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  • Vanessa Bartlett

Climate Scientists Are Getting Desperate - But Where Was the Media?

Around the world, climate scientists held peaceful protests to demand climate action. These protests were timed to coincide with the release of a U.N. report which shows that anthropogenic climate change is driving up global temperatures at rates that spell disaster for all life on earth.

FOX, CNN, MSNBC, ABC, NBC. I searched each of their news sites for any reporting on the recent international protest held by over 1,000 climate scientists. Nothing.

On Wednesday April 6, scientists chained themselves to the doors of financial institutions, blocked bridges, and held protests from L.A. to Copenhagen. Many ended up being arrested for demonstrating, including Peter Kalmus, who wrote an op-ed for the Guardian about the state of the climate crisis.

Kalmus locked himself to the entrance of the L.A. JP Morgan-Chase building and was arrested alongside three colleagues; he also documented the response of LAPD, who sent “at least 100 cops in riot gear” to deal with the peaceful protest.

Sure, it was a relatively small protest - but the implications are staggering. Scientists have been waiting patiently for the world to catch up to their point of view. Climate change denial is becoming an increasingly fringe perspective - but acceptance that the world needs to change in order to avert disaster is the next, and arguably hardest, step towards fixing the problem.

According to a new poll, only 18% of Americans are in denial about anthropogenic climate change. More than half are either “concerned” or “alarmed” by the implications of climate change.

This shift in opinion comes just in time, as the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report which sparked this protest effort confirms. Despite the guidelines laid out in the Paris Climate Agreement(which are in no way binding or enforceable for any signatory nation) , carbon emissions for the period between 2010-2019 were the highest in human history.

Currently, we are on track to double the warming limit of 1.5 degrees Celsius agreed upon in the Paris Climate Agreement. It highlights a huge gap between the promises made to limit carbon emissions and the harsh reality that, in fact, we are continuing to invest in and expand our use of fossil fuels across all sectors.

All of this is surely enough fodder for a snappy headline, interviews with scientists, and more attention in general towards the U.N. report. Even for the most cynical editor, one would think that a few hundred thousand clicks on articles on the subject would be incentive enough.

But U.S. media seems to be in lock-step in their determination not to shed light on the subject. By not reporting on this protest, and the wider issue that protestors seek to address, they’re sending a clear message - they do not care.

I’m not saying that every single journalist should cease reporting on anything that isn’t about climate change - important stories are being told every day by brilliant newshounds. But the media at large does have a duty to cover this issue with much more dedication.

A phrase I’ve heard countless times (and I mean COUNTLESS TIMES) in my journalistic career is the constant reminder that good journalism should “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.”

Well, everyone is about to be severely afflicted by climate change related disasters. J.P. Morgan is sitting comfortably (as big banks tend to do) atop a pile of new investments in fossil fuel infrastructure. What’s not clicking?

Could it be that the news, particularly (but certainly not exclusively) print journalism, which is perennially “dying”, is being monopolized by the uber-wealthy?

Jeff Bezos’ relationship with the Washington Post comes to mind. In general, the media industry is being swallowed up by large corporations with murky financial interests.

Essentially, we’re at the point where the rubber must meet the road if we are going to address climate change. News outlets have a decision to make too. What should be prioritized? Their bottom line, or our shared fate?

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