Hey, Media. For COP26, Let’s Get Climate Coverage Right for a Change

Enough with the breathless ‘Is climate change real? Are we doomed? Will politicians fail us?’ rigmarole.

Deepti Kannapan


Photo by The Climate Reality Project on Unsplash

The 26th session of the Conference of the Parties or COP26 starts on October 31st in Glasgow, Scotland. Here are two things to know about it:

1. It is essential. It is a meeting of world leaders, where each country sets its emission reductions targets, plans to restore its ecosystems, and agrees on financing and rules for collaboration. (See COP26 Explained.) Without targets, rules and money, nothing gets done, right?

2. It is not a silver bullet. It’s a meeting of world leaders. It’s just targets, rules, and money. That’s no guarantee of results, and could (read, will frequently) devolve into a lot of blah-blah-blah.

With those expectations set, we’re ready to watch the conference, which will go on till November 12th. But, hey, news media, can we get some reasonable coverage for once? None of this ‘World leader seen drinking from a disposable water bottle; are we doomed????’ hysteria.

Here are some climate journalism tropes that can’t die too soon. COP26 is a great time to put them in the ground.

“Which is better?”

What do you think of this headline — “Low-carbon flights are nice. But they won’t save the planet.”

This (actual) heading from a major newspaper had me rolling my eyes so hard I sprained my face, because you could say that about anything — no one measure will save the planet. They’re still part of the solution.

I won’t link the article because it has factual errors (you can easily find it if you’re that curious). But even without the errors, the broader point remains: why are journalists endlessly pitting one climate measure against the other as if they were racehorses?

Yes, we need to decrease consumerism. And we need regulation. And international cooperation. And technological innovation. And corporate initiatives. And no one measure is enough.

This thing has a lot of moving parts, and we need all of them. It’s not that hard a concept to get.



Deepti Kannapan

Painter, occasional cartoonist, aerospace engineer. Writes about sustainable technology, creativity, and journaling.