Journalism industry and climate crisis

Posted on Posted in Blog

In the latest update of the style guide of The Guardian newspaper, journalists are recommended to use the terms: crisis, collapse or climate emergency to address the issue of climate change and the environment. These guidelines in the words of its editor Katherine Viner, represent the recognition of the magnitude and urgency of the problem: “We want to make sure that we are being scientifically accurate, at the same time that we communicate clearly with the readers on this important issue”.

This terminological update also conceptually affects the terms used to define the elevation of the Earth’s temperature, global warming, redefining “global warming” by “global heating” and “Climate skeptic” by “Climate science denier”. Other media have also joined this initiative. The BBC acknowledged that on many occasions the issue of the environment was not adequately formulated and, it was necessary, that in its media coverage, the denial of climate change should be omitted from the scientific evidence that certifies it.

Man-made climate change exists: If the science proves it we should report it. The BBC accepts that the best science on the issue is the IPCC’s position…

Be aware of ‘false balance’: As climate change is accepted as happening, you do not need a ‘denier’ to balance the debate. Although there are those who disagree with the IPCC’s position, very few of them now go so far as to deny that climate change is happening. To achieve impartiality, you do not need to include outright deniers of climate change in BBC coverage, in the same way, you would not have someone denying that Manchester United won 2-0 last Saturday”

The correct use of language to define and contextualize a situation is fundamental to address the problem in its proper dimension; of the neutrality and conceptual inaccuracy and without temporal references of “climate change” to the connotation of the seriousness of the problem and its urgency “Crisis or climatic emergency”. From the doubt and distrust of the skeptical “Climate skeptic” to the roundness of the scientific denial “climate science denier”.

But the measures taken by these two means of communication not only affect the semantic level but also affect the positioning of the newspaper industry and the information treatment. If we consider the prominent role played by the media, both in the public sphere and in the political agenda, the Guardian and BBC’s commitment to position the environment in the establishment of the information agenda is the first step to contribute to the generation of social knowledge, public awareness, and transformation of social attitudes and values.

Despite the ideological determinism of these two media in environmental matters, in general, the climate crisis is far from being an information priority for the newspaper industry, both in its coverage of information and in its treatment. To this day, there is still narrative inertia based on the confused and ambiguous discourse of climate change.

Faced with the changing and hopeless reality that we live, it is evident the necessary complicity of the media in scientific literacy and in the understanding and awareness of the complexity of the problem of the climate crisis.