Major News Outlets Pledge to Call ‘Climate Change’ a ‘Climate Emergency’
By Craig Bannister
A number of major news organizations worldwide, ranging from Scientific American and The Columbia Journalism Review to The Guardian and Al Jazeera, have signed a pledge to begin referring to “climate change” as a “climate emergency” in their reporting.
“Scientific American has agreed with major news outlets worldwide to start using the term ‘climate emergency’ in its coverage of climate change,” the publication announced Monday in a tweet to its 3.9 million followers touting “the impact we hope it can have throughout the media landscape.”
“We Are Living in a Climate Emergency, and We’re Going to Say So,” the headline of a Scientific American commentary published Monday declares. Claiming that that climate change is “the biggest environmental emergency to beset the earth in millennia,” the piece announces the name change:
“Given the circumstances, Scientific American has agreed with major news outlets worldwide to start using the term ‘climate emergency’ in its coverage of climate change.”
Scientific American reports that the media organizations have signed a statement “coordinated by Covering Climate Now, a global journalism initiative with more than 400 media partners.” Signatories include:
- Scientific American,
- Columbia Journalism Review,
- The Nation,
- The Guardian,
- Noticias Telemundo,
- Al Jazeera,
- Asahi Shimbun, and
- La Repubblica
“Why ‘emergency’? Because words matter. To preserve a livable planet, humanity must take action immediately,” the statement says.
“The media’s response to Covid-19 provides a useful model,” the statement advises, noting how media were able to control the narrative and compel Americans to comply with safety mandates by referring to the pandemic as an “emergency.”
While the statement does not expressly forbid the use of the term “climate change,” it requires that it be referred to as being a “climate emergency.”
Climate Coverage Now’s full statement of agreement to coordinate climate coverage is presented below:
COVERING CLIMATE NOW STATEMENT ON THE CLIMATE EMERGENCY
Journalism should reflect what the science says: the climate emergency is here.
It’s time for journalism to recognize that the climate emergency is here.
This is a statement of science, not politics.
Thousands of scientists—including James Hansen, the NASA scientist who put the problem on the public agenda in 1988, and David King and Hans Schellnhuber, former science advisers to the British and German governments, respectively— have said humanity faces a “climate emergency.”
Why “emergency”? Because words matter. To preserve a livable planet, humanity must take action immediately. Failure to slash the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere will make the extraordinary heat, storms, wildfires, and ice melt of 2020 routine and could “render a significant portion of the Earth uninhabitable,” warned a recent Scientific American article.
The media’s response to Covid-19 provides a useful model. Guided by science, journalists have described the pandemic as an emergency, chronicled its devastating impacts, called out disinformation, and told audiences how to protect themselves (with masks, for example).
We need the same commitment to the climate story.
We, the undersigned, invite journalists and news organizations everywhere to add your name to this Covering Climate Now statement on the climate emergency.