Wednesday, October 22, 2008

IPCC chair says severity of impacts is underreported The chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said the news media are not sufficiently addressing the severity of climate change at a meeting of U.S. environmental journalists earlier this week. R.K. Pachauri, head of the 2,500-member IPCC, said that unless policies are enacted soon to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions, the global perils from shifting weather patterns and sea level rise will become worse in the coming years.

To communicate the dangers of climate change, Pachauri urged the annual gathering of the Society of Environmental Journalists (SEJ) to report how the most recent IPCC assessment will affect local communities. "In the last year and a half, there has been a massive explosion of awareness; however, the media has not reported enough about the emergency and depth of action," said Pachauri, who has led the United Nations panel since 2002.

The fact that only half of Americans polled consider human activity to be the main cause of climate change is often blamed on media coverage. But news reports of climate change have steadily increased in recent years, especially since government reports, a major Supreme Court hearing, and the documentary "An Inconvenient Truth" brought attention to the climate crisis in 2006. Pachauri suggested that major news agencies now rely too much on high-level science reports or large climate-related events for their stories, rather than examples of climate change's ongoing effects. "We need to go beyond the cyclical coverage of climate change and emphasize the day-to-day relevance," he said.

…Yet the trend for environmental coverage, which would include local pollution stories in addition to global ecological problems, is less clear. The survey said 17 percent of editors decreased their environmental reporting resources, while 22 percent said these resources increased in the past three years. "[Editors] are cutting international, even national news, and they're playing up more local and lifestyle stories," said Wheeler, a reporter at The Baltimore Sun. "But the environment is still an important local story." …

R.K. Pachauri, head of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

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