Connect with us

Environment

News coverage of climate change worldwide depends largely on nation’s wealth, study finds

Eddie Burkhalter

Published

on

Climate change impacts are multinational, but how the world’s journalists cover climate change depends largely upon how wealthy their country is, a recent study found. 

News accounts in richer countries such as the U.S tend to politicize climate change coverage, focus more on the science and give more time to those who say humans aren’t causing global temperature rise through the use of fossil fuels and greenhouse gasses, according to the findings by researchers at the University of Kansas and Hanoi University of Science and Technology in Vietnam. 

Poorer countries, which have fewer resources to address climate change, frame it as an international issue, the study, published in September in the peer-reviewed journal Global Environmental Change, suggests. 

Hong Tien Vu, assistant professor of journalism at the University of Kansas and the study’s lead author, told APR that his team of researchers downloaded almost 20,000 news articles written in four different languages from major outlets in 45 countries, and used machine learning software to analyze how the stories were put together. 

The study analyzed those articles based on seven factors – Domestic politics, scientific evidence, international relations, economic impact, social progress, natural impact and energy – and found that countries with higher gross domestic product outputs framed climate change in terms of domestic politics, Vu said. 

“When we look at wealthier countries climate change has often been portrayed as an issue that has not been settled,” Vu said. 

In the U.S. journalists often give more time in their coverage to experts who say that humans aren’t driving climate change, Vu explained, as they attempt to provide balanced coverage. 

Public Service Announcement


Vu said when he teaches his media writing students he often uses climate change as an example where “the balance norm can be harmful.” 

“According to the latest research 100 percent of climate change papers agree that climate change exists and humans cause climate change,” Vu said. “And still the media will tend to interview both sides, giving both sides a voice, and that is harmful to the public in terms of understanding climate change.” 

Vu was referencing a study published on Nov. 20 in the peer-reviewed journal Bulletin of Science, Technology & Society which found that the consensus among scientists that humans are causing climate change is 100 percent based upon a review of peer-reviewed articles on climate change and global warming published within the first 7 months of 2019. 

Vu said that perhaps the extra news coverage of the small minority in the scientific community who disagree with the vast consensus that humans are causing climate change comes down in part to journalists tendency to focus on conflict. 

“In general climate change hasn’t been a sexy topic for journalists,” Vu said. Before he taught journalism Vu was a journalist himself, lastly working for the Associated Press in Vietnam. 

There has been a larger push in recent years to increase climate change coverage, however. Vu noted a media program launched this year called Covering Climate Now Co-founded by Columbia Journalism Review and The Nation in partnership with The Guardian and that aims at amplify news coverage of climate change. 

“That shift in the media to me is about shifting the way you think about climate change as public affairs news that is so important,” Vu said. “And even if your journalistic judgement tells you that it’s not as sexy a topic, you still think that you have the obligation to cover it so that the public can be aware of it.” 

Vu said in many poorer countries journalists tend to prioritize coverage on matters of food insecurity and basic health needs, while climate change usually takes on less importance in their coverage. Often times it’s only covered when another world leader visits to discuss climate change with their elected leaders, he said, so the problem is framed as one other countries must handle. 

There has also been more focus on the larger impacts of climate change, such as sea level rise and heatwaves, Vu said, while less attention is typically paid to how individuals can make a difference. 

“How can I, as an individual, deal with that? How can I take action on that? It’s very, very difficult for me to get involved at that individual level,” Vu said. “They feel powerless.” 

Perhaps the answer is that journalists need to focus also on ways individuals can make a difference, he said, by providing solutions to adapt and fight.  

“I know the way I’m talking about it now is more about strategic communication, but I think that in journalism one of the things that we can apply to journalistic daily operation is to individualize the stories so that people will feel more relevant and easier to identify with,” Vu said.

Eddie Burkhalter is a reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter. You can email him at [email protected] or reach him via Twitter.

Advertisement

Environment

High chemical levels in water near Decatur landfill concern environmental group, ADEM

Josh Moon

Published

on

Recent tests of water flowing under an abandoned landfill in Decatur found levels of the chemicals PFAS and PFOS at 51,000 parts per trillion — substantially higher than the 70 parts per trillion the EPA has determined is safe for drinking water — test results obtained by APR show. 

The tests, paid for by the Tennessee Riverkeepers group and conducted on two occasions in the past five months by ALS testing labs, measured chemical levels at the Old Moulton Road landfill site, where water flows directly into Mud Tavern Creek and Flint Creek.

On March 9, testing showed the combined levels of PFAS and PFOS chemicals to be at 49,000 parts per trillion. Two months later, on May 5, the results showed levels of 51,000. Those chemicals, used in manufacturing by 3M, which has a plant near Decatur, have been linked to cancer and various other health issues, particularly in pregnant women. 

These are alarming levels, and where they’re being discharged is also of concern to Riverkeeper because they are being discharged into a part of the county that we thought was not as contaminated,” Tennessee Riverkeeper founder David Whiteside said in an interview with WHNT-19 earlier this week. “They’re also flowing into the Point Mallard area, and possibly flowing into the drinking water intake because the creek that they’re flowing into empties upstream from our drinking water intake.”

In a response on Wednesday, the Alabama Department of Environmental Management acknowledged that it is also concerned with the testing results — although the agency also said it was unable to verify the Riverkeepers’ test results because it wasn’t sure of the protocols — and said it is working with the EPA and others to develop a plan for addressing the chemicals. 

However, ADEM also noted that it is somewhat limited in its possible responses, because the EPA has yet to set acceptable PFAS/PFOS limits for ground water or bodies of water, such as creeks and rivers. (The 70-parts-per-trillion limit is only for drinking water.) Without those limits, ADEM is unable to impose fines or force remediation efforts by 3M or other responsible parties or even issue warnings. 

ADEM spokesperson Lynn Battle said that while the agency hasn’t been able to alert nearby residents of increased PFAS/PFOS levels, in this particular case, the area is already under a do-not-eat advisory for fish due to high levels of mercury. 

Public Service Announcement


She said the Department is now working on a much larger and more comprehensive plan for dealing with PFAS/PFOS chemicals. 

ADEM wants to reassure the public, especially citizens who use our waterways, that we are working to put in place measures which provide the utmost protections for Alabamians and the state’s waters and lands in regard to PFAS,” Battle said. “Those measures will include remediation and will limit exposure to the compounds now and in the future.”

This is not the first incident of the Riverkeeper organization finding and testing old dumping sites in north Alabama, particularly around Decatur. 3M and other companies in the area have faced numerous lawsuits, and Tennessee Riverkeepers currently has a federal lawsuit pending. 

One of the largest concerns about the PFAS/PFOS contaminants is that they could seep into the drinking water, as they did in west Morgan and east Lawrence counties a few years ago. Those issues prompted the water authority in the area to tell people to stop drinking the water. 

Decatur Utilities, which supplies water in the Decatur area, said its testing continues to show only acceptable levels of PFAS/PFOS. In a statement issued to WHNT this week, DU said its levels “have consistently been less than 5 (parts per trillion).”

Battle said ADEM has reviewed DU’s submitted, regular testing results for drinking water and is comfortable that the water is safe to drink.

 

Continue Reading

Environment

Gov. Kay Ivey awards $3.2 for home weatherization program

Eddie Burkhalter

Published

on

Gov. Kay Ivey has awarded $3.2 million to 14 community action agencies that help low-income, elderly and disabled Alabamians with home weatherization. 

“Those Alabama residents who are living on limited incomes, especially the elderly and disabled, can struggle to pay higher utility bills in the summer months,” Ivey said in a statement Monday. “These grants will assist in lowering the energy bills for many of them by making upgrades to keep their houses cooler and more comfortable during the hot summer months.” 

The U.S. Department of Energy grants — administered by the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs — are managed by those 14 local community agencies, which processes applications from residents and determines which qualify for aid through the Alabama Weatherization Assistance Program. 

If a person qualifies, the federal aid can be used to install insulation, seal around drafty windows and doors, replace inefficient lighting and repair air conditioning systems. 

For every dollar invested in the weatherization program, $1.80 is returned to the homeowner in utility savings and taxpayers at large get 71 cents through reduced uncollected utility bills, improved housing quality and health, and increased local employment, according to  ADECA. 

“ADECA continues to support Gov. Ivey in helping those who need it most through the Weatherization Assistance Program,” ADECA Director Kenneth Boswell said. “Our partnerships with local community agencies ensure that many underserved residents receive help in preparing their homes for the hottest part of the year now and for years in the future.”

Below is a list of each grant, the recipient agency, counties served and the agency telephone number:

Public Service Announcement


  • $291,917 to Central Alabama Regional Planning and Development Commission (Autauga, Chilton, Dallas, Elmore, Macon, Perry, Russell and Shelby) 334-262-4300
  • $78,418 to Community Action Committee Inc. of Chambers-Tallapoosa-Coosa (Chambers, Coosa and Tallapoosa) 256-825-4287
  • $124,675 to Alabama Council on Human Relations Inc. (Lee) 334-821-8336
  • $196,939 to Community Action Partnership of Huntsville-Madison and Limestone Counties Inc. (Madison and Limestone) 256-851-9800
  • $421,578 to Jefferson County Committee for Economic Opportunity (Jefferson) 205-327-7500
  • $326,697 to Mobile Community Action Inc. (Choctaw, Mobile and Washington) 251-457-5700
  • $175,434 to Montgomery County Commission (Montgomery) 334-832-1210
  • $244,123 to Community Action Partnership of North Alabama Inc. (Cullman, Lawrence, Marion, Morgan, Walker and Winston) 256-355-7843
  • $325,655 to Community Action Agency of Northeast Alabama Inc. (Blount, Cherokee, DeKalb, Etowah, Jackson, Marshall and St. Clair) 256-638-4430
  • $128,255 to Community Action Agency of Northwest Alabama Inc. (Colbert, Franklin and Lauderdale) 256-766-4330
  • $297,745 to Organized Community Action Program Inc. (Barbour, Bullock, Butler, Coffee, Covington, Crenshaw, Dale, Geneva, Henry, Houston, Lowndes and Pike) 334-566-1712
  • $218,125 to Community Action Agency of South Alabama (Baldwin, Clarke, Conecuh, Escambia, Marengo, Monroe and Wilcox) 251-626-2646
  • $197,793 to Community Action Agency of Talladega, Clay, Randolph, Calhoun and Cleburne (Calhoun, Clay, Cleburne, Randolph and Talladega) 256-362-6611
  • $229,705 to Community Service Programs of West Alabama Inc. (Bibb, Fayette, Greene, Hale, Lamar, Pickens, Sumter and Tuscaloosa) 205-752-5429

Continue Reading

Environment

Above-normal hurricane season predicted

Eddie Burkhalter

Published

on

Monday marks the first day of hurricane season, and in a statement Monday, Gov. Kay Ivey warned of the potential of numerous hurricanes this season. 

“June 1 marks the first day of hurricane season, and as we know, Alabama is far too familiar with the uncertainty and damage that accompanies any severe weather. The National Weather Service is predicting an above-normal 2020 Atlantic hurricane season, which runs now through November 30,” Ivey said in a statement. 

“As our country focuses on safely reopening our economy and combatting a health pandemic, it is also vitally important we remember to make preparations now for any severe weather, because hurricanes, tornadoes and severe weather will not wait for us to be ready. Hurricane preparedness must still be a focus for every Alabamian,” Ivey continued. 

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) predicts a 60 percent chance of an above-normal season. 

“NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center is forecasting a likely range of 13 to 19 named storms (winds of 39 mph or higher), of which 6 to 10 could become hurricanes (winds of 74 mph or higher), including 3 to 6 major hurricanes (category 3, 4 or 5; with winds of 111 mph or higher),” according to NOAA’s website.

Continue Reading

Environment

Alabama State Waters reopen for shrimping on June 1

Brandon Moseley

Published

on

Tuesday, the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Marine Resources Division announced that pursuant to Section 9-12-46, Code of Alabama 1975, all inside waters not permanently closed by law or regulation will open for shrimp harvesting at 6 a.m., on Monday, June 1, 2020.

This opening includes Mobile Bay, Bon Secour Bay, the Mississippi Sound, Perdido Bay, Arnica Bay, Wolf Bay and Little Lagoon.

Licensed live bait dealers holding a permit for Special Live Bait Areas are reminded that an area beside the Battleship Alabama south of the Tensaw River Bridge, north of a line from the north point of Pinto Pass (N30 40.755, W88 01.124) to the northwest edge of Goat Island (N30 40.124, W88 00.784), and west of a line from the northwest edge of Goat Island to the eastern end of Tensaw River Bridge (N30 40.955, W88 00.444) will be open from one hour before sunrise until sunset from June 1 to December 31, 2020.

Shrimp are an important food species for a number of fish and wildlife species. Alabama waters contain 15 to 22 species of shrimp. Only three of these are normally eaten by humans. These are: the brown shrimp (Penaeus aztecus), the white shrimp (P. setiferus), and the pink shrimp (P. duorarum). Shrimp, along with crabs, lobsters, and crayfish, are a species of invertebrates known as decapods. There are about 2,000 species of shrimp in the world.

The brown shrimp is by far the most abundant The pink shrimp is the least abundant of the three. Alabamians harvest approximately 20.5 million pounds of shrimp with an estimated dockside value of $45 million.

The ADCNR closes Alabama’s waters around May 1 each year because May is when the juvenile brown shrimp begin to leave their nurseries in the wetlands and marshes to explore deeper water. The break in the shrimping action gives the commercially important shrimp time to age and grow without fishing pressure.

The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources promotes wise stewardship, management and enjoyment of Alabama’s natural resources through four divisions: Marine Resources, State Lands, State Parks, and Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries.

Public Service Announcement


The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources promotes wise stewardship, management and enjoyment of Alabama’s natural resources through four divisions: Marine Resources, State Lands, State Parks, and Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries.

To learn more about ADCNR, visit www.outdooralabama.com.

Continue Reading
Advertisement

Authors

Advertisement

The V Podcast

Facebook