| Climate Preparedness | 09.27.19

The Download: Climate change news coverage shifts

By CommonWealth Staff

A week has passed since the global climate strike that sent thousands of students and activists to the streets of Boston, along with millions of others around the world. This is usually when the interest fades away — but perhaps this time is different.  

News coverage on local global warming impacts may be the biggest asset toward combating misinformation about climate change, and a few things have happened recently to bring gravitas to that argument.

A masterfully written piece by Nestor Ramos in the Boston Globe paints a portrait of how climate change doesn’t just erode the soil beneath a snack shack on Nauset Beach — it washes away cultural staples and livelihoods that make Cape Cod what people have come to love.

There’s an adage for writers —show, don’t tell. It’s also a fixture of successful argumentation. You can tell about the three feet of beach being lost a year on the Outer Cape, but isn’t it also better to tell the story of a prized town business claimed by the sea? The story is peppered with detail on climate change’s impact on biodiversity, homeowners, and the shellfish industry. There is also a nod to the many experts who have tried to hold the coastal effects of climate change at bay.

More often than not, you won’t even see climate coverage. According to news analysis organization Media Matters, major American broadcast networks aired a combined total of just 142 minutes of climate coverage in 2018. That’s the length of the “Shawshank Redemption,” but for a whole year. It may be because the subject is seemingly not as sexy as another Trump gaff, or the latest he said, she said on Beacon Hill. But if the story is told right, there’s an opened door of possibilities of where readers can take the issue.

Publishers and editors are realizing that. Ahead of the UN Climate Action Summit Monday, over 300 news organizations with over a billion combined readers banded together to push out hundreds of stories about climate change.

The Daily Hampshire Gazette, WBUR, the Boston Institute of Nonprofit Journalism, The Christian Science MonitorHarvard Business Review, and DigBoston rounded out the Massachusetts delegation on that front, telling stories about how Chelsea became a community ripe for environmental justice, how farmers are faring in the Pioneer Valley, and if New England’s reliance on nuclear power should be questioned.

It’s the first time in the area there has been this sort of continued, combined effort. And even if many of the flashiest headlines in national news are about the empowered words of Swedish activist Greta Thunberg, readers begin to focus their attention when the issue washes up to their doorway.

Joe the Plumber may not care about what’s going on in international climate politics, but he knows his neighbor’s flood insurance rate went up.

Read the full Download here

« go to news