(BBC) Climate Change: Young People Very Worried - Survey

BBC -  Roger Harrabin

Over half of those surveyed said they thought humanity was doomed and that governments were failing to respond adequately. Image source Getty Images

A new global survey illustrates the depth of anxiety many young people are feeling about climate change.

Nearly 60% of young people approached said they felt very worried or extremely worried.

More than 45% of those questioned said feelings about the climate affected their daily lives.

Three-quarters of them said they thought the future was frightening. Over half (56%) say they think humanity is doomed.

Two-thirds reported feeling sad, afraid and anxious. Many felt fear, anger, despair, grief and shame - as well as hope.

One 16-year-old said: "It's different for young people - for us, the destruction of the planet is personal."

The survey across 10 countries was led by Bath University in collaboration with five universities. It's funded by the campaign and research group Avaaz. It claims to be the biggest of its kind, with responses from 10,000 people aged between 16 and 25.

Many of those questioned perceive that they have no future, that humanity is doomed, and that governments are failing to respond adequately.

Many feel betrayed, ignored and abandoned by politicians and adults.

The authors say the young are confused by governments' failure to act. They say environmental fears are "profoundly affecting huge numbers of young people".

Chronic stress over climate change, they maintain, is increasing the risk of mental and physical problems. And if severe weather events worsen, mental health impacts will follow.

The report says young people are especially affected by climate fears because they are developing psychologically, socially and physically.

Meet the people taking climate change action

The lead author, Caroline Hickman from Bath University, told BBC News: "This shows eco-anxiety is not just for environmental destruction alone, but inextricably linked to government inaction on climate change.

"The young feel abandoned and betrayed by governments.

"We're not just measuring how they feel, but what they think. Four out of 10 are hesitant to have children.

"Governments need to listen to the science and not pathologise young people who feel anxious."

The authors of the report, to be published in the journal Lancet Planetary Health, say levels of anxiety appear to be greatest in nations where government climate policies are considered weakest.

There was most concern in the global south. The most worried rich nation was Portugal, which has seen repeated wildfires.

Tom Burke from the think tank e3g told BBC News: "It's rational for young people to be anxious. They're not just reading about climate change in the media - they're watching it unfold in front of their own eyes."
I don't want to die, but I don't want to live in a world that doesn't care for children and animals
Young person answering survey
The authors believe the failure of governments on climate change may be defined as cruelty under human rights legislation. Six young people are already taking the Portuguese government to court to argue this case.

The survey was carried out by the data analytics firm Kantar in the UK, Finland, France, the US, Australia, Portugal, Brazil, India, the Philippines and Nigeria. It's under peer review on open access.

Young people were asked their views on the following statements:
  • People have failed to care for the planet: 83% agreed globally, UK 80%
  • The future is frightening: 75%, UK 72%
  • Governments are failing young people: 65%, UK 65%
  • Governments can be trusted: 31%, UK 28%
The researchers said they were moved by the scale of distress. One young person said: "I don't want to die, but I don't want to live in a world that doesn't care for children and animals."


(Vice) 56 Percent Of Young People Think Humanity Is Doomed

ViceSophia Smith Galer

A major study of 10,000 young people across 10 different countries lays bare the scale of climate crisis-related anxiety felt around the world.

Children play on melting ice at the village of Napakiak on the Yukon Delta in Alaska, in April 2019. Photo: MARK RALSTON/AFP via Getty Images

Lichen, an 18-year-old living in Hawaii, used to worry about the end of the world, but lately that doesn’t feel all that distant. Now, they’re simply worried about what’s next. And it’s a worry that is affecting nearly half of the world’s young people.

According to what its authors say is the world’s largest ever study into young people’s fears about the climate crisis, 45 percent of 16-25-year-olds said climate-related anxiety and distress is affecting their daily lives and ability to function normally.

Almost 60 percent of the 10,000 young people surveyed across 10 countries attributed this to their national governments, who they said were “betraying” them and future generations through their inaction.

Fifty-six percent of people surveyed said they agreed with the statement that humanity is doomed, while 75 percent said they believed the future was frightening.

The study, published today in Lancet Planetary Health and led by academics and professionals at the University of Bath, Stanford Medicine Centre for Innovation in Global Health, Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust and others, found that people from countries more directly and immediately impacted by climate change tended to be more worried about the future.

Ninety-two percent of young people in the Philippines said they felt like the future was frightening, compared to just 56 percent in Finland. 

But young people in the UK and the U.S. had less faith in their governments than countries like Nigeria and India. Only 28 percent and 21 percent of young Brits and Americans thought the government could be trusted when it came to the planet – whereas 51 percent of Indians had faith in the authorities. 

The report’s authors say that climate anxiety is an “inescapable stressor,” and that unpredictable and extreme weather patterns are likely to further add to psychological distress.

For Lichen, watching the wildfires in their father’s native Australia was “really scary”, and that when they were younger left them feeling a kind of “raw fear.” 

“I’d just zone out something thinking about it,” they told VICE World News via Instagram. Now, they want to pursue environmental journalism – action that they say makes them feel better. 

A volunteer rests as flames rise from a wildfire in Mugla province in Turkey last month. YASIN AKGUL/AFP via Getty Images

But for Malika, a 15-year-old from Lebanon, climate anxiety has exacerbated her mental health problems. She remembers contracting a virus as a child from swimming in one of Lebanon’s polluted rivers; it’s one of many memories she recalls as she thinks about the anxiety disorder diagnosis that she received last year, and how much worrying about the planet is part of it.

She feels like the school projects on climate change that she is doing aren’t enough. “I felt like I’m doing something just very small, I don’t have that influence in the world,” she told VICE World News via Instagram. “So I was always and I’m still anxious about what’s going to happen in this world. Are we going to die of climate change? After we die, will people suffer?”

The co-lead author on the study, Caroline Hickman from the University of Bath, said: “Our children’s anxiety is a completely rational reaction given the inadequate responses to climate change they are seeing from governments. What more do governments need to hear to take action?”

Some politicians are trying to address climate anxiety directly, on top of actual climate action. Last month, Coalition MPs asked the Australian Prime Minister to fund climate change chaplains in schools.

But posts on social media suggest young people aren’t necessarily always identifying what they’re experiencing as climate anxiety.

In the Global North, young people from Portugal were the most worried out of the countries surveyed, having experienced a dramatic increase in wildfires since 2017, but just looking at Instagram alone, there are few Portuguese-language posts on the topic; #ecoansiedade only has around 100 posts and #ansiedadeclimatica even fewer. #Ecoanxiety in English only stands at 14,000 posts itself, which seems small when #anxiety stands at 18 million. 

On TikTok, however, #climateanxiety has 370,000 views. Alaina Wood, a TikTok creator and sustainability scientist, says she is worried about content she sees on the app, particularly the trend of spreading climate nihilism to the TikTok sounds of Bo Burnham's dystopian Inside film.

“Young people have seen this climate nihilism videos and believe it is too late to do anything about the climate crisis, so they often decide to stop pushing for climate action,” Wood said. “I’ve made numerous videos discussing climate anxiety and debunking climate nihilism, and I receive daily comments thanking me for putting a name – climate anxiety – to how they feel.” 

So what could be signs of climate anxiety? Megan Kennedy-Woodward and Dr Patrick Kennedy-Williams are the co-founders of Climate Psychologists, an organisation that provides psychological support and communication tactics for those committed to saving the planet. “Climate and eco anxiety blanket over a wide range of emotions that the climate crisis can provoke,” Kennedy-Woodward said. “Guilt, anger, grief, despair.” 

Kennedy-Williams added: “It can result in social withdrawal, sleep or concentration issues, to name a few. Clinically speaking, for younger children we aim to support parents to have meaningful and productive conversations with their kids.” 

Kennedy-Woodward recommends that young people lean into self-care, and take social media and climate information breaks when necessary, to alleviate climate anxiety. If you are feeling like it is too much, she advises speaking with a healthcare professional. 

But the authors of the study are eager for governments to realise the impact that their lack of climate action is having on young people, rather than expecting young people to handle it alone.

“Public discourse should encourage the expression of feelings that 60% of young people in this survey have described as being ignored or dismissed,” wrote the study’s authors. “We argue that the failure of governments to adequately reduce, prevent, or mitigate climate change is contributing to psychological distress, moral injury and injustice.”


(AU Canberra Times) AMA And Medical Colleges Write To PM To Warn Of Climate Health Risk

Canberra Times - Harley Dennett

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison with AMA President Dr Omar Khorshid. Picture: Getty Images

As world leaders gear up to meet in Glasgow in November for the UN climate summit billed as the most significant since the 2015 Paris Agreement, doctors have penned an open letter to Australia's Prime Minister warning he must lift the nation's commitment to the global effort to save lives and protect health.

The open letter, signed by the Australian Medical Association, Doctors for the Environment Australia and 10 medical colleges, calls on Scott Morrison to commit to science-based targets for cutting Australia's emissions this decade.

"As doctors, we understand the imminent health threats posed by climate change and have seen them already emerge in Australia," the letter states.

"The 2019-2020 bushfire season in Australia saw parts of the country afflicted by the poorest air quality in the world, with large numbers of the population enduring weeks of bushfire smoke and the related adverse health impacts. That climate disaster also tragically took more than 30 lives as a direct result of the fires.

"Since then, we have seen the stark impacts of extreme weather events playing out in the northern hemisphere in 2021. Flooding, fires and heatwaves not only have immediate health risks, but also come with the longer-term physical, economic and mental impacts of displacement, loss of life and loss of livelihoods."

They called for policies that accelerate the transition to renewable energy and acknowledge its health benefits, and plan to increase Australia's commitments to the Paris Agreement to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees.

Doctors for the Environment Australia chair John Van Der Kallen said doctors were already dealing with the reality of climate change in their surgeries and in emergency departments.

"Failure to act urgently on climate change risks unmanageable threats to the health of all Australians," Dr Van Der Kallen said.

AMA president Dr Omar Khorshid said, "the government must urgently act to significantly reduce emissions this decade. Severe fires, superstorms and floods have arrived and are destroying lives".

The organisation's ACT branch is also rolling out a campaign urging patients to speak to their GP about managing their health in response to rising temperatures and increasing natural disasters.

It comes in the wake of the latest UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, which found that without "immediate, rapid and large-scale" cuts to record high levels of greenhouse gas emissions then hopes of containing global warming to even 2 degrees would be "beyond reach".



(The Guardian) Earth’s Tipping Points Could Be Closer Than We Think. Our Current Plans Won’t Work

The Guardian

Climate policies commit us to a calamitous 2.9C of global heating, but catastrophic changes can occur at even 1.5C or 2C

A flash flood caused by Tropical Storm Henri in Helmetta, New Jersey, on 22 August 2021. ‘The extreme weather in 2021 – the heat domes, droughts, fires, floods and cyclones – is, frankly, terrifying.’ Photograph: Tom Brenner/AFP/Getty Images

George Monbiot is a Guardian columnist and the author of Feral; The Age of Consent, and Out of the Wreckage
If there’s one thing we know about climate breakdown, it’s that it will not be linear, smooth or gradual.

Just as one continental plate might push beneath another in sudden fits and starts, causing periodic earthquakes and tsunamis, our atmospheric systems will absorb the stress for a while, then suddenly shift.

Yet, everywhere, the programmes designed to avert it are linear, smooth and gradual.

Current plans to avoid catastrophe would work in a simple system like a washbasin, in which you can close the tap until the inflow is less than the outflow. But they are less likely to work in complex systems, such as the atmosphere, oceans and biosphere. Complex systems seek equilibrium.

When they are pushed too far out of one equilibrium state, they can flip suddenly into another. A common property of complex systems is that it’s much easier to push them past a tipping point than to push them back. Once a transition has happened, it cannot realistically be reversed.

The old assumption that the Earth’s tipping points are a long way off is beginning to look unsafe. A recent paper warns that the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation – the system that distributes heat around the world and drives the Gulf Stream – may now be “close to a critical transition”.

This circulation has flipped between “on” and “off” states several times in prehistory, plunging northern Europe and eastern North America into unbearable cold, heating the tropics, disrupting monsoons.

Other systems could also be approaching their thresholds: the West and East Antarctic ice sheets, the Amazon rainforest, and the Arctic tundra and boreal forests, which are rapidly losing the carbon they store, driving a spiral of further heating. Earth systems don’t stay in their boxes.

If one flips into a different state, it could trigger the flipping of others. Sudden changes of state might be possible with just 1.5C or 2C of global heating.

A common sign that complex systems are approaching tipping points is rising volatility: they start to flicker. The extreme weather in 2021 – the heat domes, droughts, fires, floods and cyclones – is, frankly, terrifying. If Earth systems tip as a result of global heating, there will be little difference between taking inadequate action and taking no action at all. A miss is as good as a mile.

So the target that much of the world is now adopting for climate action – net zero by 2050 – begins to look neither rational nor safe. It’s true that our only hope of avoiding catastrophic climate breakdown is some variety of net zero.

What this means is that greenhouse gases are reduced through a combination of decarbonising the economy and drawing down carbon dioxide that’s already in the atmosphere. It’s too late to hit the temperature targets in the Paris agreement without doing both. But there are two issues: speed and integrity. Many of the promises seem designed to be broken.

At its worst, net zero by 2050 is a device for shunting responsibility across both time and space. Those in power today seek to pass their liabilities to those in power tomorrow. Every industry seeks to pass the buck to another industry. Who is this magical someone else who will suck up their greenhouse gases?

Their plans rely on either technology or nature to absorb the carbon dioxide they want to keep producing. The technologies consist of carbon capture and storage (catching the carbon emissions from power stations and cement plants then burying them in geological strata), or direct air capture (sucking carbon dioxide out of the air and burying that too).

But their large-scale use is described by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change as “subject to multiple feasibility and sustainability constraints”. They are unlikely to be deployed at scale in the future for the same reason that they’re not being deployed at scale today, despite 20 years of talk: technical and logistical barriers. Never mind: you can keep smoking, because one day they’ll find a cure for cancer.

So what’s left is nature: the capacity of the world’s living systems to absorb the gases we produce. As a report by ActionAid points out, there’s not enough land in the world to meet the promises to offset emissions that companies and governments have already made.

Even those who own land want someone else to deal with their gases: in the UK, the National Farmers’ Union is aiming for net zero. But net zero commitments by other sectors work only if farmland goes sharply net negative.

That means an end to livestock farming and the restoration of forests, peat bogs and other natural carbon sinks. Instead, a mythical other will also have to suck up emissions from farming: possibly landowners on Venus or Mars.

Even when all the promised technofixes and offsets are counted, current policies commit us to a calamitous 2.9C of global heating. To risk irreversible change by proceeding at such a leisurely pace, to rely on undelivered technologies and nonexistent capacities: this is a formula for catastrophe.

If Earth systems cross critical thresholds, everything we did and everything we were – the learning, the wisdom, the stories, the art, the politics, the love, the hate, the anger and the hope – will be reduced to stratigraphy. It’s not a smooth and linear transition we need. It’s a crash course.

Links - Stories by George Monbiot

(Common Dreams) Climate Emergency May Displace 216 Million Within Countries By 2050: World Bank

Common DreamsJessica Corbett

"The Groundswell report is a stark reminder of the human toll of climate change, particularly on the world's poorest—those who are contributing the least to its causes."

Due to sea level rise, many islands in the Ganges Delta region of West Bengal, India—including Mousuni—are facing fast erosion. Homes and lands are sinking at a steady rate and people are staring at a bleak future where the probability of them becoming climate refugees looms large. (Photo: Arka Dutta/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Underscoring the necessity of immediate and sweeping action to take on the climate emergency, a World Bank report revealed Monday that 216 million people across six global regions could be forced to move within their countries by midcentury.

Groundswell Part 2: Acting on Internal Climate Migration includes analyses for East Asia and the Pacific, North Africa, and Eastern Europe and Central Asia, building on a modeling approach from a 2018 report that covered Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, and Latin America.

"The Groundswell report is a stark reminder of the human toll of climate change, particularly on the world's poorest—those who are contributing the least to its causes," said Juergen Voegele, vice president of sustainable development at the World Bank, in a statement.
The report's highest projection is for Sub-Saharan Africa, which could see up to 86 million internal climate migrants by 2050, followed by East Asia and the Pacific (49 million), South Asia (40 million), North Africa (19 million), Latin America (17 million), and Eastern Europe and Central Asia (five million). The 216 million figure is a worst-case scenario total for the six regions, Voegele explained in the report's introduction.

"It's important to note that this projection is not cast in stone," he wrote. "If countries start now to reduce greenhouse gases, close development gaps, restore vital ecosystems, and help people adapt, internal climate migration could be reduced by up to 80%—to 44 million people by 2050."

Voegele continued:
Without these actions, the report predicts that "hotspots" of climate migration will emerge as soon as within the next decade and intensify by 2050, as people leave places that can no longer sustain them and go to areas that offer opportunity. For instance, people are increasingly moving to cities, and we find that climate-related challenges such as water scarcity, declining crop productivity, and sea-level rise play a role in this migration. Even places which could become hotspots of climate out-migration because of increased impacts will likely still support large numbers of people. Meanwhile, receiving areas are often ill-prepared to receive additional internal climate migrants and provide them with basic services or use their skills.
"Development that is green, resilient, and inclusive can slow the pace of distress-driven internal climate migration," he concluded. "This report is a timely call for urgent action at the intersection of climate, migration, and development."

As the World Bank's statement outlined, the report's policy recommendations include:
  • Reducing global emissions and making every effort to meet the temperature goals of the Paris agreement;
  • Embedding internal climate migration in far-sighted green, resilient, and inclusive development planning;
  • Preparing for each phase of migration, so that internal climate migration as an adaptation strategy can result in positive development outcomes; and
  • Investing in better understanding of the drivers of internal climate migration to inform well-targeted policies.
"This is our humanitarian reality right now and we are concerned this is going to be even worse, where vulnerability is more acute," Maarten van Aalst, director of the International Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Center, who wasn't involved with the report, told the Associated Press.

The AP noted that though many scientists say the world is not on track for the worst-case scenario in terms of planet-heating emissions, van Aalst pointed out that even under more moderate scenarios, climate impacts are now happening more quickly than projected, "including the extremes we are already experiencing, as well as potential implications for migration and displacement."

Kanta Kumari Rigaud, the World Bank's lead environment specialist and one of the report's co-authors, highlighted that even if political and business leaders take the actions scientists say are necessary to decrease emissions, "we're already locked into a certain amount of warming, so climate migration is a reality."

"We have to reduce or cut our greenhouse gases to meet the Paris target," she told Reuters, "because those climate impacts are going to escalate and increase the scale of climate migration."

While the World Bank's figures focus on internal displacement in specific regions, previous broader analyses have shown the greater impact that the climate emergency is expected to have on migration in the coming decades, boosting pressure on the Biden administration and other major governments to take action now. 

The new report came ahead of a major climate summit for parties to the Paris agreement that kicks off in Scotland on October 31, and as United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet on Monday delivered a relevant warning to the U.N. Human Rights Council.

"A safe, clean, healthy, and sustainable environment is the foundation of human life," she said. "But today, because of human action—and inhuman inaction—the triple planetary crises of climate change, pollution, and nature loss is directly and severely impacting a broad range of rights, including the rights to adequate food, water, education, housing, health, development, and even life itself."

Bachelet explained that these interlinked crises "act as threat multipliers—amplifying conflicts, tensions, and structural inequalities, and forcing people into increasingly vulnerable situations. As these environmental threats intensify, they will constitute the single greatest challenge to human rights in our era."

"The greatest uncertainty about these challenges is what policymakers will do about them," she added. "Addressing the world's triple environmental crisis is a humanitarian imperative, a human rights imperative, a peace-building imperative, and a development imperative."


(AU SMH) ‘Walk Away’: Bylong Coal Mine Appeal Rejected

Sydney Morning HeraldPeter Hannam

Proponents of a controversial coal mine planned for a rich farming area north-west of Sydney have had their appeal against an earlier rejection dismissed by the courts, raising the prospect the project will be scrapped.

The Court of Appeal on Tuesday dismissed the appeal by Korean energy giant KEPCO which is seeking to build a so-called greenfield coal mine in the Bylong Valley.

The Court of Appeal has dismissed an appeal against an earlier rejection of a coal mine planned for the Bylong Valley north-west of Sydney. Credit: Brendan Esposito

The Independent Planning Commission dismissed the plan for a 6.5 million tonne a year mine two years ago, and a previous court appeal was also rejected in part because of the climate change impacts of digging up the fossil fuel.

KEPCO was also ordered to pay the court costs of the Bylong Valley Protection Alliance, which had fought against the mine proposal for years.

Energy giant loses Bylong coal mine appeal in win for anti-coal groups
Rana Koroglu, a managing lawyer with the Environmental Defenders Office, said it was the third time “this destructive and climate-wrecking coal mine proposal has been defeated”.

“It’s time for the proponent KEPCO to walk away,” Ms Koroglu said in a statement. “The most recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report delivered a ‘code red’ for humanity on climate. It’s clear we cannot afford to develop more greenfield coal mines at a time when the world needs to rapidly reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”

In its September 2019 rejection, the IPC noted the Bylong Valley had a long history of farming, including horse breeding, and there was no operating or planned mine within 20 kilometres of the site.

It also estimated the combined greenhouse gas emissions from the 25-year project to be almost 201 million tonnes of carbon dioxide-equivalent, including the pollution caused by digging, transporting and burning the coal.

The EDO noted the South Korean government, KEPCO’s majority stake owner, had recently committed to increasing its emissions targets to a 40 per cent reduction compared with 2017 levels by 2030.

The Court of Appeal’s rejection of the mine has prompted calls by farmers for the government to press KEPCO to give up its land bank. Credit: Brendan Esposito

“We presented testimony from over a dozen expert witnesses and put the latest scientific evidence before the commission,” Ms Koroglu said. “The IPC made its decision based on that evidence, finding that this coal mine is not in the public interest. Two subsequent appeals have thoroughly tested and supported the IPC’s decision to refuse the mine.”

A spokesma for KEPCO said the the company was “disappointed that the court did not find in favour of the project and will now take some time to review the decision and consider [our] next steps”.

A spokesman for NSW Deputy Premier and Resources Minister John Barilaro said that “any future plans, including what KEPCO might do with land owned freehold by them, is a matter for the company”.

Stephen Galilee, the head of the NSW Minerals Council, said the project had “strong support in the local communities of Kandos and Rylstone because of the much-needed jobs and investment it would have delivered for those towns and across the region”.

Future Power
What's a 'just transition' and can you switch to green energy without sacking coal workers?
“Two years and a pandemic later, the jobs and investment are now needed more than ever,” Mr Galilee said. “The reasons for the project’s rejection were flawed two years ago and they remain flawed today.”

But Bylong Valley locals and the Lock the Gate Alliance separately called on the government to assist the buyback of land KEPCO had wanted to turn into a coal mine. The company holds almost 7000 hectares in the area.

According to Lock the Gate, KEPCO had lost $US405 million ($550 million) on the project and had written down the value of the mining rights from $642 million to zero.

“There is no one operating the local store any more – the valley is a shell of its former self,” Phillip Kennedy, a spokesman for the Bylong Valley Protection Alliance, said.

“We want the Berejiklian government to extinguish the coal licence, just like it did with Shenhua on the Liverpool Plains, so Bylong can once again be the prosperous town it used to be.”

Tim Beshara, manager of Policy and Strategy at the Wilderness Society, called on the government to reconsider plans for other new coal mines in the region, which is close to the Wollemi National Park.

“This court result should cause the NSW government to reconsider their plans to open up more of the Wollemi region to new coal,” Mr Beshara said.



(AU SMH) News Corp About-Turn On Emissions Too Little, Too Late, Scientists Say

Sydney Morning Herald - Nick O'Malley | Amelia McGuire

Well before news broke that News Corp tabloids were to start promoting carbon emission reductions, rumours were spreading in the delicate ecosystem of Australian climate scientists, policy wonks and advocates.

Emails bounced around sharing titbits. Some reported fielding questions from unlikely quarters about 2050 net zero targets. Some were delighted, some sceptical and others downright distrustful.

Will not be muzzled: Sky News presenters Andrew Bolt, Tim Blair, Peta Credlin and Chris Kenny.

When The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age reported that News Corp papers were planning a climate push, it made news around the world.

Vanity Fair
asked if the apparent shift in the Australian mastheads might be reflected in the Murdoch empire’s US outlets such as Fox News and The Wall Street Journal.

The New York Times described to its readers News Corp’s Australian newspapers as places where “solid journalism often sits beside unrelenting ideology in articles that often do not carry an ‘opinion’ label”.

One of the Journal’s own former editors tweeted of the paper’s climate coverage, “No group has been more clueless, duplicitous or irresponsible on climate change than the WSJ edit and op-ed crew.”

He attached a string of climate sceptic headlines from the past six weeks.

It is hard to exaggerate how News Corp’s coverage of climate change – and of climate scientists themselves – have scarred the sector.

In his recent book The New Climate Wars, leading climatologist Michael Mann wrote that the company’s amplification of a false conspiracy known as “climategate” helped derail the Copenhagen climate summit in 2009, setting back global efforts to rein in warming by crucial years.

In Australia critics say the coverage has contributed to decades of policy inertia on the issue.

The headlines in the Murdoch papers were often brutal and sometimes brilliant.

 In February 2010, then climate change minister Penny Wong said Australia’s beaches could be eroded away over the coming century at a National Climate Change Forum. In response, the front page of The Australian read “Wong wipeout doesn’t wash with locals”.

It quoted Bondi local Lee Boman who said he hadn’t noticed any sea level rise. It also featured Bondi regular Patrick Doab who said no one could predict how sea levels would change because it was “like the stock market”.

In 2011, Cate Blanchett was dubbed “Carbon Cate” on the front page of The Sunday Telegraph after fronting a TV campaign urging Australians to promote the Gillard government’s carbon tax. It positioned Blanchett as an out-of-touch millionaire and said then opposition leader Tony Abbott would “save” Australia from the tax. The tax was scrapped in July 2014.

In the lead-up to the 2019 federal election The Australian ran the headline “Carbon cut apocalypse: cost of the ALP energy plan”. The story quoted modelling by Brian Fisher that asserted Labor’s 45 per cent emissions reduction target would wipe $472 billion from the economy and drive electricity prices up by 50 per cent.

According to the Australia Institute, the modelling was a “complete outlier” compared to analysis of more than 20 other modelling exercises and Treasury models that found the economic impacts of high ambition targets small or negligible.

In December 2020, Wendy Bacon and Arunn Jegan analysed all news, features, opinion pieces, letters and editorials discussing climate change that appeared in The Daily Telegraph, Herald-Sun, Courier Mail and The Australian between April 2019 and March 2020.

They found 45 per cent of all coverage either rejected or cast doubt on consensus scientific findings. Their research asserted that most News Corp reporters do not promote sceptical views, but of 55 per cent of stories that accepted climate science, misunderstandings about that science were almost always promoted rather than explained, and the reporting on the effects of climate change was negligible.

It has been revealed UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has bowed to pressure from the Morrison Government over climate change targets.

Half of the news and feature stories either had no source or one source.

Nearly two thirds of published opinion pieces were sceptical of climate science. The top five climate sceptics were Sky News presenters Andrew Bolt, Tim Blair, Peta Credlin, Peter Gleeson and Chris Kenny.

In a staff email obtained by The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, News Corp Australia’s executive chairman Michael Miller told local staff that the company’s columnists and commentators would not be “muzzled” as part of their editorial campaign on climate change.

One media adviser at a leading environmental group this week said she believed slanted news coverage in News Corp was more dangerous than the commentary. “At least you know what you are getting in the opinion pages.”

One of the hallmarks of the coverage was that it was as willing to discredit the scientists as it was the science itself.

In one infamous instance the Daily Telegraph, the Herald-Sun and The Australian published stories attacking author and environmentalist Tim Flannery for buying a property near the waterfront north of Sydney.

It did not matter that the house in question sat above the level of predicted sea-level rise, the coverage suggested that it proved climate change was a hoax and Flannery a hypocrite.

After one of the mastheads ran a story showing the home’s location Flannery was forced to take on extra security. He eventually won a retraction, an apology and legal costs.

Climate policy

It’s worth noting that the News Corp mastheads picked up the story from a segment on Ray Hadley’s show on 2GB, now a stablemate of this masthead.

According to Marian Wilkinson, whose recent book The Carbon Club is a forensic analysis of the interplay between the political, media and industry actors who have stalled action on climate in Australia for decades, News Corp’s coverage influenced other media in the country.

She believes even the ABC “pulled its punches” on climate coverage for fear it would look soft when compared with the Murdoch press’s hardline climate denialism.

Wilkinson is one of many who believe that Australian climate and energy policy has been rudderless for decades, but she does not blame News alone.

Rather she says the Murdoch empire helped derail climate action along with well-connected fossil fuel industry lobbyists and complicit politicians from both parties.

The result is the nation is now slowly engaging in the process of decarbonising its energy system, but years have been lost and billions of dollars of public money wasted, she says.

So far News Corp has not commented on – or denied – the coverage and its silence is being met with speculation. They did not respond to a request for comment about this article.

Wilkinson notes that if News Corp does shift its editorial stance it would be falling in line with the corporate and financial sectors and with major advertisers such as Woolworths and Coles.

Mann is one of many who note that such a move would also help solve a problem for Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who wants to announce a net zero target before or at the COP26 climate talks in Glasgow but faces trenchant opposition from some Nationals MPs.

“This may be more about giving Morrison cover going into an election year, by establishing the pathetically low bar of ‘net zero carbon by 2050’ as somehow constituting meaningful action, particularly given that he is being roundly criticised by the world community for his meager climate commitments going into COP26,” Mann said on Friday.

“‘Inactivists’ – polluters and politicians and media outlets such as News Corp that have enabled them – are moving away from outright denial because it’s no longer tenable.

“This is particularly true in Australia after having lived through the climate change-fuelled devastation of the Black Summer of 2019-20. Instead, as I describe in the book, they’ve turned to other tactics – delay, distraction, deflection, division, etc – in their effort to maintain the fossil fuel status quo.

“Focusing on a target of 2050, three decades away, kicks the can so far down the road that it’s largely meaningless.”

Though he welcomes the apparent shift in editorial direction, Flannery says the impact of its coverage extends beyond the politics of climate change.

He recalls meeting James Murdoch, who recently quit the company in part due to its climate coverage, at an awards dinner a decade or so ago.

“What you’ve done,” he told him, “is destroyed people’s faith in science, and that will play out in many ways and it will take many decades to undo that damage.”

Murdoch, he says, looked sheepish.