The impacts of climate change are indeed very evident already. In the past few months, green talk has been flooding the media all over the world, building up to the UN Climate Change Conference now taking place in the Danish capital.
Countless journalists – along with scientists, activists and whoever else concerned with climate change – are flocking in the city in hope that stakeholders do the right thing (even though there are probably as many different definitions for that “right thing”).
Indeed, the issue of climate change has been receiving unprecedented attention in recent months (with the best proof being the counter-movement of the climate skeptics and its peak show the so-called “climate-gate” of the hacked emails), and there have been numerous different campaigns and reports addressing the equally numerous aspects of climate change, its causes, impacts and solutions.
But one has to wonder whether this – truly urgent – call for action has actually been effective. Basing on previous examples – from the Kyoto Protocol crippling implementation to world leaders failing to meet the Bali Road Map deadline at Copenhagen – the pledges to be formally made by the end of the COP-15 summit cannot be really considered a reliable indicator for success.
It’s certainly possible that progress on certain issues – for example, deforestation – will eventually be made in the current round of talks. The optimistic ones would refer to the statements that a final, legally-binding deal will be sealed in half a year.
This move could keep the climate buzz going. But at the same time it could also clear the climate debate off the media and public agenda once the curtain falls on the Copenhagen meeting.
There’s nothing in IPCC reports or any other climate research about a catastrophe to happen on December 19, when thousands of foreign visitors start leaving the Danish capital. However, failing to see the unfolding, dangerous consequences of climate change all over the world, most media outlets will probably abandon the focus they’ve put on the issue until now.
On one hand, it’s only natural that the media clings to one timely event and then moves on to the rest of the daily happenings. On the other hand, there are certain topics that get ongoing comprehensive coverage by certain media. In Israel, there’s no single day without a handful of different items related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In Germany, whenever you open a newspaper you’re most likely to spot at least five news – yes, news – items somehow related to World War II.
Climate change certainly meets the same criteria of a continuously unfolding, complex story, and indeed some well-established publications – like the Guardian – have already recognized that.
From the Israeli point of view, Israel – many people believe – will/doesn’t feel climate change implications too much. Or, more precisely, it’d be too difficult to attribute what we see here to global climatic processes. It simply isn’t as perceptible as our regional conflict, and therefore climate change (much like most environmental issues) is too often considered more of a luxury concern.
Moreover, Israel isn’t one of the developing countries that climate change jeopardizes their very existences (such as the Maldives, Kiribati and other small island states).
Also (and beyond Israel’s truly tiny contribution to global greenhouse gas emissions), Israel – too many Israelis, and policymakers among them, like to thing – will always somehow manage. After all, we went through Pharaoh, so we’ll get through this, too.
Apart from a few news websites, the Israeli media coverage of the Copenhagen summit [H] exactly reflects this kind of notion. Maariv, it should be noted, joined The Guardian’s collaborative editorial initiative on Copenhagen’s first day. And Maariv’s internet outreach, NRG, is indeed one of the more active media covering the international conference. But while justly criticizing [H] the Prime Minister’s embarrassing indecisiveness regarding the trip to Denmark (and its cancelation), it’s probably as embarrassing to realize that out of the approximately 5000 accredited journalists in Copenhagen, only one is there on behalf of an Israeli newspaper (and it’s not Maariv).
But even if there will be a few more reporters coming on board the President’s airplane later this week, don’t expect climate change issues to hit Israeli headlines afterwards – unless a legally binding agreement entails the state with some serious economic implications.
But this is not an Israeli endemic illness. It’s actually more of a pandemic, and just as part of the western lifestyle, the shallow media coverage of climate change issues is simply unsustainable. It’s not only the ecological footprint of green preachers themselves (and the daily mass print of newspapers is an honorable contributor), but the perilously compromising reporting that many uninformed journalists think we can afford, thus practically saying apres moi le deluge.