This is the year we all become climate reporters

“Like the high tides invading Miami Beach, the climate change story is leaking into the newsroom.”

The devastating extreme weather events of 2021 woke up many newsrooms to the need to cover human-caused climate change in a sustained, multidisciplinary way. In short, it was a year in which publications realized they needed a climate reporter.

Some, such as ABC News and CNN, formed dedicated new teams focused on the subject this year. The Washington Post and The New York Times already had extensive resources devoted to the subject. But many news organizations, pressed for resources, still view climate through the lens of science or the environment, siloing it off from the business desk, politics, entertainment, and more.

In the wake of the Glasgow Climate Pact, which was long on promises and short on specifics, extreme weather and climate events will increasingly force reporters’ and editors’ hands, demanding more sustained coverage.

But like the high tides invading Miami Beach, the climate change story is leaking into the newsroom. Climate now is just as much a business and foreign policy story as it is a science topic. Local reporters need to be adept at spotting climate impacts in their communities and telling stories about the people affected by them. Business reporters need to understand the risks to the economy of potential stranded assets as oil and gas companies have to shift — perhaps suddenly — to renewables, leaving many of their proven, valuable reserves in the ground.

National security reporters are already covering climate conflicts, they just might not realize it yet. The geopolitical risks from the destabilizing impacts of climate, including water stress, migration, and severe storms mean that foreign reporters will have to be climate literate.

There have never been so many resources to help journalists tell climate stories, either. For example, investigative journalists can now take advantage of new datasets coming online from satellite companies, such as measurements of carbon dioxide and methane emissions. Working with data reporters, this information can help identify countries and even individual cities and companies that are not living up to their emissions reduction commitments.

In the next few years, a news company — think CNN, The Washington Post, or the LA Times — will take advantage of the decreased cost of accessing space to launch its own Earth-observing satellite, and use its data in storytelling and to sign up subscriptions. Instead of a local TV station advertising a new “Super Doppler 9000” radar for its weather center, I expect media promos about methane-detection satellites to start running in 2022 or 2023.

Andrew Freedman covers climate and energy for Axios.

The devastating extreme weather events of 2021 woke up many newsrooms to the need to cover human-caused climate change in a sustained, multidisciplinary way. In short, it was a year in which publications realized they needed a climate reporter.

Some, such as ABC News and CNN, formed dedicated new teams focused on the subject this year. The Washington Post and The New York Times already had extensive resources devoted to the subject. But many news organizations, pressed for resources, still view climate through the lens of science or the environment, siloing it off from the business desk, politics, entertainment, and more.

In the wake of the Glasgow Climate Pact, which was long on promises and short on specifics, extreme weather and climate events will increasingly force reporters’ and editors’ hands, demanding more sustained coverage.

But like the high tides invading Miami Beach, the climate change story is leaking into the newsroom. Climate now is just as much a business and foreign policy story as it is a science topic. Local reporters need to be adept at spotting climate impacts in their communities and telling stories about the people affected by them. Business reporters need to understand the risks to the economy of potential stranded assets as oil and gas companies have to shift — perhaps suddenly — to renewables, leaving many of their proven, valuable reserves in the ground.

National security reporters are already covering climate conflicts, they just might not realize it yet. The geopolitical risks from the destabilizing impacts of climate, including water stress, migration, and severe storms mean that foreign reporters will have to be climate literate.

There have never been so many resources to help journalists tell climate stories, either. For example, investigative journalists can now take advantage of new datasets coming online from satellite companies, such as measurements of carbon dioxide and methane emissions. Working with data reporters, this information can help identify countries and even individual cities and companies that are not living up to their emissions reduction commitments.

In the next few years, a news company — think CNN, The Washington Post, or the LA Times — will take advantage of the decreased cost of accessing space to launch its own Earth-observing satellite, and use its data in storytelling and to sign up subscriptions. Instead of a local TV station advertising a new “Super Doppler 9000” radar for its weather center, I expect media promos about methane-detection satellites to start running in 2022 or 2023.

Andrew Freedman covers climate and energy for Axios.

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