You might have been dismayed to note that on May 6, 2019, the day the royal baby was born in London, the United Nations released a summary of a major new report warning that human destruction of the natural world, including through climate change, now threatens up to a million species with extinction. CBS was the only national broadcast network that ran a segment on the biodiversity report that night.
Many felt that mainstream media had not done enough to cover climate change and a paper from the Columbia Journalism Review in 2019 addressed this issue brilliantly and in-depth.
Subsequently they and The Nation, in partnership with The Guardian, created the Covering Climate Now project to encourage media to focus on climate change coverage between September 16-23, 2019. By September 2020, CCN had 400 news outlets as partners with a combined audience approaching 2 billion people. One stunning non-profit, InsideClimate News, also partnered, in the spring of 2019, with fourteen newsrooms in nine mid-western states, publishing articles on three climate-related themes: agriculture, transportation and the electric grid. The results are fabulous.
Climate Desk is another multi-media journalistic collaboration dedicated to exploring the impact—human, environmental, economic, political—of a changing climate. The partners are: The Atlantic, Atlas Obscura, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, CityLab, Grist, The Guardian, High Country News, HuffPost, Medium, Mother Jones, National Observer, Newsweek, Reveal, Slate, The Weather Channel, Undark, Wired and Yale Envirnoment 360 .
TIME distinguished themselves in 2019 as well, selecting Greta Thunberg as the 2019 Person of the Year, and later published Bill McKibben in a “double” issue titled 2050: How Earth Survived on September 23, 2019.
One of the key newspapers on our list is The New York Times, which published nearly 800 articles about climate change in 2018. At the end of 2019, The Times made available a stunning compilation of their best climate change stories from that year.
As national print media evolved into digital, video, and audible delivery of news, some other remarkable results have emerged such as this multi-media series at The Washington Post in 2019, Gone in a Generation.
What about 2020? Wired Magazine, in the midst of the Coronavirus madness, marked the 50th anniversary of Earth Day by devoting their entire April issue to climate change…as did National Geographic. CNN marked it as well, broadcasting what Mark Hertsgaard called, one of the “very best pieces of climate journalism ever run by a mainstream US news organization”: The Road to Change: America’s Climate Crisis, with Bill Weir.
On July 9, 2020, Time ran another cover story exploring how the coronavirus pandemic would affect our ability to focus on climate change in Justin Worland’s stunning piece, One Last Chance, The Defining Year for the Planet.
The New Yorker chose October to publish The Fragile Earth edited by David Remmick, an anthology of their amazing reporting on climate change over the past three decades — from Bill McKibben, writing one year after James Hansen first warned a Senate committee about climate change in 1988, to Pulitizer Prize winners Elizabeth Kolbert, Kathryn Schulz, and essays by Jonathan Franzen, Ian Frazier, and more.
In late December, as 2020 came to a close, The New York Times posted this stunning interactive roundup from their climate desk.
What's new in 2021? Who can deny the power of Bill McKibben in The New Yorker on 1/22/2021 as he wrote “To Counter Climate Change, We Need to Stop Burning Things."
And, would you believe that in June, 2021, The Weather Channel had a new forecast: More viewers want climate change news! They even plan to “retool their morning program, ‘America’s Morning Headquarters’ so that its largest segment, between 7am and 10am eastern, offers ‘more storytelling, more video, more discussion about climate sustainability.” And, that’s not all. Media across the country covered the incredible heat oppressing the Pacific Northwest this June and July and Carbon Brief, one of our best sources of climate news, covered their coverage--simultaneously explaining the connection of climate change with this unprecedented heat.
What’s New in 2022?
- In the Spring, Frontline launched on PBS an incredible 3-part series on the Power of Big Oil , discussing the industry which has long used its money to buy the appearance of grassroots public support for its policy preferences.
- In September, after Fiona was more or less done, Hurricane Ian hit and coverage by corporate news was extensive and voluminous. Media Matters took a look in order to discover how much climate change was included in the 57 hours of coverage between September 24-28. It was mentioned 46 times. Seven of those mentions, appearing on Fox News, were in the context of climate denial.
- In October Covering Climate announced the winners of their second annual journalism awards honoring journalists producing "the strongest coverage of the onrushing climate emergency." Justin Worland, senior correspondent for TIME, was named Climate Journalist of the Year. Award winners will be featured in a one-hour special hosted by Al Roker, co-host of NBC News’ TODAY and Savannah Sellers, host of NBC’s Stay Tuned and NBC News NOW anchor. It will air on October 25, 2022 on the WORLD Channel, which is broadcast by 191 public television stations nationwide.
What’s new in 2023?
Major print media created some stunning special reports on climate – all in August. First, The New York Times blew us out of the water with The Energy Transition, bringing together journalists --with expertise in climate change, politics, regulation and the energy and automobile industries-- who synthesized information gathered from around the country: The Clean Energy Future is Arriving Faster Than You Think here; The Clean Energy Future is Roiling Both Friends and Foes; The Clean Energy Future is a Battle for Hearts and Minds.
The following week, The Los Angeles Times published their own special section: How bad the climate crisis gets is still up to us. We just have to act. Sammy Roth led off reminding us that even as California was ahead of the game two decades ago, we need to work a lot harder now; the staff brought in experts to work on how; Rosanna Xia reimagined California’s vanishing coastline; Dorany Pineda gave us a snapshot of California “big five climate threats,” what’s being done, and where we are falling short. And, then there were guides on solar, EVs, eco-friendly toys and more.
A week later, Wired joined in recapping the summer in 10 alarming maps and graphs as it gathered together the harrowing stories of those months – on the staggering heat both land and ocean endured, the droughts, the wildfires and consequent smoke, the precipitation, the tropical storms, the flooding.
Already in early July, the hottest month in recorded history, CCR did a People Are Talking About…the unprecedented rain, floods, fires, smoke and deadly heat which you can see here.