farming and food production practices changing to cope with climate impacts on farmland, or to reduce their emissions?
  • Are high-efficiency, low emissions appliances — refrigerators, dishwashers, washing and drying machines, etc. — widely available and affordable for consumers? How are governments and companies supporting their availability and adoption?

For more, see CCNow’s Solutions Reporting Guide, produced in cooperation with the Solutions Journalism Network. Project Drawdown maintains a thorough and exceptional catalog of climate solutions.

Note: This guide was originally published on April 6, 2021.