Today, over 250 news outlets from around the planet, with a combined reach of over 1 billion people, are banding together to ramp up media coverage of the climate crisis.
The Covering Climate Now campaign, launching September 16, was co-founded by the Columbia Journalism Review and The Nation with the aim of strengthening the media’s focus on the climate emergency facing us all. Corporate Knights is one of several Canadian media outlets to join the campaign. That means we’ve committed to running a week’s worth of climate coverage in the lead-up to the United Nations Climate Action Summit in New York on September 23. It’s one of a number of editorial commitments Corporate Knights has made to bring the climate crisis to the fore.
In May of this year, the U.K.’s Guardian newspaper updated its style guide to introduce terms that more accurately describe the environmental crises facing the world. That month, Corporate Knights updated its editorial policy as well. Although the term climate change may still be used, we’re now encouraging our writers to use terms such as “climate crisis,” “climate emergency,” and even “climate chaos.”
The time has come to call this crisis what it is. The term “climate change” was initially whipped up in the early 2000s by renowned Republican pollster and strategist Frank Luntz as a term less likely to raise public concern. As the Guardian noted, “In 2002, Luntz wrote a memo to [President] Bush urging him and the rest of his party to use the term ‘climate change’ instead of ‘global warming.’ Climate change sounded ‘less frightening,’ he pointed out, ‘like you’re going from Pittsburgh to Fort Lauderdale.’” The rebranding stuck.
Then one December night in 2017, Luntz had to evacuate his Los Angeles home as wildfires ripped through southern California. “I opened the curtains to my bedroom and there it was, less than a mile away. Flames lighting the nighttime sky,” said Lutz in his testimony to a congressional hearing on action this summer. “The courageous firefighters of Los Angeles saved my home, but others aren’t so lucky. Rising sea levels, melting ice caps, tornadoes and hurricanes are more ferocious than ever.”
He’s now lobbying for decisive climate action. During a July congressional hearing entitled “The Right Thing To Do: Conservatives for Climate Action,” Lutz said, “as someone who polls and presents to both Republican and Democratic leaders, I know — we all know — that climate change has become a partisan issue.” Lutz had some decent advice for bridging the divide. Instead of focusing on the consequences of inaction, he said, “What the American people really want to know are the benefits to our health, our safety and our economy if we take action now…Telling them how they will personally benefit is a much more effective call to action.”
Those calls to action are growing louder. We’re realizing the world isn’t prepared for even the 2 degrees Celsius rise that the Paris Climate Agreement is trying to stave off. Last year, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reported that to keep global temperatures below a 1.5C rise this century, carbon dioxide emissions will have to be slashed by 45% by 2030. That gives us ten years to dramatically shift towards a thriving new green economy.
Corporate Knights is committed to drawing important climate solutions into the spotlight. But to achieve that 2030 goal, leaders from around the world have been clear that the next 18 months are critical. As Prince Charles told the Commonwealth Foreign Ministers recently, “I am firmly of the view that the next 18 months will decide our ability to keep climate change to survivable levels and to restore nature to the equilibrium we need for our survival.”
The next opportunity to firm up global action is at the special climate summit called by UN Secretary-General António Guterres in New York on September 23. Our government and business leaders have to demonstrate that they’re serious about climate action and we’ll be watching closely to see that they do. The clock is ticking.
Join us on our website at Corporateknights.com and follow the #CoveringClimateNow hashtag to support the hundreds of other media outlets in 32 countries uniting to throw a global spotlight on the climate emergency over the next week and beyond. Help us share these stories on social media to sound the global alarm and reinforce that this crisis can be solved if we join forces to act now.
Adria Vasil is the managing digital editor at Corporate Knights and the bestselling author of the Ecoholic book series.