Where Are the Headlines?

The Paris climate agreement global warming target is “well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius.” Over 190 states, including the European Union, have signed the Paris climate agreement and pledged to reduce climate warming.

However, as seen by the figure (climate action tracker), the gap between credibility, action, and commitment is massive. Even if we look at the Paris agreement’s highly optimistic goal, it will limit global warming to two degrees which will still cause high species extinction and sea-level rise. Limiting it to three degrees, which is expected, would mean that today’s coastlines will largely be gone, leading to high frequency and severity of floods -  there will also be extreme heatwaves, drought, and storms.

Yet why is it? Although climate change is the greatest threat to terrestrial life, the topic has relatively low coverage in media. Shouldn’t the media present things of great urgency like it did with Covid-19, presenting it on main pages, with case trackers? If you see a storm in front of you, the very first thing you’ll do is take action to remove yourself from harm’s way. Yet humanity is facing its greatest storm, and no pledges are being followed through; the media, which formulates public opinions, prefers to put Johnson decisions, rape cases on the front page rather than what is of great urgency. Not only that, but particular media outlets ignore basic scientific literature and state things like it's too complicated, disheartening, or controversial.

The climate emergent statement issued by CCnow states that “It is time for journalism to recognize that the climate emergency is here”. The statement has referenced multiple reliable sources. A lot of media outlets have signed that statement; however, according to The Guardian major private outlets have rejected signing it. Apparently the phrase “climate emergency” sounded like activism, they said; endorsing it might make them look biased.

This dilemma shows us the nature of modern news, which is that of private ownership.  Firstly, it prefers to cover information based on what it will look like to its reader to sustain readership. Secondly, it presents information in a way that aligns with the interests of its financiers. This debilitates it from doing its main function of sending and sharing objective information, which shapes public opinion. This is because most media outlets are private rather than public, and as such, they are influenced by financial sustainability, which can sometimes contradict their main function.