The Press and the Climate Emergency

It’s time for journalism to recognize that the climate emergency is here.  

This is a statement of science, not politics.

Thousands of scientistsincluding James Hansen, the NASA scientist who put the problem on the public agenda in 1988, and David King and Hans Schellnhuber, former science advisers to the British and German governments, respectively—have said humanity faces a “climate emergency.” 

Why “emergency”? Because words matter. To preserve a livable planet, humanity must take action immediately. Failure to slash the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere will make the extraordinary heat, storms, wildfires, and ice melt of 2020 routine and could “render a significant portion of the Earth uninhabitable,” warned a recent Scientific American article. 

The media’s response to Covid-19 provides a useful model. Guided by science, journalists have described the pandemic as an emergency, chronicled its devasting impacts, called out disinformation, and told audiences how to protect themselves (with masks, for example). 

We need the same commitment to the climate story.  As partners in Covering Climate Now, a global consortium of hundreds of news outlets, we will present coverage in the lead up to Earth Day, April 22, around the theme, “Living Through the Climate Emergency.” We invite journalists everywhere to join us.

RELATED: Living Through the Climate Emergency

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Covering Climate Now partners who contributed to this piece include Scientific American, Columbia Journalism Review, The Nation, The Guardian, Noticias Telemundo, Al Jazeera, Asahi Shimbun, and La Repubblica. Learn more about Covering Climate Now's partners here.