Why good journalism is needed in the fight against climate change

While world leaders are discussing the climate crisis at the COP27, IMS is bringing together investigative journalists and media from different regions to lift the challenge of covering the biggest crisis of our time and elevate stories from the areas and populations that are paying the highest price

Journalists and media have long wrestled with the question of how to cover climate change as this serious and unprecedented crisis does not fit neatly with the traditional news criteria: it is a global problem that is extremely complex, presents itself in a myriad of different ways around the world and is advancing relatively slowly across decades, with – up until recently – few punctuating events to count as “news” in the way we usually understand the term.

Therefore, media outlets have had to rethink the way they tell and prioritise stories when covering climate change, its progression and its consequences – and it has taken precious time. However, both public opinion and journalistic efforts seem to increasingly acknowledge that the climate crisis is the most pressing issue of our time. Multiple reports point to the cruciality of urgent political action and paint a dire image of where we are headed.

“The climate crisis is the biggest challenge of our century, and to me it seems clear that collaborative, creative and ambitious climate journalism has never been more needed,” says Henrik Grunnet, a senior adviser at IMS.

How IMS bridges the gap between north and south

IMS has worked with media and journalists around the globe for the last 20 years, particularly in areas that are – and will continue to be – deeply affected by the consequences of global warming.

“Hence, we have networks and insights in regions where we see the climate crisis’ environmental destruction, and experience in developing good and diverse journalism, for instance on how global corporations and manufacturers cause harm to local nature and environments,” Henrik Grunnet says.  

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One of the ways IMS facilitates media collaborations is through MediaBridge. MediaBridge is an initiative IMS started together with the investigative outlet Danwatch so that different media outlets around the world can collaborate more easily on bringing compelling stories and essential documentation from conflict countries around the world to the attention of the global audience. MediaBridge can help media outlets gain access to quality content from regions that they have not been able to report from due to the difficulties of entering and working in these countries. This includes local specialised reporting from areas hit by floods, drought, failed harvests and other tragedies caused by global warming.

“We see that our partners are very eager to do stories on climate change. This is because it’s impacting the lives of their audiences every single day. Their knowledge and experience need to be brought to audiences in areas which are not as experiencing such serious consequences or seeing the foundations of fishing, farming and normal life dramatically changing,” Henrik Grunnet says.

Collaborative journalism across borders is incredibly useful when trying to ensure that the localised consequences of climate change are covered globally. This is important not least due to a paradox that is becoming increasingly clear: even though the industrial and post-industrial countries in the so-called Global North have a political responsibility to mitigate the climate crisis due to their massive historic (and current) emissions of greenhouse gases, the countries in the Global South generally have much lower emissions but are nonetheless hit disproportionately hard by the consequences of global warming.

“Our aim is to strengthen the local-global connection and to make sure that the voices and experiences of those most affected by the crisis reach a global audience. It is crucial if we want to have just and responsible coverage of the crisis,” Henrik Grunnet says.

Funding investigative environmental journalism

The disproportionate emission of greenhouse gases is one way the people of the Global North have a greater responsibility for climate change than people in the Global South. Further, many companies and investors from the Global North are also accused of playing a role in the many environmental violations that take place.

Through MediaBridge, IMS is working with Journalismfund.eu to help cultivate and fund cross-border and cross-continental journalistic investigations that expose the ways global corporations are causing harm to nature and people, as well as also supporting several stories that look critically at how aid given to countries hit by climate catastrophes is spent.

“We have received dozens of well-researched ideas and documentation from Indonesia to Colombia, where journalists on the ground want to investigate European companies and the impact their businesses have on the local environment,” says Henrik Grunnet.

Environmental investigations from Lebanon, Philippines, Columbia, Albania, Tunisia, Jordan and Zambia are all in the making. To try and ensure that these stories will have maximum impact, IMS is helping local journalists link up with relevant media organisations in Europe. This is crucial in order to produce impactful stories as they all deal with European corporations or officials involved in environmental damage.

“The climate crisis and environmental violations are some of the biggest reporting challenges journalists have ever faced. Therefore, we will continue to support media in their efforts as well as engaging our large network of partners to make sure that the local consequences of the global crisis reach audiences and decision makers around the world,” Henrik Grunnet says.

If you would like to know more about IMS’ work with journalism and climate change or MediaBridge, contact Senior Adviser Henrik Grunnet (hgr@mediasupport.org)