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Welcome to the Future of Climate Coverage, Where the Journalists Are the Activists


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In late September, with hundreds of journalists watching, Covering Climate Now co-founder Mark Hertsgaard began a two-day media conference with a call to arms.


Climate change, he told attendees at Columbia Journalism School, isn't just a "problem" or "crisis." It's an emergency—one that requires breathless, around-the-clock coverage. Think COVID, Hertsgaard said, except it's the planet that's sick.

"We know how to cover emergencies—we cover them a lot. … We saw that during COVID, right?" Hertsgaard said in a session titled, "The State of Climate Journalism: Issuing a Call to Action."

It’s an interesting comparison. During COVID, the press, at the direction of various "experts," ruthlessly policed its own coverage. The possibility that the virus leaked from a lab, now considered the most likely scenario for its emergence, was roundly derided as a conspiracy theory. Those who questioned the utility of paper masks and the costs of remote learning were scorned. And in a cautionary tale about the mainstream media’s approach to "the science," the University of Pennsylvania scientist who pioneered mRNA vaccines spent years in the scientific wilderness, enduring sneers and abuse from the scientific establishment. She just won the Nobel Prize in medicine.

For most people, this isn’t a story of journalistic triumph. For Hertsgaard, a journalist and the author of Hot: Living Through the Next Fifty Years on Earth, it is a template, and he now spends his time telling other journalists exactly how to cover global warming. Some might say that is not very journalistic, but nobody seems to be complaining.:snip:

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