MeCCO Monthly Summary: Duly ‘noted’, but not duly ‘welcomed’

Media and Climate Change Observatory (MeCCO)
December 2018 Summary

December media attention to climate change and global warming was up nearly 8% throughout the world from the previous month of November 2018, and up about 54% from December last year. Increase were detected in Asia (up 28%), Central/South America (up 19%), the Middle East (up 7%), North America (up 10%), Oceania (up 37%) and Europe (up 8%), while going down only in Africa (down 25%) this month compared to the previous month of November. Figure 1 shows increases and decreases in newspaper media coverage at the global scale – organized into seven geographical regions around the world – over the past 180 months (from January 2004 through December 2018).

Moving to considerations of content within these searches, Figure 2 shows word frequency data in the dynamic spaces of Australian and New Zealand newspaper media coverage in December 2018.

In December, considerable attention was paid to political and economic content of coverage. Prominently, the 24th Conference of Parties meeting to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP24) took place in Katowice, Poland. Driven by a journalistic penchant for conflict, media attention was paid to COP24 debates regarding whether to ‘welcome’ or ‘note’ the October United Nations (UN) Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Special Report on impacts of 1.5oC warming. For example, an Associated Press article entitled ‘U.S., Russia, Kuwait and Saudis block key climate study at COP24’ described that “almost all 200 countries present in Katowice, Poland, had wanted to “welcome” the IPCC report, making it the benchmark for future action. But the U.S. and three other delegations objected…Russia, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait also called for the study to be ‘noted’ but not ‘welcomed’”. In addition, media stories covered efforts to agree on a Paris Agreement rulebook, and discussions regarding how to establish and sustain financial support from countries of the ‘global north’ to countries of the ‘global south’. For example, journalist Megan Rowling from Reuters reported, “More than 190 countries are meeting in the coal-mining town of Katowice through Dec. 14 to hammer out rules that will enable the Paris accord to be put into practice from 2020, and spur countries to strengthen their current climate action plans. Current pledges to cut emissions would lead to global warming of about 3 degrees Celsius this century … under the Paris deal, governments have pledged to hold temperature rise to “well below” 2 degrees C above pre-industrial times, and ideally to 1.5 degrees C. The world has already warmed about 1 degree C”.

In concert with these talks, in a strongly worded letter, hundreds of investors with approximately $32 trillion in assets-under-management demanded that world governments increase their ambition on climate change through policy interventions that assist with progress along decarbonization pathways. They recommended putting a price on carbon and a phasing out of coal power in order to meet the terms of the Paris Agreement. This generated media attention. For examples, journalist Simon Jessop from Reuters reported, “A total of 415 investors from across the world including UBS Asset Management and Aberdeen Standard Investments signed the 2018 Global Investor Statement to Governments on Climate Change demanding urgent action”. Journalist Damian Carrington from The Guardian noted, “The investors include some of the world’s biggest pension funds, insurers and asset managers and marks the largest such intervention to date. They say fossil fuel subsidies must end and substantial taxes on carbon be introduced”.

Many sub-global issues also percolated in media accounts. For example, on the domestic US front in December, the Andrew Wheeler-led Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rolled out a plan to reduce restrictions on coal production. Journalist Stephanie Ebbs from ABC News reported “The Trump administration wants to make it easier for energy companies to open new coal-fired power plants, even as government data shows the U.S. is at the lowest level of coal use in decades”. Meanwhile By Nicole Gaouette and Rene Marsh from CNN noted, “The Trump administration will reverse an Obama-era coal emissions rule as part of its effort to loosen restrictions on the coal industry, just days after a US government report warned that aggressive action is needed to curb greenhouse gases and ease the impact of global warming. The reversal won’t lead to the immediate construction of new coal-fired power plants, but it does send an immediate political signal that the Trump administration is intent on shoring up the coal industry and other energy interests”. Read more …

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