Media can do better: Getting serious about climate change

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New Mexico has the same water stress level as the United Arab Emirates, an analysis from the World Resources Institute finds. 

The state could have three months worth of 100-plus degree days by 2080, up from about 20 in the ‘60s and ‘70s, under a higher emissions scenario, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicts, putting the elderly and children at greater risk of heat-related deaths and changing our agricultural system.

In New Mexico, catastrophic wildfires, intense drought and heat over the last couple of decades have brought climate change into high relief.

When it comes to global warming and mitigating its damage, there’s a lot going on, both here in New Mexico and around the world. There’s also high interest. 

Polls consistently show New Mexicans, in line with residents in all Rocky Mountain states, believe climate change is a pressing issue. Most recently, an annual bipartisan poll conducted by Colorado College found that New Mexicans increasingly say climate change is a serious problem. 

Yet, in the news, you’re a lot more likely to hear about President Trump’s latest tweet controversy than you are climate change. 

That’s just not right. 

As a profession, the news industry is not doing enough to ensure the global climate emergency receives the public debate and discussion it deserves. That includes us, here at New Mexico In Depth.

Over the years, we’ve tackled the subject, most notably in a year-long project by independent journalist Laura Paskus, At the Precipice: New Mexico’s Changing Climate.  More recently, we’ve provided sustained coverage during a big election year and subsequent legislative session of the fossil fuel industry and a concerted effort to shift our electric grid to renewable energy. 

Still, it’s not enough, especially since we are an arid state confronting economic and environmental threats from global warming, while also being highly dependent on the oil and gas industry for the money that fuels our educational system. 

We want to do better, which is why we’ve joined Covering Climate Now, a global journalism collaborative, that on Sunday kicked off a week of sustained climate coverage leading up to the United Nations Climate Action Summit in New York City on Sept 23. 

For us, a small organization with limited reporting resources, it’s an opportunity to provide you with daily stories next week from national and international news organizations like the Columbia Journalism Review and the Guardian. Look for articles all week. 

And it’s an opportunity to reorient ourselves as a team to the issue of climate change. Going forward, we’ll be exploring how we sustain climate coverage on a more regular basis as New Mexico grapples with how to wean itself from our oil and gas dependency at the same time we grapple with our changing climate. 

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