The Climate Change Crisis – “Covering Climate Now” Can Shape The Public Dialogue – And Influence Outcomes

Posted on December 3, 2019 by Hank Boerner – Chair & Chief Strategist


November 7 2019
Another in the About the Climate Change Crisis series
By Hank Boerner – Chair & Chief Strategist, G&A Institute
The increasing tempo of the public dialogue on “climate change” issues in the United States reflects in some ways the divide in public opinion on critical issues facing the American public, government, business, the financial sector.
Is the Climate changing? Yes and No. Are humans causing the changes? Yes and No. Do we need to take action now? Yes, No, Maybe.
Should we all be very worried about the survival of humanity? The planet?
Yes and No. As novelist Kurt Vonnegut would say — And so it goes.
The United States of America participated in the historic 2015 Paris (“COP 21”) meetings and signed on to the Paris Agreement (or Accord) along with almost 200 other nations, with President Barack Obama becoming a signatory in 2016.
The Paris Agreement was “official” for the U.S. (and the world) in November 2016 (as the family of nations formalized their commitment and involvement).
In September 2016 by presidential action President Obama had presented the necessary documents to the U.N. General Secretary Ban Ki-moon for U.S. participation.
The People’s Republic of China also presented the documents, a collaboration negotiated by President Obama.
These steps by Barack Obama avoided presenting what amounted to an international treaty agreement to the U.S. Senate for ratification, as required by the U.S. ConstitutionArticle II-Section 2the advice and consent of the Senate is necessary for the President to make treaties.
Such approval for an international treaty assuredly would not happen in today’s contentious political environment. Even if not joining the other nations and tackling climate issues as an organized effort (the Federal Government might mean prevention of catastrophic damage to our nation.
Such is the yes/no politics today, even considering the massive threats posed by the changing climate.
The U.S. also contributed US$3 billion to the Green Climate Fund by President Obama’s orders.
And so by similar executive actions, his successor in the Oval Office, President Donald Trump in March 2017 with swipe of his pen (actually a Sharpie®) informally signaled the start of the complex and lengthy process of removing the U.S. from the historic Paris Agreement to limit the damage of global warming.
By his side: EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt (since gone from the environmental agency).
The backdrop: reliable scientific reports that 2016 was the warmest year on record to date!
And credible scientists telling us that we have a decade at most to get control of climate change issues!
So What Did New the U.S.A. Leader Do?
President Trump on November 4, 2019 officially notified the international community – and specifically the United Nations – that the process of withdrawal was beginning next fall and would be complete one year from now — the day before Election Day 2020.
Donald Trump before being elected declared among other things that climate change was a Chinese hoax. (One of his positioning comments on the subject: “The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive” – November 6, 2012 tweet.)
But climate change is real – and we face a climate crisis in 2019!
Note that in November 2018 the government of the United States of America published the fourth climate change assessment by key U.S. government agencies: the “Climate Science Special Report” was prepared by the U.S. Global Change Research Program of the Federal government. (We’re including an overview in this series of commentaries.)
The contents are of significance if you are an investor, a company executive or board member, an issue advocate, public sector officer holder or civic leader, consumer — or other type of stakeholder. There are volumes of data and descriptions in the report presenting a range of “high probability” climate change outcomes in this the 21st Century.
Good news, at last from the important purveyors of news: the publishers of Columbia Journalism Review and The Nation created the “Covering Climate Now”  intended to strengthen the media’s focus on the climate emergency. (The initiative was launched in April 2019.)
The founders are joined by cooperating media that today reaches more than one billion people worldwide.
Representatives of 350 newsrooms in 32 countries have joined to ramp up coverage of the climate crisis and possible solutions. The campaign is designed to strengthen the media’s focus on the climate emergency.
Combined, the cooperating media reach more than one billion people worldwide.
Participants in the campaign include Bloomberg, Agence France-Press, The Guardian, The Minneapolis Star Tribune, The New Jersey Star Ledger, The Oklahoman, Corporate Knights, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Seattle Times, La Republica (Italy), The Hindustan Times (India), Asahi Shimbun (Japan), La Razon (Spain),, Huffpost, Mother Jones, Rolling Stone, Scientific American, Teen Vogue, Vanity Fair, and many many other communications platforms.
Partner organizations in the campaign include wire services, news agencies, newspapers, magazines, digital news sites, journals, radio, podcasters, and institutions like Princeton University and Yale Climate Change & Health Initiative.
Could it be that the press, especially the U.S. press, is finally waking up to the climate story?
That question was posed in September 2019 by Mark Hertsgaard and Kyle Pope in response to the initiative. Their comments are here for you:
Is where you get your news a participant? Check the list here:
Participating publisher Corporate Knights points out to us that “climate change” was suggested as a term to use by pollster Frank Luntz to President George W. Bush instead of the more frightening term, “global warming”. Let’s not scare the people. Gently move them forward.
We do need to return to the more accurate and realistic reference of global warming. The threats posed by warming of land and sea are visible to us – every day now!
But, OK, if climate change is the popular branding, then let’s talk about the climate change crisis or emergency (so says the media collaboration).
We’ve introduced a series of climate change crisis commentaries in this blog.
And the title for the running series of commentaries is: About the Climate Crisis series, following the lead of the collaborating journalists.
Let us know how we are doing. And suggest to us issues and topics and developments that might be of interest to other readers of the G&A Institute’s Sustainability Update blog.
Please do Stay Tuned to this series — “About the Climate Crisis”.