Reporting on the Climate Crisis

(By Sabine Kortals Stein)

If you believe in democracy and self-governance, journalism is a sacred trust, and the climate story is the biggest, defining story of our time – it concerns all of us. In newsrooms everywhere, the climate beat is every journalist’s beat – from business and politics to agriculture, energy and weather. How the story is told should inspire empowerment and action, from weatherizing your house to changing the agricultural practices of local rural areas.

Mark Hertsgaard, Co-Founder & Executive Director, Covering Climate Now

On August 15, California-based author and renown environmental correspondent Mark Hertsgaard – along with Nepalese climate and wildlife journalist Abhaya Raj Joshi – kicked off a five-seminar series at on how to tell the climate story with urgency, innovation and creativity. Specifically, Hertsgaard introduced the 15 seminar participants to the online portal that curates the climate stories of some 400 media outlets worldwide.

“It’s a one-stop resource for anyone who wants to keep track of happenings in climate change,” says 2019 Robert Bosch Foundation Fellow and journalist Priti Salian in the first online seminar hosted by the Indo-German Media Network (IGMN) within the Bosch Alumni Network. Indeed, she perceives such thematic information-sharing hubs as key to more broadly based climate reporting: “As I gain more insights and immerse myself into this new-to-me genre, I hope to be able to incorporate climate change into a lot of my reporting.”

According to Cologne-based co-organizer Sonja Ernst, journalist and Bosch Alumni Network member, the objective of the seminar series is exactly that: to enable media professionals to take a critical approach to climate storytelling. ”Climate-related news is no longer relegated to the environment or science sections of news outlets,” she says. “It’s making front-page headlines, and it’s imperative for journalists – as well as scientists – to clearly communicate the climate emergency in a manner that’s relatable to all age groups and lay persons. We’re providing global context and practical skills to help journalists maximize the impact of their reporting.”

To that end, the first seminar focused on what kinds of reporting collaborations already exist, and how to better frame climate stories in human- and solutions-focused ways.

“The silence around climate change is over,” adds Hertsgaard, “It’s finally mainstream and the Green New Deal is no longer a political loser – no one wants to appear behind the curve. That’s a real breakthrough, opening the door to solve the climate emergency; and yes, we need to aggressively frame the climate story as an emergency. Anything less than that – like not connecting the dots between extreme weather events and climate change – is media malpractice.”

What’s next

Remaining seminars in the Reporting on the Climate Crisis series will further encourage knowledge-sharing and raise awareness around underreported climate concerns:

  • Seminar #2 (Nov. 21): Fact checking climate stories
    Climate change stories are packed with scientific data. How – and using what tools – can reporters ensure accurate conclusions?
  • Seminar #3: Climate change & health
    What are the major health impacts of climate extremes? How does a public health issue – e.g., the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic – affect climate change, alter attitudes and influence policymaking?
  • Seminar #4: Climate change & migration
    What’s the impact of global warming on migration? Who are climate refugees, and what’s the best way to report on climate and migration?
  • Seminar #5: New technologies to tell climate stories

Data, drones, sensors, augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) – what technologies strengthen climate change reporting?

In sum, participants will gain new tools and perspectives that point the way toward trans-sectoral collaboration among journalists worldwide, building momentum around a topic that is one of the most urgent concerns of our time. Capacity strengthening for climate reporting – including this seminar series – is both timely and essential.