Today journalists, including science journalists, are shying away from covering climate: some say it is demoralizing, others that it is boring, not concerning enough, out of our grasp… But we cannot afford to tiptoe around one of the main issues of our times; and indeed there is no reason to do so : I am convinced that if journalists bring their imaginations, reflections and experiences together, we can find interesting and innovative ways to tackle climate change coverage.
I would like to contribute two modest thoughts on how we should frame this issue. First we should not frame it in an apocalyptic manner, but as a risk management issue. For instance we should not say that if the US withdraws from the Paris agreement we will have hunger, wars and mass migrations, but rather that we will increase the risk of severe impacts that will be hard to manage. This is both closer to the truth (especially given the many uncertainties) and less discouraging.
Second we should really convert whenever possible to “solutions journalism”, i.e. highlighting responses (and responders, hence characters) when we talk about climate, at all scales. Research shows that discussing solutions actually helps explaining the problems better, as the public pays more attention (highlighting responses also means showing their limits and criticizing them).
I am sure there are many more ideas and experiences out there to cover climate in an appealing way. It is very important that we share them because journalists from a wide variety of fields (politics, economy, energy…) will have to cover climate more and more, and it is in part our responsibility as science journalists to show them that there are interesting and informative ways to do it.
(Voice of Jens Degett)
Yves Sciama is a French freelance science journalist and writer with nearly 20 years of experience. Trained in biology and science journalism, he has covered most fields of life and environmental sciences, from climate to health.
He collaborates closely with “Science et Vie”, the first French-language science magazine by readership, but continues publishing in other important media such as Le Monde. He has also done some documentary writing and website designing, and is the author of several books. In 2013/2014 he was awarded a Knight Science Journalism Fellowship at MIT. Yves also belongs to the board of AJSPI, the French association of science journalists.
A voice from the Triangulation through Science Communication project.