If 2018 was the year in which government inaction turned back the clock on climate change prevention, 2019 will be the year of the climate reporter.

Climate change can feel distant or close. When I moved from the heart of Manhattan to the wilds of the West Coast, climate change ceased to be an abstract political issue, and instead became something I witnessed every day: on walks through forests full of browning ferns, in dwindling waterfalls, and in the changing season of the salmon run. More recently, it’s turned up in the way my chest feels after breathing in the daily smoke of wildfire season, or waking up to find my kitchen counters covered in ash.

Wildfires rage in interior B.C. in Tletniqox Nation territory. Photo by Becka Rosette.

As journalists, it’s our job to give readers that sense of proximity no matter where they are, and in the coming year, more and more journalists will take on that job. Reporters who cover fires, floods, drought and heat waves will increasingly emphasize the role of climate change in these catastrophic events, and transform themselves into the front line of climate change reporting. Publications whose advertisers or traditions limit their ability to name climate change as a key factor in an ever-growing number of “natural” disasters will be outpaced by independent outlets and reader-funded publications that produce public service reporting on climate. The most exciting outlets will tell stories that shine a light on energy innovations, on brave politicians shifting their economies away from fossil fuels, on low-carbon buildings and sun-powered cities.

But don’t think the job is going to be easy: Reporting on both immediate losses and long-term dangers will challenge climate journalists both emotionally and intellectually. Journalists investigating government and business corruption on climate issues may find themselves doxxed and demonized by well-hidden corporate interests they are reporting on. To sustain themselves in the face of these obstacles, climate change journalists will need the full support of committed editors, as well as audience engagement and feedback.

As the impacts of climate change become more tangible and immediate, expect more journalists to enter the field. Journalism schools will need to complement training in investigative reporting tools with specific training in climate coverage. We’ll need reporters who know how to file freedom of information requests, read and grasp the nuances of corporate reports, check official numbers on carbon pollution and compare public corporate spin with shareholder reports. These climate reporters will need to read widely, keep current with science and track the politics of climate policy. Above all else, they will need to write well so that they can make complex facts accessible to a popular audience.

The journalists who take up the work of climate change reporting in 2019 will include some of these newly trained reporters, as well as many industry veterans who are tired of burying references to climate change somewhere in the footnotes of the latest weather or disaster report. At the very least, these reporters will create a public record of the business interests and government failures that have brought the world to the brink of climate disaster...but I hope for more.

In 2019 I hope for an explosion in climate change reporting that drives public awareness and encourages people to demand systemic change. I hope for climate change reporting that helps citizens see the connection between government inaction and the disasters that are now plaguing our coasts, and increasingly, our inland areas too. I hope for reporting that brings climate change so close that nobody can avert their eyes.

It seems to me that the inflection point has been hit; I haven't seen a large-storm or wildfire story in a couple of years that failed to mention that climate change increases their frequency and severity. The continued prevalence of professional deniers on talking-heads cable shows may have masked that a solid majority of the population does believe that climate change is happening,is our fault, and is causing problems. It has even hit 50% of American Republicans down with all that. While one can hardly ignore the issue, it's no longer enough to just report on climate change happening.

We need more stories now on what to do about it. The best articles on that I read on that this year was in the National Observer: Emilee Gilpin on the heat pumps of Skidegate, and the run-of-river electrical generation pilot at Kanaka Bar. There's no solid reason for entire towns and cities to not to follow them. The NO excels in coverage of indigenous communities, and it is in them that Canada can test and display alternative energy sources, because they have the most-expensive (and dirty) electric power now, from diesel generators. They are the ones that can try out wind and geothermal alternatives, the run-of-river generators; they're in locations (remote) where the dominant fossil power solutions are weak or even impossible. But proving out these technologies in small pilots is how to make them mainstream technologies.

I hope to see Canada's indigenous communities leading us all on this changeover, and I hope to see the media giving them the kind of intensive coverage they have reserved for Tesla product announcements (which I assume have an open bar or something).

I actually know that climate change is fingered in the California wildfires, from CBS news.

Thanks for this thoughtful comment, Roy. It helps a lot to get feedback like this, your point of view on what coverage we're doing that matters the most, that helps the most. I will pass on your comments to Emilee.

I agree that we definitely do need more climate change journalism with more of an emphasis on the possibilities for new sources of energy and employment. As someone who lives in the belly of the beast, Calgary, AB, all I hear from the oil industry and their proponents is that we need get the pipelines approved so that we can kickstart this economy it is important to point out the alternatives that do exist and to make it clear to those who are economically insecure that there are possibilities for people get jobs that will meet their needs and won't cause the environmental problems that are inherent in fossil fuels.

Thanks for this. One of the challenges of reporting on solutions, which we will be doing more of in 2019, is that these stories don't garner the readership of bad news stories. There's something about human nature there that I'm not the right person to comment on. But I have watched these patterns in readership over years. So, please, if you value these stories, email the links to friends, share them on social media, talk about them when you can. You probably already do and thank you for that, if so. But I really mean it when I say we need your help in connecting these stories with people who will be inspired and motivated and encouraged by them.

Reporting on Climate Change is so badly needed but it’s not going to be easy! We have become addicted to fossil fuels and the lifestyle that goes with it and the idea of it coming to an end makes people very anxious bordering on unreasonable! However, UNLESS you and I don’t reduce the use of fossil fuels by 50% things will NEVER get better only WORSE, much WORSE!