TORONTO – The Canadian Association of Journalists condemns all attempts by governments and third-party agencies to discredit the work journalists undertake to cover climate change in Canada.
Numerous journalistic bodies — including the Society of Environmental Journalists — are smeared in a new Government of Alberta-bankrolled report titled A New Global Paradigm: Understanding the Transnational Progressive Movement, the Energy Transition and the Great Transformation Strangling Alberta’s Petroleum Industry. This report was produced as part of the provincial government’s $3.5 million inquiry into international opposition to Alberta’s oilsands.
The report argues that journalists are part of a “disturbing” movement to “coordinate and effectively distribute propagandized climate change issues in their reporting.” According to Vice News, the report’s author was paid $28,000 by the Alberta government.
The CAJ rejects this conspiratorial mischaracterization of the work undertaken by Canadian climate journalists.
“Journalists have a moral obligation to clearly inform the public of any catastrophic threat, whether it’s the coronavirus or climate change,” said CAJ president Brent Jolly.
“Reporting on climate change should not be seen as an act of advocacy; it is the telling of a very real truth that is unequivocally backed up by scientific facts.”
Climate and environment journalism has changed over time as more reporters have come to a greater understanding of what climate change is and how it impacts every facet of everyday life and as the science has become increasingly clear.
The report criticizes Canadian outlets including Maclean’s, TVO, and the Toronto Star for covering climate change issues. Similarly, CBC, The Globe and Mail and The National Post are criticized for reprinting stories about climate change from wire services. This is a facile concern. As an issue of considerable public interest, the CAJ encourages Canadian media outlets to continue covering climate change, although the precise language they use to do so may vary.
Language guidelines within news organizations used to describe climate change continue to evolve, both in Canada and around the world. In 2019, for example, Britain’s The Guardian began to refer to a “climate crisis” in its reporting. Others, by contrast, have held back, arguing that employing the term “climate crisis” is tinged with advocacy. Regardless of individual preferences, there is a resounding agreement that climate change is an issue that requires continued coverage.
Climate and environmental journalism remain firmly rooted in reporting facts. More than 11,000 leading scientists have expressly chosen the phrase “climate emergency” to describe the situation. Canada’s House of Commons along with close to 500 municipalities have also declared a “climate emergency.”
The CAJ’s Ethics Advisory Committee, the stewards of its ethics guidelines for journalists, is currently working to develop recommendations on how journalists can most responsibly report on climate change.
The CAJ also launched its inaugural Climate Change and Environmental Reporting Award in 2019 in recognition of the importance of this subject matter.
“Journalists should always expect public pushback for telling difficult truths,” Jolly said. “But labelling journalists as agents of disinformation based solely on their subject matter is both egregious and unfounded. The CAJ will continue to advocate for the rights of climate and environment journalists across Canada.”
The Canadian Association of Journalists (CAJ) is a professional organization with more than 800 members across Canada. The CAJ’s primary roles are public-interest advocacy work and professional development for its members.