Climate Talks and Agendas

This issue has been done to death, covered by every news outlet five times over, this does not however make it less important today than it did, say, 10 years ago when I personally began noticing the problem of climate change. You would think that a problem so large scale, affecting every corner of the globe would get more coverage, especially during the United Nation’s climate change summit that took place this week.

The summit saw 120 world leaders talk for 4 minutes each about climate change, and was especially significant as for many, this was their inaugural summit. I figured that this alone was reason enough to write a blog post about coverage of climate change in the media today.

This article will look at coverage in newspapers further afield from my go-to the Guardian and the Daily Mail (although these will be included) and hopefully assess their impact on readers the world over. I remember reading many articles in the Guardian this week about climate change, with Obama declaring … however, when I visited the website, I can’t see anything on the front page. You may be thinking ‘well it was a few days ago’, which is true, but personally I feel it is still important enough of an issue to warrant at least some front page recognition, especially as miseducation about climate change is part of the reason why nothing is seemingly ever done about it.

Five ways Ban Ki-Moon’s summit has changed international climate politics forever was the first article I read in the Guardian concerning this summit, which was surprising given that it gives a more ‘Comment Is Free’ vibe, rather than a news story (which on reflection and examination, it may well act as). The third paragraph into this column reads ‘The UN climate summit did not conclude in a grand ‘agreement’.’ and this is where I feel the Guardian may have gone wrong. Part of the problem, in my opinion and experience discussing with fellow students at both university and school, if that many people feel exasperated with climate coverage, as like me, they feel nothing is ever really agreed upon or sorted out – only postponed. This summit is indeed a preface to the upcoming Paris 2015 conference when EU climate goals will be reassigned, yet the fact tat nothing was achieved only adds to this “climate change exhaustion”.

Nevertheless, the article in itself is a positive one, finishing with the explanation of its title: it gives 5 positive impacts the summit has had (something it should have opened with).

Contrastingly, when I read the Daily Telegraph, a right-wing broadsheet (a smart and socially acceptable brother of the Daily Mail) I see a significantly more negative take on the summit. One article, entitled How not all of Barack Obama’s climate change ‘facts’ in UN speech stack up appears to aim to discredit a large proportion of Obama’s speech. This caught my eye as it is a classic take on anything that suggests climate change at its current level is anthropogenic by nature. Let’s look at the opening ‘claim’ made by Obama:

‘OBAMA: “Over the past eight years, the United States has reduced our total carbon pollution by more than any other nation on Earth.”

THE FACTS: Europe as a whole has cut a bigger proportion of its emissions.’

You do not have to be stupid to notice the basic flaw here; Obama says his nation has cut its emissions the most out of the countries on earth, and the Telegraph dispels this with the fact that the EU as a whole has cut a ‘bigger proportion of its emissions’. I may not be a climate scientist working within the environmental and meteorological departments of the government meaning I can neither confirm nor deny this fact, but I can say that the EU is not a nation. Nevertheless, I am predisposed to dislike articles that aim to reduce the believability or importance of climate change, leading to perhaps the biggest culprit in this sense, the Mail.

Unsurprisingly, neither the summit, nor the hundreds of thousand strong demonstrations across the world (which even impacted my walk to university this Sunday) that coincided with it, made front page news on the Daily Mail website. In fact, it took a lot of searching today just to find a relevant article, leading me to a video of Obama’s speech, accompanied by a link to an article seemingly titled President Barack Obama says alarms ringing over climate change. Upon clicking, however, the article is in fact called: Obama’s new climate change rules will create ‘an unnecessary hurdle’ for global development work – including fight against Ebola, warns CDC official. Upon reading, the Mail changes an article which should be climate orientated, to an article concerning the work of the CDC (Centres for Disease Control and Prevention). Admittedly, this is also important, yet simultaneously classic of the Mail itself, and can be seen as another example of poor journalism. The Mail attempts to assert that we should not combat climate change, as it’s “cost” will inhibit other important work, such as fighting malaria and ebola abroad. This contrasts with information found in the Guardian revealing that an outcome of the summit was the revelation that cutting carbon emissions can walk hand in hand with a growing economy.

Climate change is a touchy topic, and another difference I found interesting when combing the aforementioned newspapers was articles relating to the recent study conducted by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration as well as Washington University which supposedly found that changing wind patterns are the reason for increasing temperatures on the US’ West Coast. The Telegraph here, as well as the Mail here, covered this story, yet I could not find the equivalent article on the Guardian. This shows how, just as my professor noted in his International History lecture today, that journalists (and historians in the lecture’s case) can conveniently overlook facts that do not run with the associated journal’s agenda. This is not exclusive to the Guardian, and is very common in the Mail’s news coverage, especially on “contested” topics such as climate change.

What can be concluded from this, is again that no newspaper can be fully trusted, hence my inclination to read more than one. To me, this adds to my acknowledgement that climate change (and human responsibility for it) will never be universally accepted (at least for the foreseeable future), but also to my anger at news sources that continue to religiously dispute any evidence contrary to their agenda. Agendas naturally run deep within any publication, this blog for example aims to convince readers of my arguments and ideas, what is important, is that we, the public as readers, continually dispute and question what we read to extrapolate what truth we can get from it.

Miliband, Labour and Devolution

Inarguably, the Scottish independence referendum and its aftermath is the biggest news story this week; as a frequenter of both the Guardian and the Daily Mail (the perhaps most read papers on each end of the political spectrum), I can see just how important the referendum is to each paper. 4 days after the vote, both are still reporting on it. What I find interesting about their coverage, however, is the way in which it has been conducted.

Upon clicking on the Guardian homepage, I am immediately greeted by the following article: Cameron faces pressure to seal Scotland deal underneath lie a further 5 articles concerning the headline, including a Guardian view (The Guardian view on David Cameron playing politics with constitutional reform). I especially appreciate the inclusion of a ‘view’ (that is, a admittance of what the newspaper’s official stance on the issue is) and this is something I have noticed a lot over the past few weeks, as at least when you are considering the newspaper’s spin on the topic, you are aware of what they actually think.

In comparison, the Daily Mail news site greets me with a small link to the equivalent article, under a large, unflattering picture of Alex Salmond and his accompanying article, with the following headline: Miliband REJECTS English Votes for English laws and accuses Cameron of playing politics with Westminster ‘vow’ to Scotland. Without even reading the article, I can immediately tell the spin the Mail will take: anti-Labour and anti-Miliband.

I find this use of linguistics particularly interesting, with the Guardian using a straightforward, unbiased headline giving the reader a snapshot of the story, with the Mail in contrast, using a long-winded line laden with lexis and punctuation designed to incur anger.

The Mail refers to Ed Miliband constantly as ‘Mr. Miliband’ with David Cameron referred to in full. The use of ‘Mr’ can certainly be seen as belittling, which to an extent is fair enough as it is no secret that the Mail has right-wing leanings. The article constantly refers to his apparent rejection of ‘English votes for English laws’ which is actually never explicitly rejected by ‘Mr’ Miliband. This Miliband-bashing is nothing new to the Daily Mail, with an almost daily slew of slander coming his way. It is fine to not support or endorse Labour, but it is beggars belief that any paper that publishes an article entitled ‘Ed Miliband is WEIRD’ can be considered good journalism. The capital letters and sarcastic tone of writing undermines significantly Labour’s view on devolution to both Scotland – who should primarily be the focus in the political post-referendum sphere – and England.

It is obvious as to why Miliband avoids directly answering this question (should Scottish MPs have the vote on purely English issues?) as a large part of Labour’s MPs are Scottish based, yet nevertheless, I agree with the principle that Scotland’s devolution should be the government’s priority given that 45% of the Scottish population embraced independence and voted yes. This only lessens my respect for David Cameron, given his conditional and tactical addition of English devolution, alongside Scotland’s. To me, this appears as a result of Cameron’s near failure to maintain the Union, with Glasgow and Dundee voting in favour of independence, which if achieved, would have certainly seen his resignation.

English devolution is important, especially as currently the political focus is on London, but the inability of Scottish MPs to vote on English issues in Westminster would be unfair and also draw up further questions: should non-London MPs get to vote on London-centric issues and vice-versa? Similarly, how much time should be focused on London in Westminster etc. This is an obvious ploy by Cameron to reduce the influence of Labour, the main (barely) left-leaning party in parliament and leave England how the Tories would like it – right wing and conservative.

To me, this only stresses the importance of an awareness of what the papers want you to believe, and in no way am I suggesting that the Guardian is unbiased, yet in this case, I feel it offers a fairer and more comprehensive analysis of the current situation. The devolution question raises countless others, and it will be interesting to see how it develops over the coming days and weeks especially considering Cameron’s reneging on pre-referendum promises which is doing nothing to help the reputation of parliament, politicians or the Conservatives.

(Note: I appreciate the Daily Mail cannot really be considered a broad-sheet or even a well-respected publication, yet I chose it as so many people read it everyday.)