Hot climate for the RISJ in Cancun
The RISJ's new book on reporting climate change in the media received ample coverage and discussion at various side events during the UN summit on climate change in the Mexican sea resort of Cancun (see publication here).James Painter, the report's lead author, formed part of a panel at four separate events, and was interviewed for other publications. First off was a very well attended event organised on 2 December by the Climate Change Media Partnership, which attracted dozens of journalists from developing countries.
James gave a presentation on the main findings of the study, which were then discussed by Andy Revkin, until recently the New York Times environment correspondent, Dr Max Boykoff from the University of Colorado at Boulder, and Margot Roosevelt from the Los Angeles Times, amongst others.
This was followed by a dash across Cancun to the Climate Change village to take part in another event, this time with other Oxford University based academics on research they have been carrying out on different aspects of climate change. The event did not attract a lot of attendees, but it did make it to the front page of the official Mexican government coverage of Cancun.
The British Council, who had provided considerable assistance to the RISJ study, held a side event at the Ritz Carlton on the Saturday (4 December), on the difficulties of communicating climate change. The event had speakers representing business, youth, women and the UN, while James gave a talk on the media’s approach to reporting climate change, and why they find it difficult. Again, the event was very well-attended, showing just how much interest there is from governments, NGOs, and professionals in the topic.
Finally, an event on Tuesday 7 December organised by the NGO Avina attracted a high profile list of speakers and attendees on the subject of how to get the media and civil society interested in issues like climate change and environmental sustainability in the run-up to the Rio Summit in 2012. In the morning sessions, the speaker line-up included the former Brazilian environment minister, Marina Silva, who won 20% of the vote in the recent presidential elections.
She was joined by the president of WWF International, Yolanda Kakabadse, and Fabio Feldman, 2010 candidate for Governor of São Paulo. In the second session Leonardo Boff, probably Latin America's most famous Liberation Theologian, gave a short talk on how religion and science are not at odds over climate change. As part of this session, James was asked to give a short account of the main findings of ‘Summoned by Science’, and how the Latin American media may or may not increase their interest in the environment.
James also gave an interview to one of the leading internet forums on climate change and the media in the USA (The Observatory run by the Columbia School of Journalism) about the findings of the study, and how the reporting of Cancun was likely to be very different to that of Copenhagen last year. There 4,000 journalists had turned up, whereas in Cancun there were fewer than half that amount.
The lower number of journalists – and of NGOs – contributed to much less of a 'hot house' atmosphere. This may be one of the reasons why the negotiators were able to agree to an (admittedly thin) new deal on curbing greenhouse gas emissions.