If I were the editor-in-chief of a newspaper, the paper would run at least one climate change story every day on the front page above the fold. If I ran a magazine, each issue would feature a climate change story on the cover.
It could be a story about a weather disaster aggravated by climate change. Or one about the latest research findings. Maybe one on new developments in alternative energy. Possibly one on actions by the EPA or a similar agency in another country.
That is, I’d cover climate change the way The New York Times and other newspapers and magazines now cover terrorism and the Republicans running for president. Because while terrorism is an ongoing problem and debates over penis size make for entertaining news, climate change is more important to people and the planet than either of those things (especially the second one).
None of the stories in my fictional publications would feature the idiots who don’t “believe” in climate change. There are enough differing opinions about the scope of the problem and the best ways to address it among those who do understand that human beings have had a major effect on Earth and all the species who live here to create the “balance” so prized in traditional journalism.
Of course, print newspapers and magazines are not as powerful as they used to be, but they do still have impact. National Public Radio, and PBS should also be doing much, much more climate change coverage. NPR should have a major climate change story on Morning Edition and All Things Considered every day, and PBS should feature one on its nightly newscast.
And there is plenty of room for a key climate change story every day on the various news websites in place of a few of the outrage election stories. It would obviously be good if network and cable TV news did this, too, though I confess I have trouble imagining them ever hiring an editor who would take any kind of real news coverage seriously.
To do this properly, these publications and programs would need a staff of journalists who understand the scientific and legal issues involved, as well as the political context. And they’d need to be doing investigative reporting, not just responding to press releases on the latest studies. In my fantasy, the reporters would be finding the facts and making them known.
I know this is a fantasy scenario, because some of the publications have been cutting back their environmental coverage, a decision I find incomprehensible. But it’s also something that could be done, and something that would provide much more public service than a lot of what passes for news these days.
I grew up in journalism and worked as a legal reporter for many years, so I have some idea of the kind of effect good, sustained coverage of climate change could have. For starters, it would make a of people take the issue as seriously as they currently take terrorism or elections.
There are many things that need addressing in both our country and the world at large. Most of the ones I care about can be lumped under justice and fairness: racism, sexism, income inequality, a social safety net that provides real care for those who need it with a minimum of hassle and bureaucracy. I am also interested in the problems and possibilities of our expanding tech world and artificial intelligence, which have the potential to change our lives in another direction.
But climate change is the 900-pound gorilla. If we continue on our current course of allowing fossil fuel companies and right wing politicians to stifle any efforts to address it in a meaningful way, it could make all other questions moot.
I have lots of reasons for wanting the world to take serious measures to rein in climate change. I’m sure most people reading this do, too.
But one of my reasons is purely selfish. I’m a science fiction writer, and I’d like to be able to write stories that assume the survival of the Earth and the human race without feeling like I’m writing fantasy.
Lately, I’ve been finding that difficult to do.