Irish media report climate below EU average, TDs said

NEWS media in Ireland report climate change less frequently than the European average, politicians studying how the issue is communicated have heard.

They also heard the public received mixed messages about the climate, with messages highlighting the damage caused by carbon-intensive products while advertisements promoted the same goods.

“Ireland’s reporting has had wild ups and downs,” said Dr. David Robbins, Director of the Center for Climate and Society at Dublin City University, opposite the Oireachtas Committee on Environment and Climate Change.

“It goes up when there is a COP [UN climate summit]or an IPCC [climate science] report, and at other times fades away almost to nothing.

“This applies to coverage everywhere, but while Irish coverage follows the same patterns as elsewhere, the levels are lower than the rest of Europe.”

The committee will devote three meetings to the topic before Christmas.

She will then submit a report to the government with recommendations on how to improve communication about climate change and the actions needed to combat it.

“The news media will be critical to Ireland’s success or failure in achieving the relatively ambitious goals that it has set itself,” said Dr. Robbins, a former journalist.

Among the difficulties he identified for news media covering the issue were staff cuts leading to a shortage of specialized reporters as well as a lack of climate knowledge among general reporters.

He said the issue is also “complex, slow, repetitive, data-heavy, and long-term.”

“Climate change is hell for journalists.”

DCU is working with multiple newsrooms to challenge conventional approaches to the issue, he said.

The approach too often focused on the cost of climate action or the conflict it created between politicians of different ideologies and between sectors with different interests.

Professor Pete Lunn, head of behavioral research at the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI), said there was a need to “call out” those trying to create conflict.

“There are powerful groups that have their own interests,” he said.

“You will hear certain representatives and certain lobby groups and certain people representing certain industries talking about differences between Dublin and the rest of the country and the urban and rural differences in climate change,” he said.

No such gap emerged in the numerous studies ESRI had conducted on the subject, most recently a survey of 16- to 24-year-olds released Tuesday.

“There’s very little urban-rural divide in climate change, so there’s a real problem when people try to exploit these kinds of differences for self-interest.

“Identifying politics and divisions, dividing the country into naysayers and others, is really problematic in trying to solve the problem. It has to feel like we’re acting together.”

The DCU is exploring ideas for providing a dedicated climate change news service to provincial media given the extremely limited coverage they have on the issue.

dr Robbins said the government should also consider providing financial support for climate change reporting, especially for expensive things like creating programs or covering cop summits.

Committee members raised questions about how advertisers could be held to higher standards to prevent the greenwashing of carbon-polluting products and activities such as flights and non-electric cars.

Sinn Féin Senator Lynn Boylan suggested it might be time to consider a total ban on certain advertising, as has been done with tobacco products. Irish media report climate below EU average, TDs said

Fry Electronics Team

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