A Climate For Change

Dec 1, 2015

This past summer I wrote about NPR’s plan to restructure its newsroom shifting resources from beat reporters covering single issues to interdisciplinary teams. The goal of this approach is to provide more holistic coverage of complex issues from diverse vantage points. Also central to this effort is a new commitment by NPR to integrate the work of local station and regional reporters into its coverage.

NPR’s coverage of climate change has been a key area where this restructuring is playing out. With the 2015 United Nations Conference on Climate Change taking place in Paris from November 30 through December 11, I thought it would be worth taking a look at how NPR will put its redesigned newsroom into action.

NPR is addressing both the issue of climate change and the conference across beats — science, business and politics — and across both radio and digital platforms. Highlights of NPR’s coverage include:

  • A five-part series in the Amazon with South America correspondent Lourdes Garcia Navarro explaining how deforestation happens and why this fragile rain-forest ecosystem could be at a tipping point because of it. The series features starkly compelling original images from NPR photojournalist Kainaz Amaria that will be available online.
  • A segment that provides historical context on what has happened since the 1997 Kyoto Protocol and the 2009 Copenhagen Summit and what is different now.
  • Planet Money will tackle the questions: Do carbon offsets actually work? Can paying to plant trees really undo the environmental damage of a transcontinental airplane ride?
  • The NPR science desk will explore how serious the climate change situation is, whether humans and emissions of CO2 are to blame, and why some scientists say now might be our last chance to save the earth.
  • NPR international correspondents in India, Indonesia and China will look at the complex relationship between economics, technology, access to energy and fuel subsidies.
  • NPR’s political team will outline how U.S. pledges square up with public opinion and how they might play out in Congress.
  • NPR’s business desk will examine what the business community is willing to do to address climate change, what key technologies will be needed, how much it will cost and what strings will be attached to the money. NPR journalists Ari Shapiro, Eleanor Beardsley and Chris Joyce will examine what the world will look like if the Paris conference succeeds...and if it fails.
  • NPR will collaborate with reporters from member station newsrooms across the country to develop reports on how climate change is affecting local communities as part of NPR’s recently announced Energy and Environment team.

Here at JPR, we’ll continue our work with InvestigateWest, the non-profit Seattle-based investigative journalism organization, exploring the role climate change plays in causing hotter, more intense wildfires in our region and the Pacific Northwest.

As a body of work, I think NPR’s coverage of the 2015 Paris Conference on Climate Change is ambitious, comprehensive and a good example of adapting to an evolving news environment . I hope you have a chance to tune in to the coverage, which airs mainly during Morning Edition and All Things Considered. And, I trust you’ll let us know what you think.

Paul Westhelle is JPR’s Executive Director.