How the Media Failed to Report the Biggest Story in History

By Mark Campbell, Editor, GreenGreenGreen

The biggest story in the history of humankind — one that will affect absolutely everyone on this planet, causing millions to die and hundreds of millions to be displaced — has passed largely without any justified screaming or panic.

Which is quite incredible. And incredibly depressing.

The story had been told before, admittedly, but the latest update was more devastating than anyone had predicted.

Not that you’d necessarily be aware, as the world’s media largely pushed it to one side.

As a journalist of more than 30 years experience, I am thoroughly ashamed of my industry’s response.

And as a citizen of Planet Earth, a father and a lover of life, I recognise that this media failure has gargantuan ramifications.

We’re all in trouble (Canva Pro)

So What Is The Biggest Story Ever Told?

The Synthesis Report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) — a culmination of seven years’ in-depth study by scientific experts — basically said we’re on a path to an unliveable planet, and within the lifetime of ourselves or our children.

Unless, that is, we can somehow live vastly different, greener, cleaner lives than those we are currently living — including ditching fossil fuels immediately, and most of the population giving up meat.

This IS the biggest story ever told. The two World Wars were massive when it came to destruction of lives and properties, but the climate crisis will claim many more victims — it is already having devastating effects across the world. Study the image below. (IPCC)

Before we look at the media failures, this has to be explained…

7 Reasons Why This Is The Biggest Story Ever and Everyone Needs To Wake Up To It

  1. Climate change has been measured. Global warming has been proven by recorded temperatures, sea levels and biodiversity loss, in every country across the world. You can’t dispute any of the findings. They are facts.
  2. The ever-increasing upwards trend in temperatures has been set over many years, and is pointing towards oblivion. Global warming of 1.5C above pre-industrial levels — the tipping point for terrifying irreversible annihilation of many species and lands — is now expected to happen in the 2030s — possibly within just a decade.
  3. Even if you think global warming is not caused by humans (you are wrong), this does not change the fact that the climate is heading very quickly in a dangerous direction — and we need to do something about that. Now.
  4. Stop thinking that this is a political issue — the only politics involved in the climate crisis is the lack of action taken by politicians, of all sides. Those we elect have been the last to wake up to reality, and they still aren’t doing nearly enough to save us.
  5. It’s the job of a journalist to report the facts. When I took my first steps in journalism, this basic pillar of journalism was driven into me. You could lose your job for getting the facts wrong. Moving to a bigger media outlet, with its own political agenda, shouldn’t mean that you give up being a journalist. Do your job. Report the facts.
  6. It used to be about the life you wanted for your grandchildren. Now it’s your own children at risk. And YOU. Yes, it’s happening now. Millions of people are already suffering the effects of weather extremes caused by the climate crisis — from wildfires to floods to droughts. Millions more are becoming climate refugees. This problem is becoming huge.
  7. This crisis affects every single country in the world. People fleeing floods in Asia and droughts in Africa couldn’t care less which political party you have in charge — your country isn’t that important to them. They just want you to start trying to reverse the damage.

How The World’s Media ‘Covered’ The Most Frightening Report In History

To give every media outlet a chance to compile a meaningful report on such a huge story, I checked various news websites 20 hours after the story broke.

Let’s look at the UK first, where I myself am based.

Daily Mail

This website brought the first use of the word ‘doomscrolling’, I’m sure of it. Hundreds of ‘stories’ about meaningless drivel.

Anyway, scrolling forever, I couldn’t find the world’s biggest story. There was no dedicated environment section — a huge mistake in itself these days — so I clicked on Science, scrolled down and eventually found it.

Apparently The Mail does have an Environment Editor, and the story read: Time is running out for humanity to curb global warming that will plunge the planet into disastrous flooding, heatwaves and famines, a major UN report warns.

So yes, it’s been reported. In a right-wing publication. In words that are factual and terrifying. Is that message not MASSIVE, Daily Mail?! Where on earth is the news sense here — why isn’t that pinned to the top of the home page?

Daily Express

Another right-wing tabloid. Story nowhere on the home page… no dedicated environment section… I’ll check the News section.

It’s not there. Down to the footer — there’s a section for Science… not there.
Also in the footer — type in the search bar for IPCC…. NOTHING. Disgraceful.

Daily Telegraph

This ‘coverage’ directly led to a demonstration by Extinction Rebellion the following morning…

Nowhere in News or Environment, even though the Telegraph’s Daily Data section does spell out a lot of the climate crisis dangers.

Instead we get ‘Opinion’ by Matthew Lynn, a financial columnist and author, who apparently also writes for WSJ Marketwatch, The Spectator and Money Week, and has worked as a columnist for The Sunday Times and Bloomberg.

What has his vast experience led him to conclude?

The UN’s ‘scientific’ climate report is nothing more than confected hysteria

Truly. He wrote that. As an adult.

So the following morning, Extinction Rebellion sprayed green paint over the offices of The Telegraph, as well as The Mail and Newscorp, publishers of The Times and The Sun.

On that subject…

The Times

No story on the home page, but a search for IPCC unveils an article under ‘Environment’ written by an Environment Editor:
Humanity ‘on thin ice’ in race to curb emissions, warns IPCC climate change report

Again, the words ‘humanity on thin ice’ should have alerted the so-called journalists to put this one in a prominent position, and keep it there.

The Sun

Nowhere on the home page. No dedicated section for environmental stories. Not found in a search. That’s not journalism.

Let’s head to the United States…

Are too many Americans viewing their country as cut off from the rest of the world and the ravages of the climate crisis? (Canva Pro)

Fox News

We’re not expecting much here, right? I did find it, though, way down on the home page, the third story under the section ‘Weather’ — which says it all.

If I had a dollar for every time someone on the right of politics made a crazy comment relating to snow and global warming, or confused climate with weather… man, I’d be rich.

Anyway, the story’s headline ran:

‘Climate time bomb is ticking’: UN report warns world running out of time to reverse effects of climate change

And fair play, under Media, there was an interview with climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe, saying: Previous predictions about climate change ‘were not wrong’

However… this story was linked to another …

UN REPORT PREDICTING CLIMATE CATASTROPHE IN 2030 MET WITH MOCKERY: ‘EVERY SINGLE PREDICTION’ HAS BEEN WRONG’

Twitter users blasted a climate change report for continuing to warn about ‘catastrophic’ effects

Since when have Twitter users been reliable sources?

CNN

You might have expected more from CNN, but the story was nowhere to be seen on the website home page.

A search for IPCC found a story saying: 
The world is rapidly approaching catastrophic levels of heating with international climate goals set to slip out of reach unless immediate and radical action is taken, according to a new UN-backed report.

Again, if that isn’t an alarm bell sounding ‘major news’, I don’t know what is.

USA Today

Again, not on the home page. A search revealed a story with explainers:
‘Humanity is on thin ice:’ Major UN report says ‘urgent’ action is needed to combat climate change

Washington Post

Hooray, it has a dedicated climate section.

World is on brink of catastrophic warming, U.N. climate change report says

New York Times

Climate Change Is Speeding Toward Catastrophe. The Next Decade Is Crucial, U.N. Panel Says.
Not to be found on the website home page, however.

Scientific American

Scientists Just Warned We Need to Cut Emissions by 60 Percent, but the U.S. Is Years Away

(Canva Pro)

More Reaction From Around The World

It didn’t get much better…

Aljazeera

Reported the story, though not prominently.

Africa News

Check its Environment tag and there is a litter of tragic stories about floods and droughts.

But the IPCC report? Nowhere to be seen.

The Indian Express

Apparently this publication is all about ‘Journalism of Courage’. Nothing on home page, though, about the biggest disaster facing the country.

It did report, however, on the ‘key takeaways’.

The Brussels Times

New IPCC report: A grim and final warning on climate action

Again, not featured in the top stories. Incredible, if you read that headline again.

Surely There Was Some Decent Media Coverage?!

There was, let’s hand out a few credits…

The Daily Record

The front page of the Scottish left-of-centre newspaper was the only one I witnesed to attempt to capture the seriousness of the story:

Sky News

Sky in the UK has a dedicated climate section and climate podcast, and highlighted the incredibly important demand for an acceleration of action:
Rich polluting countries like UK must ‘fast forward’ net zero target by a decade, demands UN chief.

There was also expert analysis to be found, although Sky News Australia took a completely different, bizarre angle….

Atmospheric Physicist Richard Lindzen says climate change isn’t “particularly dangerous” as climate alarmism and eco-anxiety continues to escalate.

Australia does, of course, still have a powerful coal lobby, which might have something to do with that bit of nonsense.

The Guardian

Always a champion of environmental matters, realising that such things affect all life on earth, The Guardian reported:

Scientists have delivered a “final warning” on the climate crisis, as rising greenhouse gas emissions push the world to the brink of irrevocable damage that only swift and drastic action can avert.

NBC

Now or never: One of the biggest climate reports ever shows time is running out

Grid

Summed up perfectly:

The latest IPCC report on climate change is the most terrifying yet. It comes after more than 150 years of warnings.
The newest alarm from scientists is far from the first. A timeline of such calls to action demonstrates just how long the world has been dragging its heels on climate.

A similar tale of woe was told by Emily Chan…

Vogue

How Many Warnings Will It Take For The World To Wake Up To The Climate Crisis?

South China Morning Post

Some fascinating coverage here, in a land where media control is tight and emissions are on a rapid rise:

Climate change: China’s coal reliance raises alarms as UN IPCC moves net-zero deadlines ahead 10 years for 1.5-degree goal.
China’s reluctance to ditch coal due to energy-security concerns will make the country’s decarbonisation even harder, climate experts say.

And some ‘on the ground’ eye-rolling at everyone who claims there is no climate crisis…

Hindustan Times

Aditi Mukherji, IPCC Synthesis Report co-author and CGIAR Director, said South Asia is a climate hotspot and the Indian subcontinent did not really need an IPCC report to tell us how climate exposed the region is.

NHK World Japan

Journalists here focused on another key angle, not widely reported:

IPCC: Global warming could breach target by early 2030s

And emphasised high up in the story:

It says humanity is unequivocally to blame for climate change, which it says has resulted in more frequent and more extreme weather events that have caused increasingly dangerous impacts on nature and people in every region of the world.

We can make crucial decisions to fight off the climate crisis. But more people need to be on board with reality. (Canva Pro)

Conclusion

Surely a story which appears to back up, with facts, the belief that we have entered the Sixth Mass Extinction, has to be more important than anything else on Earth, right?

So why are more people not waking up to this? Denial, fear, the feeling of helplessness, all those things factor into it.

But the media plays a massive role in telling the world the truth about what is going on. Or at least it should.

Once again, sadly, the media has largely failed us all.

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