Newspapers and climate breakdown

| 10th February 2021 |
Extinction Rebellion protest

People join an Extinction Rebellion protest in London, on the last day of demonstrations.

Britain's national press is finally coming fully behind action on climate breakdown. But why the 'reverse ferret'?

The young climate activists are far more powerful than they realise.

The more liberal Guardian and Independent newspapers have a long reputation for accurate reporting on climate breakdown, often launching long running and influential campaigns like The Guardian's Keep It In The Ground.

But in 2018 there were seismic shifts beginning to take place across all media outlets, with an end to outright climate change denialism in the press and the BBC squeezing out the deniers on radio and TV.

In 2019 Alison Phillips, at The Mirror, was the first editor to break from the Red-Top pack, ditching it's support for White Van Man's diesel and throwing its weight into a huge range of green issues.

Heart

The Times and FT increased their coverage of issues connected with climate change in 2019. The Mail and Express side-lined the denialists and in the autumn of 2020 The Sun followed the Mirror, with a week long special on eco-issues, launching a new section - The Green Team.

Now the conversion was nearly complete. The Express has launched a major campaign to end VAT on green products alongside a series of articles co-authored with Dave Vince of Ecotricity. Then in the week commencing 8 February, The Sun launched further strand of work from its Green Team - The Road to COP26.

So why has this sudden change in direction occurred? And how can it be that the billionaires who control so much of the UK media have switched from campaigning against action on climate to becoming the most vigorous advocates for dynamic action?

There is no one single answer: it is a range of pressures.

It’s not merely ‘because COP26 is coming', because there have been loads of them before. And it’s not just because COP is in the UK, because other conferences on other issues have been in the UK without seeing a change of heart by the media.

But the fact that COP 26 is in the UK and the Conservative government says it wants COP to be a success, has contributed to more interest by the right-wing press.

Intergenerational

But the main pressures for the media to change are: -

  • Public opinion polling shows that somewhere between 65% and 81% of the public are now ‘very concerned’ by climate change.
  • The proportion of those ‘very concerned’ rises the younger the age of the person questioned.
  • Papers are slowly dying, in part because they are losing young people – if you want young people you’ve got to end your war on the young.
  • XR has put the spotlight on the media. More people now know that the billionaire press barons have been misleading them and have been at least complicit in waging a war on the young. The Printworks activists and those of us who let rip at the BBC & ITN protest actions, are having a very real impact.
  • I do stacks of work behind the scenes - you will have seen my accusation to senior Telegraph staff that they’ve been waging ‘a hate campaign against the young’. Many journalists and editors know about this and are aware of the direction of travel – blame!
  • The young climate activists are far more powerful than they realise – the MockCOP26 ‘Treaty’ has worried the billionaires and politicians because it didn’t merely call for a new law of ‘Ecocide’, it called for a scale of criminal penalties that match the scale of the harm caused.
  • The penny is beginning to drop - Intergenerational Theft is going to be met with Intergenerational Reparations. And those foremost in the firing line are those in the media who lied to the public about the scale of the threat.

This Author

Jonathan N Fuller is a radical climate activist who has been campaigning to prevent climate breakdown for 40 years. He has undertaken the full range of climate campaigning from Friends of the Earth, standing for Parliament, launching a series of one off projects such as ‘Climate Genocide Act Now’ and ‘Tell The Truth’ campaigning with Extinction Rebellion - which led to his arrest beside the world famous pink boat parked in Oxford Circus in sight of the BBC’s HQ.

Fight the Fire