We need better journalism to tackle climate change

We need better journalism to tackle climate change

Let’s start with something uncontroversial: good decisions start with good information.

Managing your finances starts with gathering information in a budget. If you’re playing a sport, you seek out feedback from a coach. Nutritional information on food packages makes it easier to decide what to eat.

But there is one area of life where the link between good information and good decisions has broken down: climate change.

There are many theories as to why this is the case. Some blame the melodramatic messaging of climate campaigners. Some say our political system isn’t set up to address a truly global challenge. Some even say the information basis for making decisions to address climate change is flawed, there is still a lack of scientific evidence that global warming is created by human activity, and that the rapidly changing climate is not going to do untold damage.

The doubts cast on the warning of climate scientists are demonstrably false, but their persistence is evidence of a serious problem. If the scientific consensus on global heating is as clear as anything in science can ever be – and it is – why do so many people still feel compelled to minimise, delay, nitpick and quibble?

The problem is not the quality of scientific information itself, it’s the inability of the media to convey the level of certainty and the gravity of the problem. It is a failure of journalists and journalism, of those who see climate stories as a turn-off; of those who confuse impartiality with repeating false claims. It’s a failure fuelled by cynical social media companies that use algorithms to drive division and make money out of muddying the waters.

To put it simply, we are stuck because our flawed information ecosystem has so far proved unable to communicate a clear and urgent message based on science.

We need to build a better form of media, a trusted source that communicates complexity to a wide audience. The Conversation was created to do just that. We only publish academic experts who are writing in their area of expertise. We team them with professional journalists who are committed to upholding high ethical standards, and who also know how to communicate effectively to a wide audience.

We work with colleagues across the media and in libraries and schools and government to ensure that students and citizens have access to the most up-to-date information presented in a way that is easy to understand.

One example: we recently published an article by the scientist and IPCC author Joëlle Gergis. She wrote that if current policies are continued, with no increase in ambition, there is a 90% chance the Earth will warm between 2.3°C and 4.5°C, with a best estimate of 3.5°C. She concluded that, despite what you hear on the news, the scientific reality is the planet is still on track for catastrophic levels of warming and an “intergenerational crime against humanity.”

For there to be any hope policy-makers will make better decisions, we first need to arm them with reliable information from bona fide experts. And to do that, we need your help.

The Conversation exists to provide the vital information we need to make better decisions, for free, for whoever needs it. You can help us by making a donation of whatever you can afford so we can ensure that everyone has access to the information they need to make better decisions.

The post “We need better journalism to tackle climate change” by Misha Ketchell, Editor, The Conversation was published on 06/12/2024 by theconversation.com