You Can’t Value What You Can’t Measure: A Critical Look at Forest Carbon Accounting

by Lauren Gifford, CSTPR Research Affiliate
Climatic Change, 2020

Abstract: This article takes on the political and contested nature of forest carbon accounting via three “points of engagement” that articulate forest carbon initiatives as representations of tradable carbon. The three points of engagement—(1) baseline determinations, (2) the calculation of additionality, and (3) the role of uncertainty—are used to show how processes framed as technical are often spaces where uneven social and political interests are manipulated or obscured and contribute to varying environmental and conservation outcomes. The article begins by reviewing how carbon counting emerges in critical social science literature on forest carbon projects. Next, it explains carbon accounting broadly, the specifics of forest carbon accounting and why forests are popular spaces for financialized carbon sequestration. It concludes by arguing that carbon accounting is an uneven technical and political process that makes multiples forms of carbon legible on financial markets but does little to physically address atmospheric carbon concentrations. Read more …

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Is There an Energy Partisan Divide?

Look to the States to Understand Renewable Energy in the U.S.

by Kathleen Hancock
CSTPR Faculty Affiliate, Associate Professor, Colorado School of Mines

Photos by Kathleen Hancock

The United States seems to be regressing when it comes to renewable energy with Republicans leading the way.  But this picture is incomplete.  There is strong evidence that the current White House antipathy toward renewables, and support for coal, is off-set by state-led initiatives, even in solidly Republican states.

At the presidential level, there has often but not always been a partisan divide.  In the 1970’s, following the OPEC crisis, the U.S. shared with Germany world leadership in investing in renewable energy (Laird and Stefes, 2009). The issue was not politicized.  However, while Germany continued on an upward path of embracing renewables, the U.S. leadership on renewables collapsed when Democratic President Jimmy Carter was replaced by Republican Ronald Reagan. Most recently, Barack Obama introduced the Clean Power Plan linking Democrats with renewable energy.  Announced in 2015, the Plan called for three building blocks: improve coal-fired power plants to reduce carbon, replace coal plants with ones fueled by natural gas, and increase zero-emission sources like wind and solar.  Obama also signed the Paris Accords calling for reduced emissions to mitigate climate change.  There was even a brief period in which the U.S. seemed poised to resume a global leadership position: Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed their states, the two biggest greenhouse gas emitters, would work together to reduce emissions.

Obama’s advocacy for renewables was quickly abandoned when Republican Donald Trump – whose primary pre-election comment on climate change was a 2010 tweet suggesting it is a Chinese hoax ­– assumed the presidency.  More recently, Trump dismissed his own administration’s warnings about catastrophes related to climate change, stating simply “I don’t believe it.”  When it comes to energy sources, Trump is most strongly associated with a pro-coal stance, a position consistent with a lack of concern about climate change and that goes against support for renewable energy.

Adding to the evidence that Republicans are anti-renewable energy, Trump’s views are supported by a slight majority of his party’s rank and file.  A 2017 Pew opinion poll found that 81% of Democrats say alternative sources (generally assumed to be solar and wind) should be the most important priority for addressing America’s energy supply, whereas only 45% of Republicans supported that view.

Considering Carter vs. Reagan and Obama vs. Trump, is it fair to say that Republicans oppose renewables while Democrats embrace them?  Recent research shows that is not the full story.   

The key to answering the partisan question is to look at individual U.S. states (Emmons Allison and Parinandi, Forthcoming). There we find that the U.S. is collectively making strides toward including more renewables.  Some states are doing it quietly; others boastfully.  In addition, unusual coalitions sometimes form to push through policies favoring renewables. 

Before assessing state differences, it is critical to distinguish among the uses for energy.  The U.S Energy Information Administration reports five categories of energy consumption:  electric power (38%), transportation (29%), industrial (22%), residential (6%), and commercial (5%).  Electric power produces most of our electricity while the other four use most of that electricity.  Source uses vary widely by category. For example, oil accounts for about 92% of transportation but only 1% of electricity.  

To focus the discussion, let’s look only at electricity.  In this sector, renewables are playing a larger role than many might have expected, although fossil fuels combined still dominate the sector, as shown in Figure 1.  Renewables include hydropower, solar, wind, hydro, biofuels, and geothermal. These figures are for utility-scale only.  Rooftop solar, one of the most important forms of distributed energy, has also been steadily rising as shown in Figure 2.

Figure 1: Fuel sources for electricity in the United States, 2018. Source:  U.S. Energy Information Agency.

To check for a partisan divide, we can break down electricity generation and politics state-by-state. Specifically, do Democratic states have the highest production of renewables?  The answer is no.   As shown in Figure 3, a good mix of Republican and Democratic states make up the top renewable energy producers. The dominant political party shown here is based on which party has the majority in the state legislature and the party of the governor as well as the majority party according to a 2018 Gallop opinion poll.  If the same party had two of three of these indicators, it is scored for that party.  Only North Carolina shows as purple due to a mixed response on the Gallup poll, a Republican state legislature, and a Democratic governor.  This is only a snapshot meant to give an indication of party dominance which does change over time.  Still, many of these states have long been dominated by the same party. 

Renewable energy is commonly broken into two categories: traditional large hydroelectric power and other renewables, primarily wind and solar.  Hydroelectric has been around for decades whereas wind and solar are relatively new at the utility-scale. The largest hydro producer is the Democratic state of Washington while Republican Texas overwhelms the others with its high wind-sourced production. 

Figure 3: Top U.S. states for renewable energy. Notes: a. Generation for utility-scale electricity, 2018. b. Includes top 10 for non-hydro, mostly solar and wind and top 10 for traditional hydroelectric (with asterisks).  California scores in the top 10 for both categories.

While the numbers show renewables are not strictly a partisan issue, to understand how we get these numbers, one must understand the political processes behind getting more renewables. Political science frameworks suggest we should find key advocacy coalitions pushing for policies that open the door to more renewables. (For an example from Africa, see Hancock. 2015).

Looking for such coalitions, political scientists Michaël Aklin and Johannes Urpelainen compare the politics of renewable energy in the U.S., Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, and the U.K. (Aklin and Urpelainen, 2018).  While Aklin and Urpelainen focus on the national level (with the exception of California) their approach can be adapted to politics within the U.S. states.  Using their framework, we would expect to see pro-environmental groups, renewable energy industry representatives, and agricultural groups (who can earn money leasing land to wind farm developers) pushing for more renewable energy.  Indeed, wind farms are popping up around the country, with a vast number of them in Texas, sometimes right along side crops and oil wells.

Two vignettes demonstrate how this type of advocacy coalition can form regardless of the larger political landscape. First, South Carolina, a solidly Republican state, was once considered one of the least friendly states for solar energy.  In May 2019, South Carolina went from the state “where solar power rarely shines” to eliminating artificial barriers to solar installations and extending solar credits until at least 2021.  What accounts for this change?  Several factors were at work. A critical catalyst was the financial collapse of a nuclear power plant.  In 2006, South Carolina was one among several states that passed legislation to encourage nuclear power. With Congress talking about possible carbon taxes, nuclear energy seemed like a good idea.  But $9 billion later and construction far from finished, the state decided to pull the plug on nuclear. This opened the previously closed door to renewable energy. 

Second, in Nevada, a well-known wealthy Republican, who was also a key advocate and “patron-in-chief” of then-candidate Donald Trump, Sheldon Adelson, became a strong advocate for solar energy, playing a key role in taking on NV Energy, by far the largest electric utility in Nevada.  In this case, the high energy consumption costs associated with running a casino trumped any skepticism of climate change.  Able to produce their own solar energy, casinos can significantly cut costs.

While the national government’s actions – especially with the Trump administration’s rollback of key environmental laws and regulations – can give the impression that the U.S. is stuck in the fossil fuel world, the reality is that states are making significant strides toward embracing renewable energy, often for economic and health reasons, rather than climate change.  As they do so, the coalition backing renewable energy grows stronger, further cementing the transition that other leading countries, like Germany, have been building from the top down.  There will be a day, it seems, when renewable energy will no longer be politically contested, even in the United States.

Laird, F.N. and C. Stefes, 2009. “The diverging paths of German and United States policies for renewable energy: Sources of difference.” Energy Policy 37:2619-2629.

Emmons Allison, J. and S. Parinandi, Forthcoming 2020. “Energy Politics of the United States” in Oxford Handbook of Energy Politics. Ed. Kathleen J. Hancock and Juliann Emmons Allison.   

Hancock, K.J., 2015. “Energy Regionalism and Diffusion in Africa:  How political actors created the ECOWAS Center for Renewable Energy & Energy Efficiency.”  Energy Research & Social Science 5:105-115.

Aklin, M. and J. Urpelainen, 2018.  Renewables: The Politics of a Global Energy Transition. MIT Press.

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2020 ITG Comedy & Climate Change Short Video Competition

Inside the Greenhouse comedy & climate change short video competition

1st place: $400 prize
2nd place: $250
3rd place: $100

Note: Once awarded, you must provide the requisite payment information within 60 days in order to claim the award; also the amount of your award is stated in gross and may be subject to taxation*

Competition Details
Humor is a tool underutilized in the area of climate change; yet comedy has power to effectively connect people, information, ideas, and new ways of thinking/acting.

In this 5th annual competition, we seek to harness the powers of climate comedy through compelling, resonant and meaningful VIDEOS – up to 3 minutes in length – to meet people where they are, and open them up to new and creative engagement. 

Award Criteria
Successful entries will have found the funny while relating to climate change issues. Each entry will be reviewed by a committee composed of students, staff and faculty at the University of Colorado (CU) Boulder.

Application Requirements
#1. 1-2 page pdf description of entry, including

– title of creative work,
– names and affiliations of all authors/contributors,
– contact information of person submitting the entry,
– a statement of permissions for use of content, as necessary, and
– a 100-word description of the work.

#2. A link to the up-to-3-minute composition, posted on Youtube or Vimeo or the like

Must be a citizen of Planet Earth; work created since January 2019 is accepted; works must be less than 3 minutes in length, captured through video; CU Boulder employees are not eligible.

Submission Deadline: April 1: entries due to
More Information

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2020 Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre Fellowship Program

CU-Boulder has partnered with the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre (RCRCCC) to place graduate students in locations Southern/Eastern Africa each summer to help understand and address climate risks. This collaborative program targets improvements in environmental communication and adaptation decision-making as well as disaster prevention and preparedness in the humanitarian sector. It connects humanitarian practitioners from the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre – an affiliate of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies – with graduate student researchers at the University of Colorado who are interested in science-policy-humanitarian issues. 

This fellowship program will place a Ph.D. and/or Master’s degree student in an IFRC regional field office, a National Society branch office, or with a partner organization for a period of approximately 3 months. The Climate Centre supervisors will liaise with specific IFRC field offices to identify potential projects and placements. If possible, the student will partner with a student from a local university to work on all or parts of the project together, to contribute to local ownership and research capacity building. This process will be with the host Red Cross Red Crescent National Society and Climate Centre Junior Researcher Coordinator and Supervisor, to align with any existing institutional connections and partnerships in the host country.

Once projects are identified, Climate Centre supervisors will work with co-Director Max Boykoff, co-Director Fernando Briones and the student to design a scope of work. Projects can encompass but are not limited to, topics such as the use of scientific information in decision making, communication of probability and uncertainty, perceptions of risk, characterizing vulnerability and adaptive capacity, or recommending course of action based on analytical approaches. Placements in the field will address specific needs identified by IFRC field staff related to challenges of science communication and adaptation decision-making. 

Participants will be required to write six blog posts from the field during this placement, give some presentations (e.g. in the CSTPR brown bag series) upon return, and complete a report at the conclusion of their fellowship detailing their experience and research outcomes.

$4,000 funding in total will be provided to offset expenses (in-country housing, food, airfare, and in-country transportation). Expenses can vary widely depending on the location and nature of the placement. Fellows will work with CU-affiliated travel agents to arrange round-trip airfare to their field site. Due to this $4,000 limit, applicants are encouraged to seek additional funds from alternate sources, as expenses can exceed this budgeted amount. 

Application Deadline: March 9 at 12PM (MT)
More Information

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2020 AAAS “CASE” Workshop Student Competition

Student competition to attend the AAAS “Catalyzing Advocacy in Science and Engineering” workshop in Washington, DC to learn about Congress, the federal budget process, and effective science communication. Students will have an opportunity to meet with their Members of Congress or congressional staff.

Application Deadline: February 3, 2020

Click here for more information or to apply

Competition Details
The CIRES Center for Science and Technology Policy Research is hosting a competition to send three CU Boulder students to Washington, DC to attend the AAAS “Catalyzing Advocacy in Science and Engineering” workshop. The competition is open to any full-time CU Boulder graduate student or upper class undergraduate in one of the following fields: Biological, physical, or earth sciences; Computational sciences and mathematics; Engineering disciplines; Medical and health sciences; and Social and behavioral sciences.

The evaluation committee will select four students from those who apply. The competition is supported by the CU Graduate School and the Center for STEM Learning. Competition winners will be asked to submit a brief report about their workshop experience and participate in a panel discussion.

Please submit a one-page statement explaining the importance of the workshop to your career development and a one-page resume to by February 3, 2020.

Workshop Overview
Making our CASE: Catalyzing Advocacy in Science and Engineering
March 29 – April 1, 2020

An exciting opportunity for upper-class undergraduate and graduate students in science, mathematics, and engineering disciplines to learn about science policy and advocacy. #MakingOurCASE

This entry-level program is organized to educate STEM students who are interested in learning about the role of science in policy-making, to introduce them to the federal policy-making process, and to empower them with ways to become a voice for basic research throughout their careers.  The workshop is designed for students in science, technology, engineering, and math fields, with limited experience and knowledge of science policy and advocacy who want to learn more about science policy.

Students will participate in a three-and-a-half day program in Washington, DC. Participants will learn about the structure and organization of Congress, the federal budget and appropriations processes, and tools for effective science communication and civic engagement.  In addition, students will participate in interactive seminars about policy-making and communication.

On the last day of the program, students will have the option to form teams and conduct meetings with their elected Members of Congress and congressional staff. More workshop Information.

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Max Boykoff Receives 2020 Thomas Jefferson Award

Max Boykoff was selected as the recipient of the 2020 Thomas Jefferson Award in the faculty category. This award honors students, staff, and faculty members who advance the ideals of Thomas Jefferson. These include broad interests in literature, arts and sciences, and public affairs, a strong concern for the advancement of higher education, a deeply seated sense of individual civic responsibility, and a profound commitment to the welfare and rights of the individual.

Max also recently received another Faculty award from the Center to Advance Research and Teaching in the Social Sciences (CARTSS) Steering Committee in support of his project entitled “Balance as Bias 2.0”. Congratulations!

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The Climate Papers Most Featured in the Media in 2019

CSTPR’s MeCCO work for Lancet Report (#12 most featured in the media) highlighted in Carbon Brief

Last year saw the rise of climate change protests, with Greta Thunberg, school strikes and Extinction Rebellion generating global news coverage.

The impacts of climate change and extreme weather also hit many newspaper frontpages over the past 12 months, from devastating fires in both the Amazon and Australia to Greenland’s melting ice sheet.

Amidst an extraordinary year for media coverage of climate change, scientists and researchers were busily publishing thousands of peer-reviewed journal papers on their latest findings.

These were reported around the world in news articles and blogs and shared on social media platforms, such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Reddit. Tracking all these “mentions” was Altmetric, an organisation that scores and ranks papers according to the attention they receive. (Full details of how the Altmetric scoring system works can be found in an earlier article.)

Using Altmetric data for 2019, Carbon Brief has compiled its annual list of the 25 most talked-about climate change-related papers that were published the previous year. The infographic above shows which ones made it into the Top 10.

Number one

According to Altmetric, the two highest-scoring climate papers in 2019 are commentaries. These are “World scientists’ warning of a climate emergency” in the journal BioScience, with a score of 10,950, and “Climate tipping points – too risky to bet against” in Nature, which scored 8,552.

The two papers were the third and fifth highest-scoring, respectively, of any “research outputs” published in 2019.

The BioScience “viewpoint” piece declares “clearly and unequivocally that planet Earth is facing a climate emergency”. The paper has five authors, but it was the 11,258 scientist signatories from 153 countries that particularly attracted media attention.

The Nature “comment” paper has a similarly stark message, warning that “evidence from tipping points alone suggests that we are in a state of planetary emergency: both the risk and urgency of the situation are acute”.

Despite their high scores, as they are commentaries rather than research papers, they are not included in Carbon Brief’s leaderboard. (Commentaries are typically commissioned by journal editors, rather than being part of an open submission process. They are also not routinely peer-reviewed. Carbon Brief does include review and perspective articles in the leaderboard, however, as these tend to follow a more traditional editorial process, though this varies by journal. For more on the different types of journal articles, see the guidelines given by Nature and Science as examples.)

Landing the coveted number one spot in 2019 is “New elevation data triple estimates of global vulnerability to sea level rise and coastal flooding”, published in Nature Communications in October, with an Altmetric score of 7,136. This paper was placed seventh in Altmetric’s own Top 100 research papers of 2019.

The Top 5

Just missing out on top spot, in second place is “The global tree restoration potential” in the journal Science, with an Altmetrics score of 6,354.

This study, led by Dr Jean-Francois Bastin – a postdoctoral researcher at the Crowther Lab at ETH Zurich – mapped “the global potential tree coverage to show that 4.4bn hectares of canopy cover could exist under the current climate”. The study estimates that there is “room for an extra 0.9bn hectares” of trees, which has the potential to store 205bn tonnes of carbon.

Elsewhere in the Top 25

Just outside the Top 10, in 11th place with a score of 2,767, is the Science Advances paper “Acceleration of ice loss across the Himalayas over the past 40 years”. Using satellite imagery, the study finds a “doubling of the average loss rate” of Himalayan ice during 2000-16 compared to 1975-2000. The study featured in 349 news stories – more than any other in the list outside the Top 4.

In 12th is another Lancet paper, with the longest title of any in the Top 25: “The 2019 report of The Lancet Countdown on health and climate change: ensuring that the health of a child born today is not defined by a changing climate”. 

The Lancet Countdown is an “international, multidisciplinary collaboration, dedicated to monitoring the evolving health profile of climate change, and providing an independent assessment of the delivery of commitments made by governments worldwide under the Paris Agreement”. Carbon Brief reported on the 2018 edition of the report, which warned that extreme heat threatens “systemic failure” of the world’s hospitals. Read more …

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21st Century Climate Communication with Max Boykoff

Climate Changers Podcast

Max Boykoff is the Director of the Center for Science and Technology Policy Research at the University of Colorado Boulder. Max’s research and creative work focuses on the transformation of carbon-based society and the cultural politics of science, climate change and environmental issues. In this interview, we explore how creative communication about climate change transcends talking past one another and “gotcha moments” and rather moves to meet people where they are. To be effective storytellers and open peoples minds to new ideas, we need to find areas where we have common ground and shared values and concerns and then use that common ground as a foundation for deeper engagement around climate change.

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MeCCO 2019 Year End Retrospective

Special Issue 2019
A Review of Media Coverage of Climate Change and Global Warming in 2019


2019 has been an important year in which climate change and global warming fought for media attention amid competing interests in other stories, events and issues around the globe. In a finite ‘news hole’, climate change and global warming garnered coverage through stories manifesting through primary, yet often intersecting, political, economicscientificcultural as well as ecological and meteorological themes.

Sub-Saharan African drought, Central American migration pressures, South American deforestation, Asian public health concerns, European decarbonization, United Nations (UN) climate talks, Australian bushfires, Canadian Federal Elections, United States (US) withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement and global youth-led climate social movements punctuated the 2019 media and climate change landscape. Climate impacts – from the Amazon to the Zambezi River – grabbed media attention in 2019. Personalities like Donald, Jacinda, Jair, Greta, and Narendra contributed ‘discernible human influences’ on media coverage of climate change across the year. And in 2019, other names made climate-related news: Barry, Dorian, Hagabis, Idai, Kammuri and Lorenzo.

As the year ended, retrospectives like Miles O’Brien’s take at PBS NewsHourhelped to put the “Earth’s fragility and humans’ indifference to it” into context, describing how we ‘Earthlings’ found ourselves at an ‘inflection point’ after this pivotal year. As journalists and editors took stock of the year gone by, numerous influential news organizations called out US Trump Administration actions as incommensurate with the scale of the intersectional climate challenges. For example, in ‘President Trump’s very bad year on climate change hurts us all’ at the end of December, Los Angeles Times Editors wrote, “If Trump thinks the Paris agreement posed an ‘unfair economic burden’ on the U.S., as the administration described it, he ought to contemplate the costs of dealing with a warmer and more unstable climate”. Meanwhile, New York Times journalists Nadja Popovich, Livia Albeck-Ripka and Kendra Pierre-Louis placed seven explicit climate policy actions in the context of a larger basket of ’95 Environmental Rules Being Rolled Back Under Trump’. Outside the US context, Guardian journalist Fiona Harvey pointed out that, “Climate breakdown played a key role in at least 15 events in 2019 that cost more than $1bn (£760m) in damage, with more than half of those costing more than $10bn each. Extreme weather including floods, storms, droughts and wildfires struck every inhabited continent in the past year, causing devastation and loss of life”.

As this end of the year also marked the end of a decade, numerous outlets also examined climate change over the past ten years. For instance, journalist John D. Sutter at CNN commented, “On the cusp of 2020, the state of the planet is far more dire than in 2010. Preserving a safe and healthy ecological system is no longer a realistic possibility. Now, we’re looking at less bad options, ceding the fact that the virtual end of coral reefs, the drowning of some island nations, the worsening of already-devastating storms and the displacement of millions — they seem close to inevitable. The climate crisis is already costly, deadly and deeply unjust, putting the most vulnerable people in the world, often who’ve done the least to cause this, at terrible risk. The worst part? We’ve known about this for a very long time”.

At the global level, September was the high water mark for coverage of climate change or global warming among the sources tracked by our Media and Climate Change Observatory (MeCCO) team. New Zealand print media coverage reached an all-time high, while the amount of coverage in Germany and Spain were second highest, and the United Kingdom reached the fourth highest on record in the month of September. Also in September 2019, Indian print media coverage reached an all-time high.

Coverage was most abundant in history apart from attention in November and December 2009 associated with the Copenhagen round of climate talks (COP15) and the University of East Anglia email hacking scandal ‘climate-gate’. MeCCO documented particularly strong signals in the quantity of coverage in the US in September in both television and print media. US television media reached its second highest levels (after the aforementioned period of November and December 2009. US print media of climate change or global warming reached an all-time high since MeCCO monitoring began in January 2000. US print media coverage of climate change surpassed the previous high water mark achieved in January 2017 (largely dominated by speculation of how newly inaugurated US President Donald Trump would impact global efforts to combat climate change). Contributing to these increases, a ‘Covering Climate Now’ campaign – led by US-based media organizations the Nation and Columbia Journalism Review – was deployed in September to increase media coverage of climate change across more than 300 participating outlets. With a combined potential audience of over 1 billion readers, viewers and listeners, this initiative contributed to the increases in coverage that we in MeCCO detected.

In 2019, we at MeCCO introduced expanded media monitoring of climate change or global warming around the world.

  • in January, we began tracking Public Broadcasting Services on United States television and additional monitoring across four wire services: Associated PressAgence France Press (AFP)The Canadian Press, and United Press International (UPI)
  • in April, we then added eight new European sources to our counts: Correio da Manhã (Portugal), La Republica (Italy), Corriere della Sera (Italy), Le Monde (France), Le Figaro (France), El Mundo (Spain), La Vanguardia (Spain) and Expansion (Spain)
  • also in April, we added a ‘European Newspaper Coverage of Climate Change or Global Warming’ figure like we had done with our work to track ‘Latin American Newspaper Coverage of Climate Change or Global Warming’ in the past
  • in May, we began monitoring six sources total from Sweden (Dagens NyheterAftonbladet, and Expressen) and Norway (AftenpostenVG, and Dagbladet) to our European monitoring
  • in October, we integrated 17 new sources across 14 countries: five new sources in Asia, 11 new sources in Africa and 1 new source in the Middle East: The Malaysian Reserve (Malaysia), Today (Singapore), The Daily Mirror (Sri Lanka), The Daily News (Sri Lanka) and The New Nation (Bangladesh) in Asia; Daily Trust (Nigeria), Vanguard (Nigeria), The New Times (Rwanda), Daily Nation (Kenya), The Times of Zambia (Zambia), New Era Namibia (Namibia), The Citizen (Tanzania), Pa Potentiel (Congo), L’Observateur Paalga (Burkina Faso), La Nouvelle Tribune (Morocco) and Sud Quotidien (Senegal) in Africa; and Dawn (Pakistan) in the Middle East

This work increased our explanatory power regarding print media coverage of climate change in these regions now with 23 sources in Asia, 15 sources in Africa and 6 sources in the Middle East along with 20 sources in North America, 13 sources in Latin America, 8 sources in Oceania and 28 sources in Europe. In addition, we at MeCCO now monitor print media representations of climate change at the country-level in eleven nations. Including television and radio with newspaper sources, we now monitor 113 sources total across 55 countries in nine languages (see fact sheet):

  • English: ‘climate change’ or ‘global warming’
  • French: ‘changement climatique’ or ‘réchauffement climatique’
  • German: ‘klimawandel’ or ‘globale erwärmung’
  • Italian: ‘cambiamenti climatici’ or ‘riscaldamento globale’
  • Japanese: ‘温暖化’ or ‘気候変動’
  • Norwegian: ‘global oppvarming’ or ‘klimaendring’
  • Portuguese: ‘mudanças climáticas’ or ‘aquecimento global’
  • Spanish: ‘cambio climático’ or ‘calentamiento global’
  • Swedish: ‘global uppvärmning’ or ‘klimatförändring’

Across the one-hundred newspaper sources, coverage was up 73% in 2019 compared to 2018. Across global radio, coverage was up 74% in 2019 compared to 2018. At the country level, coverage increased everywhere. This was most pronounced in Germany and the UK where coverage more than doubled. Yet coverage increased substantially in New Zealand (up 95%), Canada (up 90%) Spain (up 88%) and Australia (up 83%) in 2019. Elsewhere, coverage in 2019 compared to the previous year in India was up 61% while coverage was up 59% in Norway, 48% in Sweden and 45% in Japan. US television coverage increased dramatically in 2019, up 138%, but the increase in print coverage in 2019 was more modest by comparison, up 46% from 2018.

At the US country level, Figure 2 illustrates these trends month to month in US press accounts across five newspaper publications in 2019 – The Washington PostThe Wall Street JournalThe New York TimesUSA Today, and The Los Angeles Times.

Figure 3 shows trends month to month in 2019 across US television news – ABCCBSCNNFox News NetworkMSNBC, and NBC.

In the US, there was a continued prominence (detected in 2017 and 2018 as well) of news from US outlets on climate change or global warming associated with Donald J. Trump. We at MeCCO have referred to this as a ‘Trump Dump’, where media attention that would have focused on other climate-related events and issues instead was placed on Trump-related actions, leaving many other stories untold. It bears repeating that Lisa Hymas described this aptly in this way: “The media should be chasing down stories on climate science, the people being affected by climate change, responses and solutions to the problem. Instead, even when they report on climate change, they’re still chasing Trump”.  This pattern was discussed particularly in February, March and May 2019 below. This resurfaced as well in November 2019 when the Trump administration formally notified the UN that the US was withdrawing from the Paris climate agreement (see below for more). In 2019, these ongoing trends led to a ‘distracting Donald’ label as many appeared to grow weary of interference and subversion of ongoing efforts by the Trump Administration to confront a changing climate as the 2020s approached.

This report is a reprise of monthly summaries that our MeCCO team has compiled and posted each month on our website. It is our third annual review of coverage. The project is currently based in the Center for Science and Technology Policy Research (CSTPR) in the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES) at the University of Colorado Boulder. However, contributions are made through collaborations and partnerships with MeCCO members at the University of New England (US), Babson College (US), Universidad Complutense de Madrid (Spain), Universidad de Sevilla (Spain) and the National Institute for Environmental Studies (Japan) and Oslo Metropolitan University (Norway). MeCCO members are Midori Aoyagi, Andrew Benham, Max Boykoff, Patrick Chandler, Meaghan Daly, Kaori Doi, Rogelio Fernández-Reyes, Lauren Gifford, Isidro Jiménez Gómez, Jennifer Katzung, Lucy McAllister, Marisa McNatt, Ami Nacu-Schmidt, David Oonk, Jeremiah Osborne-Gowey, Olivia Pearman, Anne Hege Simonsen, and Andreas Ytterstad.

As the next decade unfolds, let us take some time to reflect on how the past year of media coverage of climate change may shape what is to come. 2020 is also a critical time to ponder how our histories up to the present shape those that will follow in ‘the fierce urgency of now’. What follows are ‘highlights’ of key events, stories and developments through politicalscientificculturalecological and meteorological themes that have transpired during our collectively experienced year 2019.

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UiTM’s Role Honoured in Top Climate Change Report

New Straits Times
by Rayyan Rafidi

Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM) recently marked a significant milestone after being named as one of the 35 partner institutions listed in the “Lancet Countdown: Tracking Progress on Health and Climate Change 2019”, a report published annually in The Lancet.

It joined the ranks of leading academic institutions and United Nations agencies, namely University College London and the World Health Organisation.

Each year, the report provides an assessment on the health effects of climate change, developments in the implementation of the 2016 Paris Agreement, and the health implications of these actions.

It draws on the expertise of climate scientists, ecologists, mathematicians, economists, social and political scientists and doctors.

The Lancet is one of the world’s most prestigious general medical journal with an impact factor of 53.102. This year’s report featured UiTM’s Faculty of Plantation and Agrotechnology senior lecturer Dr Meisam Tabatabaei Pozveh as a lead collaborator in biofuel research.

UiTM was given the honour to launch this year’s report. Held at UiTM Puncak Alam on Dec 12, the event comprised a series of climate change talks and a health exhibition.

In his speech via Skype, Lancet Countdown executive director Dr Nick Watts said the report served as a global monitoring system on the links between climate change and health.

“For far too long, climate change is seen as a phenomenon that affects only the environment. Understanding it and re-imagining it as a public health issue is important.

“Climate change actually looks like child malnutrition or the exacerbation of asthma. When we view climate change not as a tangible concept, but as a threat to human health, then we start to understand that no country is immune. Low-income countries are bearing the brunt of the impacts,” said Dr Watts.

University of Colorado Boulder’s Centre for Science and Technology Policy Research director Associate Professor Dr Maxwell Boykoff then took the stage to discuss the report’s key messages and highlights.

“First, the life of every child born today will be profoundly affected by climate change. Without accelerated interventions, it will define their health throughout their lives.

“The second key message urges us to limit the global average temperature rise to well below 2˚C above pre-industrial levels, which is the central objective of the Paris Agreement.”

An unprecedented challenge demanded an unprecedented response, he continued.

“The scale of our response does not commensurate with the immense scale of challenges. The report hopes to address that gap by wisely confronting climate change in the 21st century.” Read more …

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