“Now is ‘not the time to push the barrow’ on climate change” says Paul Murray Sky News Australia Host.

Prior to the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) 2008, environmentalism (or whatever label you wish to give it) was making significant headway. They were more affluent times and the developed world was willing and capable to divert resources and attention to matters in this area. In the main, it did not impact negatively on most people’s lifestyle. Articles in the media reflected this position and rarely would contrary opinions be tolerated.

The GFC 2008 destroyed that confidence because jobs, livelihoods and financial well-being were being threatened. It resulted in people focusing on financial survival. Climate change, environmentalism were perceived as altruistic issues that could be addressed in better times. The media quickly reflected this change of attitude. The cynics and denialists moment had arrived. Articles began questioning various aspects of environmental sustainability providing economic stability as an excuse to ignore the progress that had been made.

Since that time, the climate change, sustainability, environmental advocates and innovators have worked very hard to gain the lost ground and move forward, even if the detractors are still vocal. Only to once again be faced with a new challenge, COVID-19 which some have already named the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) 2020. Will it mean that these matters are relegated once again to the back seat?

Looking at the last sixty issues of Making Enviro News there is a definite trend indicating that news items in the area are declining.

In some ways, Paul Murray is correct. As the World Banks has pointed out. “The initial focus must be on the front lines: supporting doctors and nurses, as well as ensuring that homes and hospitals have power and water, waste is properly disposed, and food is available and affordable. Attention must also focus on the households hit by drastically reduced incomes, especially those with exposed occupations (e.g., tourism or restaurants) or unstable incomes (e.g., independent workers), as well as the poorest households with little savings.”1

Before it is taken as fait accompli and gloves are hung up, there are some facts that should be pointed out.

In the US, according to a study of more than a dozen general news websites by comScore, a media measurement company, the number of minutes spent by readers at news sites has increased 46 percent from the same period ending a few days ago last year, and overall visits rose 57 percent .
This is a rare opportunity to engage people to think about the world around us and how it can be changed for the better when this period of isolation ends.2

To do this the sustainable environmental community needs to examine and then appropriately adjust its narrative. Questions need to be posed. The most important one at this stage is to ask whether continuing in the same manner in the future as has been done in the past will yield results.
The current atmosphere is surrounded with uncertainty. There is the possibility of 10% or more unemployment. Businesses are desperately examining ways to trim excess to survive. Governments are ploughing money to prop up the economy.

COVID-19 is going to put Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to the test.

Advocates and innovators in the climate change, environmental sustainability and circular economy space have a rare opportunity. To shine a light showing the path and demonstrating that there is a way out of this quagmire.

It is no longer appropriate to keep pointing out what is wrong. It is now vital to demonstrate how to make it right. There is already a significant amount of evidence available. It is now time to make it practical. The messages need to be clear and the opportunities shown to be within reach.

Companies need clear directions. how it can be achieved and in a manner that will have a positive impact on the bottom line, in the short and long term. Employees at all levels need assistance to champion changes in the workplace.

Many organisations are taking advantage of video communications to discuss and present information. At one of these events, the question was asked “are we preaching to the converted?” A valid point to ponder.

Looking at it from a simplistic perspective. The majority of people are neither advocates nor detractors. These are the people that need to be engaged and these are the people who require the understanding of the benefits to the world and the benefits to the economy to make it happen.
How do we get to these people?

One way is though news media. By providing journalist with stories that say it can be done, it has been done and this is how to do it.

With enough noise, every person in isolation will understand they have a role to play and see what can be done to make a difference.

So, what is your story to tell…

1“Thinking ahead: For a sustainable recovery from COVID-19” https://blogs.worldbank.org/climatechange/for-a-sustainable-recovery-from-covid-19#?cid=SHR_BlogSiteShare_EN_EXT
2‘Coronavirus Brings a Surge to News Sites’ The New York Times https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/20/business/coronavirus-news-sites.html

by Izabella Kobylanski, Managing Editor of Making Enviro News & Principal at Planning Results
Request for permission to reproduce content should be directed to Making Enviro News

Environmental news communication has come a long way and, for some time now, has become part of mainstream journalism. News conveying information about human interaction with, and the impact on, the environment is even more essential today than at any other time because public knowledge and understanding of the environment can help us appreciate what is or is not happening. This assists us in how we conduct yourself in our lives and the decisions we make in our workplace.

Making Enviro News continues to play its unique role as a facilitator of environmental /climate change news. In 2019, Making Enviro News monitored around 144 publications to provide a daily information portal that collates Australian media articles in a 24-hour cycle. During this period 11,169 news items were accessed. This is the second year that insights are shared on what drew the attention of the readers.

Subjects covered over the 12 months have been quite extensive and relate to various aspects of environment, climate change and sustainability. The topics covered were wide and varied such as climate change, environment, science, sustainability, circular economy, conservation, biodiversity, energy, infrastructure, built environment, pollution, waste and recycling. The list goes on dividing into numerous subsets. Much of the news was influenced by some of the significant events that took place such as (in no specific order and by no means exclusive): –

  • The Federal Election
  • Matters relating to energy, especially the role of renewable energy, continued to be hotly contested in the political arena, with little to no consensus. Yet renewable energy maintained its profile in the news through the launch or completion of various projects, government funding or new research.
  • Disasters from home and around the world brought on by extreme weather events included the heatwaves in Europe, the African and Australian droughts and the fires in the Americas and Australia. The increased frequency of these extreme events was debated which led to discussion about the role of climate change played.
  • Man-made disasters feature regularly. This year the focus seemed to be directed towards ocean pollution particularly on plastic. The profile of microplastic was raised as research demonstrated how it was getting into the food chain. This opened discussion to the various sources of microplastics.
  • It was a year that saw the rise in prominence of the Extinction Rebellion, the Climate Change School protests and Greta Thunberg. Polarizing views were expressed which invited much discussion, at times lowering to an unpleasant personal level.
  • The recycling crisis continued with little true resolution. It did however focus more attention to our lifestyles, the resultant waste and possible micro solutions that the individual could take up.
  • Whilst health issues related to climate change and the environment have always been present, the extreme weather, extensive pollution gave it greater exposure in the general news with more research and commentary being featured on a regular basis.
  • The year ended with COP25, discussion to emission targets and the various countries efforts or lack thereof.

This is a broad-brush view of some of the key events that shaped the news in 2019. It only scratches the surface, yet it demonstrates the diversity of issues covered. It reinforces how our lives are impacted on a daily basis. It also illustrates how hard it is to stay on top of all that is happening.

Each weekday via social media (Facebook and Twitter), Making Enviro News report the three most accessed news item from the previous issue. The most viewed story via Making Enviro News in 2019 was “Climate change doomsday report predicts end of human civilisation” by Mike Cook via News.com.au written on 5 June 2019. Table 1 lists the top 3 news items for 2019.

DateHeadlineAuthorMedia Source
5/6/19Climate change doomsday report predicts end of human civilisationMike CookNews.com.au
18/6/19‘Alan Jones is wrong’: Radio commentator slammed over climate change remarks on Q&A science panelNo author sitedNews.com.au
3/6/19Explaining Adani: why would a billionaire persist with a mine that will probably lose money?John QuigginThe Conversation
Table 1: Top 3 articles accessed via Making Enviro News in 2019

The top news item viewed by month provides a glimpse into what was engaging our readers throughout 2019. It also provides an insight into areas of interest that grabbed the readers’ attention.

MonthHeadlineAuthorMedia Source
JanOne year on: where is Australia’s recycling going now?Narelle TowieThe Guardian
FebAustralia on track to meet Paris Agreement targets five years earlier than expected, research findsGary-Jon LysaghtABC News
MarAustralia’s five black cockatoosAngela HeathcoteAustralian Geographic
AprAustralia’s 2018 environmental scorecard: a dreadful year that demands actionAlbert Van DijkThe Conversation
MayWorld-leading environmentalist turns his back on renewable energyRay Hadley2GB
JunClimate change doomsday report predicts end of human civilisationMike CookNews.com.au
Jul40 years ago, scientists predicted climate change. And hey, they were rightNeville NichollsThe Conversation
Aug‘Bunch of bedwetters’: Matt Canavan attacks Aurecon for cutting ties with AdaniPaul KarpThe Guardian
Sep‘You have no idea’: Minister’s stunning answer on climate changeSam ClenchNews.com.au
OctLetter by 240 leading scientists calls on Scott Morrison to stem extinction crisisAdam MortonThe Guardian
NovCoercion is coal’s only friendShireen KhalilRenewEconomy
DecSee how global warming has changed the world since your childhoodTim Leslie, Joshua Byrd, and Nathan HoadABC News
Table 2: Top articles by month via Making Enviro News

By examining the top 10% of news items accessed by Making Environmental News Readers (see graph 1), it is clear that there is an extensive array of publications that feature news in this area and are accessed by our readers.

There appears to be a correlation between the volume of articles produced by the publication in this area and the greater likelihood that the publication will be accessed more often. If there is a large volume of articles produced yet there is some sort of subscription involved our readers are less likely to access these news item unless it is not covered by any other publication.

Graph 1:Top 10% of news items accessed by publication

In 2019, the ABC News is without a doubt the most click through news source, followed by The Conversation and then The Guardian Australia. It should be pointed out that in 2019, more lifestyle publications were included because of the increased frequency of articles being published. Fashion as an industry became more vocal about various aspects of sustainability and its impact on the environment which was reflected in the associated publications. More famous personalities became outspoken on their views and position. This invited much discussion and put them under the spotlight regarding their behaviour in this area. In addition, various terminology became popularised for example ‘flight shaming’ became a phrase regularly seen.

Graph 2 provides a snapshot of the topics covered in the news items accessed in 2019. It should be pointed out that most articles would cover more than one topic, but for simplicity we chose the main topic featured in the article.

Graph 2: Topics featured in news items accessed in 2019

Clearly, anything that related to politics was the most accessed in 2019. This was 22% of all articles accessed via our services. The next 40% was nearly evenly distributed between news items relating to animals, business, climate change, energy and nature. There is nothing surprising about the breakdown of topics. It is interesting to observe that our readers continue to be interested in learning about various animals, newly discovered species and natural phenomena provided by publications such as Cosmos Magazine and Australian Geographic.

In addition to news articles, Making Enviro News have also been providing access to reports. Table number 3 provides a list of the top 10 specialist reports accessed throughout 2019.

1Existential climate-related security risk: A scenario approachBreakthrough – National Centre for Climate Restoration
2The Sustainable Development Goals ReportUnited Nations
3The role of packaging for Australian fresh produceAustralian Fresh Produce Alliance
4Creating a Sustainable Food FutureWorld Resources Institute, the World Bank Group, the United Nations Environment Programme, the United Nations Development Programme, the Centre de coopération internationale en recherche agronomique pour le développement, and the Institut national de la recherche agronomique.
5Towards good environmental governance? Assessing the evolution of Victoria’s environment portfolioParliamentary Library & Information Service, Parliament of Victoria
6From Tuvalu to Townsville: Climate Change Impacts on Health in Australia and the Asia Pacific Policy advice for Governments in AustraliaGlobal Health Alliance Australia
7The Global Risks Report 2019 14th EditionWorld Economic Forum
8ESG Reporting by the ASX200Australian Council of Superannuation Investors
9Building power system resilience with pumped hydro energy storageAustralian Energy Market Operator Limited
10Hit for Six – The impacts of Climate Change on CricketBritish Association for Sustainable Sport
Table 3: Top Specialist Reports accessed via Making Enviro News

2019 proved that keeping up with the news in this space is getting harder as more and more publications are producing articles providing information from various angles.

All data provided is based on information collected via Google analytics

by Izabella Kobylanski, Managing Editor of Making Enviro News & Principal at Planning Results
Request for permission to reproduce content should be directed to Making Enviro News

As a daily information portal that collates Australian media articles from a 24 hour cycle, Making Enviro News is in a unique position to review what articles and topics are generating the greatest interest. Topics covered are quite extensive and relate to anything in the environmental/sustainability area – climate change, environment, sustainability, conservation, energy, infrastructure, waste and recycling.

In 2018, readers accessed 11,768 articles which provided us with some interesting insight into what have been some of the trends amongst our readers.

As part of our service via Facebook and Twitter, we report on the top three most viewed news items. The most viewed story in 2018 was Debbie Cuthbertson’s article in The Age on 31 January 2018 – ‘Recycling rout was a disaster waiting to happen’. Here are the top stories by month.

Month Headline Author Media Source
Jan Germany city’s answer to disposable coffee cups is genius Lucy Rennick SBS World News
Feb Recycling rout was a disaster waiting to happen Debbie Cuthbertson The Age
Mar Fact check: Does a Toyota Corolla emit less than a Tesla? RMIT/ABC Fact Check ABC News
Apr Giant chasm is proof Africa is being pulled apart, experts say Ben Graham News.com.au
May ‘It’s all about vested interests’: untangling conspiracy, conservatism and climate scepticism Graham Readfearn The Guardian
Jun There’s more to the yellow bin than you may think, expert reveals do’s and don’ts of recycling Shireen Khalil News.com.au
Jul Recycling: how corporate Australia played us for mugs Jeff Sparrow The Guardian
Aug Hydrogen fuel breakthrough in Queensland could fire up massive new export market Lexy Hamilton-Smith ABC News
Sep How did Australia perform on its UN goals for a sustainable future? AAP/SBS SBS World News
Oct ABC preaches warming, ignores science Andrew Bolt The Herald Sun
Nov There’s more to the yellow bin than you may think: Expert reveals do’s and don’ts of recycling Shireen Khalil News.com.au
Dec Trees are worth billions to Australia’s economy — but how we value them is changing Farz Edraki ABC News

The majority of our readers were interested in what our politicians were doing in environment/sustainability/climate change area with waste and recycling also hot topics predominantly driven by China’s decision to stop taking Australia’s recycled waste and plastic bag bans and the ABC’s 2018 television series in the War on Waste on the ABC. Specific topics that dominated readers’ interest in this area were varied. It included articles relating to energy such as the national energy guarantee, related policies, land clearing and again waste and the recycling industry.

The following snapshot is of the top 100 news items accessed and broken down into broad topic classifications. Not surprisingly most articles would cover more than one topic, but for simplicity we chose the main topic featured in the article.

The top three topics were Australian politics and waste as well as animals and nature. It is interesting to observe that our readers are interested in learning about various animals, newly discovered species and natural phenomena. Not surprisingly, Australian Geographic and Cosmos Magazine dominated in this area.

As a free service, although we provide articles from subscription sources such as The Australian Financial Review or The Australian and other News Corp publications, we give preference to non-subscription media sources.  Looking at the most popular publications is interesting but it should be noted that it is skewed to non-subscription publication. Making Enviro News links to many news sources including specialist publications such as RenewEconomy, The Fifth Estate and Mumbrella, to name but a few. Nevertheless, our readers have a tendency to favour the major news sources such as News.com.au, ABC News and The Guardian. It is easy to hypothesize about the reason but without additional research, we cannot make any solid conclusions. Still, it is interesting.

For some years now, in addition to news articles we have also been providing access to reports. The main observation for 2018 is that the more frequently accessed reports had a business focus.

Here are the top five accessed in 2018.

  Report Title Organisation(s)
1 Biofuels to bioproducts: a growth industry for Australia – Discussion Paper Queensland University of Technology, Novozymes
2 Corporate Sustainability Reporting in Australia Australian Council of Superannuation Investors
3 Recharging the economy: The economic impact of accelerating electric vehicle adoption Electric Vehicle Council, PwC, The NRMA, The St Baker Energy Innovation Fund
4 Global Trends in Renewable Energy Investment 2018 Frankfurt School – UNEP Collaborating Centre for Climate & Sustainable Energy Finance
5 Aligning the Financial System with Sustainable Development United Nations Environment Programme

From a news perspective, 2018 provided a lot of diverse information from an array of media sources. The interesting fact that we noticed here at Making Enviro News was that Enviro News, in the broad sense of the term, was covered by a far greater cross section of publications. News items regularly appeared in fashion publications such as Vogue Australia and Marie Claire. Industry specific publications were also providing more enviro news. Today, enviro news impacts all walks of life and this is reflected in the media as articles appear in in almost all areas of interest, from leisure to business.

How the increase in coverage is having an impact on behaviour, well I will leave you to be the judge.

by Izabella Kobylanski, Managing Editor

Request for permission to reproduce content should be directed to Making Enviro News