Getting the right angle on climate change

The media has missed the point about climate change through ‘sloppy reporting”, according to the director of a EU advisory committee.

Jacqueline McGlade, executive director of the European Environmental Agency, which advises the EU on environmental matters, asked the audience of News Xchange to stop questioning the fact of climate change and start talking about solutions.

She said: ‘Why do you need to balance this story? Science is science. We’re not talking about opinions here.”

McGlade attacked the media’s handing of the issue and said that stories had to change to take account of positive action being taken globally. On the impact of the story she added: ‘This is about the massive market failure of the 20th century. We’re talking about the restructuring of our economy. What’s a sexier story than that?”

News Xchange director John Owens explained the conference had invited climate change sceptics to join the debate but none had taken up the offer.

Klaas van Egmond, an adviser to the Dutch government on environmental issues, summed up the panel consensus by saying: ‘The media is maximising the problems and minimising the solutions.”

News organisations defended their coverage, arguing that the real issue was how best to tell this story and keep the audience interested.

Chris Birkett executive editor of Sky News said there was a danger of ‘climate change fatigue’among audiences and that Sky looked to the impact on individual people to personalise the story. Nakhle El Hage, director of news and current affairs, at Al Arabiya, argued that journalists had no role in campaigning on issues. ‘We journalists are not supposed to be environmental activists.

‘ We are supposed to cover what is going on. If there is no momentum, there’s nothing for us to report on.’

Freelance journalist Anita McNaught said the difficulty with the environmental issue was that it remained a story the audience did not want to hear.

Adrian Van Klaveren, deputy director BBC News, said the corporation was trying to tell a difficult story and that BBC audiences were sceptical of the solutions presented.

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