In August, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released its latest report on the state of our planet’s climate. The report, compiled by a team of more than 200 scientists, was summarized by U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres as a “code red for humanity.”
The findings are “a reality check,” said Valérie Masson-Delmotte, a climate scientist at the University of Paris-Saclay and co-chair of the panel that produced the report. “We now have a much clearer picture of the past, present, and future climate, which is essential for understanding where we are headed, what can be done, and how we can prepare.” Global surface temperature has increased faster since 1970 than in any other 50-year period over at least the last 2,000 years, the report found.
On Earth Day 2021, Local Media Association launched the Covering Climate Collaborative with leading partners in climate science and 22 local news organizations. After publication of the IPCC report, those news outlets worked to connect the dots between the global trends and what the report meant for their local audiences.
WBEZ in Chicago looked at the “Local Reaction From Chicago To U.N. Climate Change Report”. Meanwhile, at New Mexico PBS, Laura Paskus hosted a Facebook Live to discuss the report’s findings.
In Texas, KSAT in San Antonio tackled the report in two different stories, including one explaining “How will global warming impact Texas climate?” In another piece — “5 takeaways from the major new report on climate change from IPCC” — meteorologist Sarah Spivey helped answer questions about the report and what it meant for the local community.
“Since the IPCC and its scientists are largely viewed as the world’s foremost authority on climate change, it was very important to relay their findings to our viewers,” Spivey said. “The sixth assessment is so dense, and hardly anyone has the opportunity or time to comb through its 3,500+ pages. We felt it would be best to present their findings in five quick ‘takeaways.’”
“We were particularly struck with the very serious tone in the sixth assessment,” she continued, “and the strong wording directly tying humans to climate change, as well as the attribution of single weather events to climate change.”
As part of its reporting, KSAT, along with other newsrooms in the collaborative such as ABC15 in Phoenix, used resources from the Covering Climate Collaborative’s science partners SciLine and Climate Central — both of which released timely resources including expert interviews and data visualizations. ABC15’s report made clear: “Latest climate report shows that human activities are increasing CO2 and warming the planet.”
“When the IPCC report that highlighted human activities are increasing CO2 concentrations and warming our planet, it was imperative to show what that means for our future,” said Jorge Torres, ABC15 meteorologist. “In the West, prolonged heat waves and droughts will affect how we live here.”
Across the collaborative, from the Great Lakes to the Gulf Coast, local newsrooms worked hard to clearly distill the IPCC report’s findings and explain why it matters to their communities. For the Times-Picayune / The Advocate in New Orleans and Baton Rouge, Louisiana, reporting focused on sea level rise and extreme weather: “Rising seas, stronger hurricanes: Climate report paints grim picture for south Louisiana”.
“We recognized that the IPCC findings would need to be explained to our readers, as many of its conclusions will have a direct effect on their lives in both the near-term and long term,” said Mark Schleifstiein, environment reporter for The Times-Picayune / The New Orleans Advocate. This includes “the very existence of many cities and towns along Louisiana’s coast” facing sea level rise, he said, along with more intense rainfall.
And while some audience responses may continue to deny the science, despite the IPCC’s expertise, both Schleifstein and Spivey noted their reporting resonated with readers — and it’s clear local audiences value and care about dedicated, expert climate reporting.
“The story seemed to do well online,” Schleifstein said. It “even resulted in six online viewers subscribing.”
“The responses have been positive, even with viewers offering suggestions to combat climate change,” Torres added.
“Several folks have thanked me for taking the time to explain the report,” said Spivey, “and for highlighting the importance of understanding climate change.”