Our podcast: How journalists can better cover the climate crisis

In this episode Wolfgang Blau and Meera Selva speak about the challenges to reporting on climate change
Coal fired power, Pocerady, Czech Republic. Canva / kamilpetran

Coal fired power, Pocerady, Czech Republic. Canva / kamilpetran

28th September 2021

The topic

In this episode of our Future of Journalism podcast, we look at the news media's role in covering the climate crisis. We look at how newsrooms could be better structured to allow climate journalism to flourish, at how to ensure climate reporting is not siloed, and at the external challenges that climate reporters face in the form of trolling and disinformation.


Wolfgang Blau was the President, International and Chief Operating Officer at Condé Nast. Prior to that he was Executive Director of Digital Strategy at The Guardian and he was also Editor-in-chief of Zeit Online. As a Visiting Fellow at the Reuters Institute, Wolfgang has been exploring ways to increase journalism's capacity to cover climate change worldwide.

Meera Selva is the Deputy Director of the Institute and the Director of our Journalist Fellowship Programmes. She is an accomplished senior journalist with experience in Europe, Asia and Africa.

The podcast

Listen on Spotify | Apple | Google


A vital enquiry 

Meera: Can we start with the big picture? You've held senior management roles at some really significant publications. Why did you decide that climate change was the topic you wanted to look at more deeply?

Wolfgang: Two reasons, really. The first reason is that the topic is so urgent. Of course I was asking myself many times, including when flying around the world, and having a significant carbon footprint myself, what is the most effective thing I can do not being a scientist, not being an engineer, and not being a banker, which seemed to be three key professions, but being a media manager and journalist. And then also based on observations I've made in all these companies you have mentioned, where I found it really difficult to recruit qualified climate journalists, which is not the same as a meteorologist or a scientist, but someone who has a deeper understanding of systemic change, understands policy, and has subject matter expertise in topics such as travel, journalism, or sports, or fashion or whatever I needed them for.

The other reason was that many times, and this is something I noticed already back at Zeit Online in Germany, there is a mismatch between how many likes and shares climate journalism pieces of content often receive, and the actual reading intensity and audience engagement on the site. I dismissed that for the longest time as virtue signalling and didn't pay much attention to it, but I was very interested in what climate journalism can do to engage people more. Those were my starting questions, and then I was really happy to be invited to join the Reuters Institute as a Visiting Fellow for a while.

Meera: And tell us about your thinking during your time with us. How have you decided to approach these questions, and who have you been asking these questions?

Wolfgang: As always, I think it's best to talk to practitioners and to have really open conversations along that method of design thinking, to understand and to make sure I'm even asking the right question. So I started these conversations with climate journalists, sometimes also with managing editors, sometimes also with one of the very few climate journalism researchers of which there's a surprisingly small number around the world.

And of course I was reading, before calling them, what they have been producing in the last month to get a better idea, and then ask questions such as is your newsroom planning to expand their climate coverage anytime soon, what organisational model are you pursuing, how are you structuring your newsroom, are you creating specialist desks, or are you emphasising everyone's general climate literacy, what has your news organisation learned from covering COVID-19 as a science story that may apply to covering climate change, what do you know about your audience data, things like that.

And over time – and I made sure I speak to news organisations on all inhabited continents, and of course had a large network to tap into from my past work – over time, you see patterns emerge from the notes I took, and I made sure that the journalists I spoke with could rely on the confidentiality of these conversations, which is difficult because I was clear with them I'm not having these conversations with you out of academic interest, or wanting to make a publication. I’m a manager. I’m an operator. I want to see if there is a white spot on the map where we can support news organisations without replicating something that other very important organisations are already providing you with.

So that was the start. Then once I had formulated these assumptions, I noticed that there could be an issue with the metrics by which the success of journalism is being measured, that there could be an issue in the editorial codes of ethics, that many journalists said there's not enough clarity on how to delineate between journalism and activism, which I knew was a big issue in the US. It surprised me how much of an issue it was during my conversations in continental Europe. 

I formulated those different items into a survey in a Google form, and then shared that around the world. Various organisations such as the World Editors Forum were so kind to distribute that survey amongst their members and I received about, I think, 80 very detailed responses from a different set of people, editors-in-chiefs who took part in that personally, managing editors, producers, climate reporters... And of course they had very different views on their own respective news organisations. It was interesting to get those vastly different perspectives on how they were doing and what the issues are.

But my hands were tied a bit given the confidentiality I had promised, and so I have to be very careful in how I publish my findings now.

Inherent challenges in climate reporting

Meera: It would be really interesting to know, and let's speak in kind of themes that you've seen emerging. You touched on the issue of climate change reporting in terms of activism and journalism and that is one topic where the boundaries are often blurred or perceived to be blurred by audiences. What else is there about climate change reporting in particular that makes it such a difficult topic to get right, engage with, and implement in a newsroom?

Wolfgang: The first thing is how we name the problem. Is it climate change? Is it climate crisis? Is it climate emergency? The fact that we struggle with this only indicates the unique nature of this issue. I think it is unique in how much fear it triggers, and it is a frightening topic, let’s face it. When before did societies have a need to change fundamentally everything they do, everything they produce, in such a short amount of time as the time that we now have left to hopefully still minimise global warming to 1.5C? And many now say that’s even not possible anymore, so that is unique about the topic.

And then, of course, as you know, huge amounts of money have been spent on disinformation, on spreading intentionally false information about climate science, which then kept journalists busy even proving the science, largely vastly peer-reviewed science, that should really be sufficiently verified by now for journalists not to feel compelled to create a false balance anymore. [So journalists spent a lot of time explaining] whether the actual science was correct or not, instead of moving on to an area where there should be vehement, passionate debates and controversies, which is how to address this crisis.

There is never just one solution, but we have barely arrived at that discussion. And still, especially in the US, people are stuck in this, in having to defend climate science itself. A lot of money has been spent on politicising the issue, and we are seeing the effects of that. But the other topic also, I think, is the nature of human denial. Once you really study the climate crisis and look at the severity of the situation, I myself can say that from personal experience, I went through a moment of substantial fear once I realised how serious the situation is.

And so, I think it's also a human reflex, a coping mechanism, of pushing the issue away and to use, for that, anything that is at hands, whether it's doubt in science, or the argument that this could make our news organisations look like they were activist organisations.

Avoiding despair 

Meera: It's an interesting issue about despair. This is something that the tobacco industry has used as a tactic in the past. They questioned the science, and they say we don't have enough data yet, and they undermine the data that does exist, or they say nothing can be done. You say there’s pollution in the air, everything is polluting our lungs and therefore it's all hopeless, we're all doomed.

And it's an interesting topic for journalism, because journalism is about reporting the bad news in many ways, it's reporting what's going wrong, and holding politicians and corporations to account, it involves reporting on what they're not doing right.

So how do you strike the balance between doing that element of journalism in this story and not falling into this trap of despair, which ultimately will switch readers off, or make them feel that they can't trust anybody?

Wolfgang: That's exactly right. It is so interesting and so surprising at first sight to see that some of the people who first deny it – the climate science, and that we are in a crisis – are now the same people who say that nothing can be done anymore. And so, we do need to be very careful also as journalists in how we present this climate crisis. There are plenty of studies that show, for instance, that readers, viewers, listeners are much more willing and able to engage with climate journalism if it also contains information about things that can be done at a personal level, or at a government level, or a corporate level, and also things that are already being done.

Because quite a lot is being done if you look at massive policy frameworks that have just launched, the American Green Deal, the European Green Deal... These are stimulus packages and public investments that dwarf the Marshall Plan, and somehow that hasn’t sunk in yet. We haven't realise that massive investments are about to be made.

So, yes, it is important. And one topic of course tested in these conversations is that I said to climate reporters and editors: “What is your view on this idea of solutions journalism, or this method of solutions journalism?” Or constructive journalism, a very similar field. And I was surprised how much rejection I ran into where the typical answer of colleagues I greatly respect was: “Well, that’s not the job of journalism. Our job is to cover the world as it is, and in that formulation, sometimes it is a rather shitty place.” And that was a typical formulation as if solutions journalism, or constructive journalism, or pointing to solutions meant to sugar-coat or to sweeten reality, which of course is not what these schools of thoughts are about.

My approach at this point would be to study methods and examples of solutions journalism, even without calling it that, but absolutely look for solutions, look for perspective.

When I looked at the data that came back in the survey, 80% to 90% of respondents said that their audiences, they think, are very interested in what they can do personally about the climate crisis, what can be done about the climate crisis, or at least about slowing down global warming. And yet when you look at much of the climate journalism output of large players in the industry, with their own respective climate verticals, that's not most of what you see.

Meera: What do you see?

Wolfgang: It’s fairly easy to despair when you read their journalism. And again it's so complicated, or it's not complicated but it's easy to misunderstand what I'm saying, because I also want to know the truth and the full extent of the latest research or climate study. I don't want anything sugar-coated. But I also think journalists not only have the task or the duty of reporting on the world as it is, but also on how it could be. It has to be secondary, but it needs to be in there on a topic like this.

Journalism's recent record 

Meera: In recent months in particular, we've had a series of extreme weather events across Europe and North America that have made it very clear that climate change crisis is affecting us, and not just the Maldives and the Pacific Islanders. And it is a bad news story because houses are being set on fire, villages are being flooded. How do you think media organisations have done in their reporting? And if you were at Die Zeit now, how would you have covered the flooding in Germany? What would you have done differently?

Wolfgang: I think what we saw this year is that more news organisations began to refer to the climate crisis not as the cause, but as one cause of several or most of these events. And that also has to do, as you know, with the progress that has been made in what is called attribution science.

Meera: Absolutely.

Wolfgang: Many news organisations made unnecessary mistakes by attributing climate change to local floods or droughts without having the evidence. And journalistically that is questionable. But the attribution science that has been developed in Oxford amongst other places under the leadership of Friederike Otto, has become so fast now that sometimes within days already, and while that topic is still in the news, attribution can already be made that this certain flood has become 60% more likely, for instance, due to climate change.

So the material data has also improved for news organisations, as well as the awareness that it is almost ridiculous now to report about the fires in California without ever mentioning the climate crisis as one underlying cause.

That has changed. What I would look at very much, given that I mostly think about digital media, and all media is digital one way or another now, is the importance of the visuals. And with the heatwaves this summer, you could still see children playing in fountains, and people eating ice-cream, and these belittling euphemistic illustrations that made it hard to understand the severity of the situation.

On the other hand, I also think we need to be careful, if you look at a typical climate vertical of a news organisation, to not only see pictures of fires and melting ice caps, and images that already scare you before you even start reading, and maybe to also show images that hint at solutions.

The role of newsroom leaders 

Meera: And where do you think these changes in the kind of way stories are portrayed are going to come from? If you go back to the idea of newsroom management, which is where your expertise lies, do you think this is something that senior editors need to come on board with? Or would you start with the bottom layer, with training the journalists or reporters on the ground, the foreign correspondents? Where does change start?

Wolfgang: An interesting theme is age distribution. Many times the climate journalists and the most interested editors – also in other verticals such as lifestyle or health – are under the age of 35, and yet the newsroom management tends to be older. So that already raises a question and often also leads to frustration. They feel misunderstood or accused of activism where they say: “This is not activism, I'm doing my job as a journalist.” This is an issue.

Organisationally, I see three typical approaches if a news organisation says: “We want to intensify our coverage.” 80% of my respondents said that within the next 12 months they plan to expand their climate journalism. Then I asked them how they go about it, whether they are either increasing the budget of their existing science desk or whether they are creating a new climate desk, or taking a third approach of creating something like a virtual climate hub, where interested editors of all verticals then meet once a week, typically under the leadership of the science desk, to discuss topics where they could create interdepartmental stories.

Typically, the climate desk is very popular right now, and then the second one right behind that is to increase the science desk. The climate desk has the advantage of making a publicly visible change. It has PR value, which is important, for instance, in signalling to your subscribers that you’re really taking the topic seriously. It also allows you to create a new team with skills that are not necessarily typical for a science desk, such as deep knowledge of large-scale transformation of companies or societies, a deep knowledge of policy, deep knowledge of organisational psychology, for instance, as a main obstacle often of organisational change, these things in addition to the science knowledge.

The downside of course is that it creates irritation between the new climate desk and the science desk. The science editors may say: “Wait a minute, we have been covering this topic for the last 20 years, it barely ever made it into the prime time slots or at the top of the homepage or social media channels, never got the budget, and now there’s this new team.” So that is difficult to manage.

And then the approach to simply expand the science desk is risky because it can fortify a silo, and the climate crisis as you know, of course, is not only a science story, it’s just as much a story in economics, in politics, but also in health, in gardening, in real estate, in culture, literature, film, sports, and so forth. And for that to function, all teams should start covering the climate aspect of their stories. That science desk needs to be super-collaborative and needs to be really well embedded in a newsroom.

And this comes back then to newsroom leadership. The science desk can't manage that alone. I spoke to science editors who said they, of course, had an incredible year, one and a half years now, covering the COVID-19 pandemic, but they said it has also been great because never before did they feel that integrated into their newsroom, never before had a colleague from the business desk come over and ask them to check a story the business desk was about to publish about the competition between two vaccine manufacturers, where the science desk then tends to find slight errors or full-on errors, and can help them.

So news organisations have learned a lot, already, from COVID-19, which makes me hopeful that the third approach, the collaborative hub approach, can work well, especially for that majority of small news organisations that have no science desk to begin with. 

There’s a German climate journalist, Sarah Schumann, who proposes the idea of having a very senior climate managing editor, at least for a while, who establishes the workflows and does nothing but taking part in all these planning meetings all day long between different teams to make sure they consider the climate aspect of a story early on, instead of a bolt-on, at the end of the editing process.

Meera: I think it's a role a business editor would often like to take on as well, but is rarely allowed to.

Wolfgang: You have been a business editor, Meera?

Meera: I have, yes. And I was a very good fashion correspondent, because I could look at the business side of things.

Wolfgang: Because I often think about what we really want to achieve. And what we really want to achieve is to, you could say, normalise climate journalism. I think you always need the specialists in the room, you always need the scientists, of course, but I would hope to see the climate aspects of a tourism industry story, or a sports story, with the same ease as the financial aspects. Also when it comes to the news value criteria, as we consider why a major financial change in a certain industry would be newsworthy, I'd like to see the same degree of normalisation for the climate aspects of the story.

And I think there's a lot to learn from how the financial literacy really has improved in the last 20 years. I mean, business journalism 20 years ago was often rather rudimentary in most papers, and has become so much better. But with it, the business literacy of other verticals has also gone up.

Meera: Absolutely. And that's often to do with financial editors and business editors and city editors fighting their corner, and fighting to have their correspondents be pushed to the front page.

Wolfgang: Yes.

What climate journalism can learn from COVID-19 

Meera: Let's stick to the issue you raised about COVID-19 reporting, because I think this is really fascinating. You’re absolutely right that the health desks and the science desks took centre stage, but it was also a moment when the COVID -19 crisis was the only story in town. And this was, in many ways, great for journalism because while there was an initial uptake in peoples’ interest in news. But it meant that people then got very bored of this news after a while and yet there was nothing else really happening to grab their attention.

So I would be really interested to know whether you think this is a model that’s sustainable – both for COVID-19 reporting, but also for climate reporting, that when there is a crisis then absolutely it becomes a hub that everybody rotates around, but whether newsrooms can maintain that sense of urgency over several years.

Wolfgang: That’s a really interesting question, and of course it points also at the very different nature of these two crises in the end. With COVID-19, the working assumption still is that we will one day be able to look back at this pandemic. It will never go away, but hopefully it will become – for the entire human population, it will be something we can get vaccinated against and we can manage. With the climate crisis, the working assumption is that really no person alive today will see the end of the impact from those emissions already made. So even if we could magically stop all greenhouse gas emissions tomorrow, the situation probably for at least a decade would still get worse, and global warming would increase before things would start stabilising from my understanding.

And that, of course, gives this topic a very different urgency and also longevity, and I think this is one reason why it is so important, and I would say urgent that we no longer leave it to the climate desks or the science desk or the business desk or the politics desk to educate the public about the enormity and the opportunity of the situation. It´s important that this is woven into all journalism where that is journalistically plausible, which it is with most stories really.

Meera: How hopeful are you that these changes will come about?

Wolfgang: Having spent such a large part of my life changing and modernising newsrooms, I had this a-ha moment one day where I realised, wait a minute, the pride of newsrooms and news journalists is that they resist outside influences, outside pressures. If you look at those few Hollywood movies where newsrooms play a central role, there's always this moment where someone threatens to buy the news organisation, or the soldiers of a military junta walk into the newsroom, and the newsroom just keeps publishing, keeps broadcasting. So that's very much baked into how newsrooms see themselves, so it’s no surprise that they resist any suggestion for change initially.

And that has mostly served news organisations well, and the changes they really have to make when it comes to digitisation or increasing digital literacy have been made sometimes decades too late, but eventually they made them where they still could.

This time, coming to your question about hope, I think news organisations are already beginning in many countries to make these changes. I see that also from the responses I get to my work and the openness that I meet, which has really been wonderful. What hasn't sunk in yet is how little time we have left.

And of course, we also need to add how expensive it is to produce good science journalism. I always found it the hardest to recruit science journalists, not only because they're so expensive and need to be so well trained and educated but also because they take a very close look at whether there's integrity in the news organisation they work for because they can lose their reputation with every single story, even if it's a rewritten news piece. And that points at the importance of a resilient news ecosystems and for example to the importance of public broadcasters that can do that.

Climate news avoidance and engagement strategies 

Wolfgang: Another piece in that similarity between COVID-19 journalism and climate journalism is that you're dealing with vastly different segments of audiences. It’s different than covering a football match. You have vastly differing degrees of pre-existing knowledge, and you have vastly differing attitudes towards the climate crisis which has to do with past disinformation campaigns and with the fear this topic triggers. And there are many people who simply cannot cope with the threat this poses which we need to have empathy for and not just judge.

Meera: Yeah, because there are kind of significant parts of the population that avoid all news, and climate change news in particular.

Wolfgang: Exactly.

Meera: What are your thoughts and how do you reach these people when they're not even there in front of you? It’s not they’re reading something else; they’re reading nothing.

Wolfgang: Yeah. So, the first part is this, it requires segmentation, and that is something only digital news organisations can do. You can’t do that with a linear broadcaster or print. The second piece is you need to know your audience segments. Yale has done quite a lot of work with their what they call The Six Americas. They segmented audiences already I think in 2009, and then people can develop strategies how to reach people who they call the alarmed versus the concerned, the cautious, the disengaged, the doubtful, and the dismissive – dismissive of climate science.

At Monash University in Australia, they have their own segmentation model which they call, I think, The Five Australias, so that segmentation work is really important to even understand which one of those can I reach, and how my audience matches those, that's the starting point. And then of course not as a journalist, but maybe as a climate science or climate change educator, you can’t only look at news media as an access path to the public. You just as much have to look, for instance, at what the United Nations is doing or at game developers, you know. The people who you can reach in a game such as Fortnite, or Minecraft of course. So, the news media plays a hugely important role, but it’s only one actor of many.

Meera: Soap operas.

Wolfgang: Including soap operas, and then again sport. If you think about the hesitation of so many people to wear a mask, and the effect it has if news media says you really should wear masks, or on talk shows you saw people sit there with masks or a major soccer star wearing a mask as a young man, and thus helping to recalibrate notions of virility and masculinity, and that you can be very masculine while wearing a mask. These messages are something that journalism can only do in a very limited fashion.

Internal obstacles to climate journalism 

Meera: What resources do you think journalists and newsrooms need right now from politicians, from academia, from the public to do this job, to kind of transmit the climate change story effectively to the people who need to hear it?

Wolfgang: Journalism can do its job if it resonates. Often, I think climate journalism reminds me of producing cricket journalism in a country that only plays soccer, where so much pre-existing knowledge is always assumed, so much jargon is being used. The IPCC is no longer being explained. In the United States we speak of 1.5 degrees Celsius warming where most people have no idea what that even means because they use Fahrenheit. It's these basics. Or we refer to the greenhouse effect without explaining it anymore.

I think we can assume very, very little. News organisations, of course, need to measure the knowledge of their audience through quizzes, for instance, in a playful manner, or through representative surveys. That’s the first thing. And the news media can’t do this urgently needed public education on its own. It needs allies, it needs the help of major sport leagues, of cultural institutions that all need to help now to increase public knowledge.

But I also ran into many, many executive journalists, very senior editors, who – I didn't test them, but in the conversation – made it clear that they wouldn't know the difference between the effects of Arctic ice melting and Antarctic ice melting for instance, one mostly freshwater, the other saltwater, with very different effects. Or sitting on land versus already swimming in the water in terms of the effects on sea level rise. Or they would barely know the difference between methane and carbon dioxide and their effects, or what the major sources are.

So when you look at the entrance tests of a BBC or others, they often ask you for your general education as a young applicant, and they ask you about the rules of soccer if that’s the national sport, they ask you about how your national election systems work, and it’s assumed that you must know that. But somehow, it’s OK still not to have that basic knowledge on climate change. So that, I think, is really important. Otherwise journalism disappears in the ether. 

The second piece is a large number of journalists struggling with getting access to scientists. And of course, there are organisations such as Side Line that almost help like a matchmaker between journalists and scientists, but especially in smaller news organisations they don't have the time. I think news organisations should build partnerships with local scientific institutions or universities, and get to know them over time.

A frustration of many scientists that you, Meera, also helped me understand in some of the panels you’ve moderated and invited me to is the frustration of being quoted in wrong ways. Many scientists are really weary of giving interviews because they say: “Science and scientific progress happens in increments, but the journalists are always interested in the breakthrough story and then they misrepresent my work, or present me as if I have done this work alone and don’t give credit to all my colleagues.” So they embarrass them or risk the funding for their next projects.

Meera: Absolutely. Or put their findings into a kind of political framework or culture war that they had no intention of being in.

Wolfgang: Exactly. Exactly. Metrics are another important issue for news organisations. When I asked, some journalists said, “It’s really great, I’m now being given funding, I could hire two additional editors.” And I say, “So what’s the main obstacle now?” And they say, “It’s no longer the Editor-in-Chief, it’s the News Desk Editor. I produced this story, really expensive, important, and the News Desk Editor wouldn’t give it proper placement, wouldn’t put it into one of these top three slots on the website where you can still root substantial amounts of traffic to a story, wouldn’t put it in the major social media account doing prime time versus on a Saturday evening."

And so, you see, I think you see quite a lot of news organisations have produced surprisingly large amounts of good quality, high quality, climate journalism, but somehow it never appears in the primetime slots because the metrics are click-through, session time, scroll depth. But, as you know, so many news organisations don’t have impact metrics because the measurement of impact is so much more expensive there.

Meera: It also requires a more nuanced understanding of who the audiences are and what they want, because I think a lot of times news desk editors can underestimate audiences’ appetite for serious engaged stories and datasets.

Attacks and disinformation 

Wolfgang: Trolling, trolls, online harassment of journalists, especially women climate editors, has been a prominent topic. And in my conversations, I gained the impression – of course I need to be careful to treat my sample set as representative, it’s indicative, and it’s enough material for my research, but I don’t want to make these broad statements. But what I run into a lot are managing editors who make no difference between trolling against an article about COVID-19, or an election, and trolling against an article about the climate crisis or emerging solutions to it. And that, of course, ignores the vast commercial interests in delaying a transition to renewable energies. You have entire nations that are financed by fossil fuels.

And so, the commercial interest in discrediting climate journalism is much greater than the commercial interest in discrediting COVID-19 journalism, and that requires a different amount of training. And I spoke to one journalist who told me that she has already reduced her engagement with climate journalism because she said, “It’s just I don’t have the time. Often, I have trolls who sound scientific who spend weeks on discrediting and dismantling my story, and write letters to my editors, discrediting my qualification as a journalist. And so, I have to go back to my editor, over and over, or to my audience team, or my social media team, and of course my social listening is also tracking these negative comments to make sure they don’t over time that it’s always my stories who somehow get taken down."

And the enormity of those attacks against journalism, I think, are not fully understood, and require training also for the audience teams, the social media teams, and the newsroom management so they can give sufficient backup to their journalist.

Meera: That’s a really important point, because we've looked a lot at the online harassment of journalists, and it's especially women journalists in many fields, but it's interesting that you say the volume and intensity of climate change reporting attacks is on a different scale to trolling also, which is already pretty high. Have you noticed any kind of geographical element to that? Did you find that journalists in certain regions were coming under more attack than in others?

Wolfgang: Not on the trolling. On the activism argument which often creates then the foundation for the trolling – that is much more prevalent in the United States still. Even more than in Australia to my surprise. And we hear now also from, again, Monash University’s work also with TV stations that are part of News Corp which we often associate with climate denial, there were some recent announcements by them to change their stance, but it is surprising how much progress they have made in Australia compared to the US.

In the US I took part also in working groups of various self-help networks, so to say, amongst climate journalists, where I remember one weather reporter who told us that he had to sign in on paper that he would not mention the word climate change on air.

Meera: Good Lord.

Wolfgang: And those are the kinds of stories or anecdotes I didn't hear in continental Europe. As far as the trolling goes, I didn’t see differences between Europe, Asia, or the United States, and my sample size in Africa was too small. I only spoke to about four colleagues in Africa, unfortunately.

Meera: Yeah, absolutely. And this is kind of one area we really do want to look at more which is to get both climate change reporting and climate change journalism research out of the Global South and from Asia and Africa and Latin America in particular.

Wolfgang: Speaking of literacy, I was so impressed by one colleague that you and I spoke with in one of the events you hosted from Africa, I think, was it Kenya, who said, “I don't even have the issue of climate literacy and people knowing the difference between Arctic ice and Antarctic ice as Wolfgang says. I have the issue that people can see the effects of climate change every day in lost harvests, for instance, and droughts, but think it is a punishment of God and have religious narratives.”

Meera: And they still see climate change as an issue that affects polar bears rather than what's happening outside their window right now.

Wolfgang: Exactly. You see that also in frameworks where we say this is the year where the media has finally acknowledged climate change as a cause of the floods in Europe or the heatwaves, and you see prominent politicians say, “Climate change is here and now,” which is another way of saying we never looked at what is happening in Africa where, if I remember it correctly, are four of the five most severely hit countries currently by the effects of climate change. But when do you hear about that other than more recently about the famine in Madagascar?

Meera: Absolutely. Wolfgang, we’ve been speaking for well over 30 minutes and we could carry on this conversation. I'm really pleased to say this is a conversation that's just beginning on the defining topic of our time. Thank you so much for your expertise and for your work on this area, and there’s a long way to go yet, but we’re heading in the right direction, I think.

Wolfgang: Meera, thank you so much for your support. And of course, what we find out and what we learn we also keep publishing on the website of the Reuters Institute, so keep checking the site for updates on what we find out.