Richard Black: Copenhagen or Babel? A climate conundrum
November 16, 2010
A little less than a year after filing into the frozen wasteland of Copenhagen's Bella Center, we're looking this year to the sunnier climes of Cancun in Mexico. While UN officialdom begins its attempts to manage expectations, editors in news organisations (including this one) are asking how they should cover the summit, what readers/listeners/viewers might be interested in, and how to place Cancun in a historical landscape transmuted by Copenhagen.
There may be some useful thoughts in a new report from the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism (RISJ) <http://reutersinstitute.politics.ox.ac.uk/about/news/item/article/marked-differences-between-countrie.html> at Oxford University, in partnership with the British Council. Written by former BBC correspondent and editor James Painter, Summoned By Science surveys how news organisations around the world reported climate change during those two tumultuous weeks. Among the findings is that less than 10% of articles (from the media groups and countries surveyed) majored on climate science, the overwhelming majority focussing on the political dramas played out in the conference halls.
For what it's worth, I don't agree with the view that there was too little science in Copenhagen reporting. Whatever you make of these conclusions, the question for many of us is how best to proceed. As the report notes, there is evidence of "climate fatigue" among audiences, and even among editors.