Climate change under the radar in this election campaign

Posted on Aug 10, 2013

Journalists often find it hard to report on climate change, partly due to the fact that they talk about stories, because that’s what interests people. Drama and conflict triumphs over the reporting of long-term processes. Framing climate change into an engaging news narrative is thrown into the ‘too-hard’ basket.

A few years back, if my memory does not fail me, the reporting of climate change was dominated by the skeptics which subsequently inhibited journalists ability and/or desire to research, investigate and accurately report the issues the future generations must face. Al Gore’s documentary ‘An Inconvenient Truth’ was perhaps the most effective way of communicating the facts about anthropogenic global warming to a mainstream audience.  But that was seven years ago and public interest is slowly, but surely, fading away.

If the people aren’t interested, why make it an issue?

Perhaps politicians (and their surrounding media advisors) have decided to adopt a similar philosophy as journalists. The long-term effects of climate change and its affects on humans is difficult to integrate with audiences’ everyday lives thus making such stories irrelevant. Journalists instead focus on a specific story like a flood or a fuel tax protest which results in the wider issue being obscured. I can’t recall the last time the carbon tax was mentioned in relation to climate change.

As I see it, the whole point of the carbon tax was to change the cost structure of energy production, in favour of cleaner energy. Cleaner energy will be cheaper. Instead of this point being reiterated, the mainstream media frequently reminds the Australian public what former PM, Julia Gillard stated during the last election campaign (Aug 2010):

There will be no carbon tax under the government I lead.

The carbon tax has now been framed as a burden on the people and a matter of political integrity rather than a step towards a ‘clean energy future’ (to use one of Gillard’s favourite slogans).

One week into the federal election campaign, and the usual suspects have dominated the media:  asylum seeker policy and the Gonski education reforms. Both issues have been neutralised, Abbott agreed to Gonski, and Rudd introduced a policy that the Liberals could not oppose. A space has opened for public discussion on the pressing issue of global warming, yet as I read my morning newspaper, it gets no mention. Maybe if we’re lucky, we’ll see a change in the next four weeks.

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