Blaž Mazi, Dnevnik: “Politicians take COP15 as a show and show must go on…”
Published 24th October 2009 - 1 comments - 1250 views -
Journalist, reporting on climate change in Slovene media...you are a rare comodity.
You think so?
Well, examining the major media outlets in Slovenia, I think climate change is still somewhere between Mariah Carey and a six-legged dog. The attention is just not there...
I think you are wrong. There are several journalist in the press media who deal with climate change most of their time. I think the only place where the environmental topics are missing are slovenian commercial TV stations and I understand that. Nevertheless, I think the slovenian media is full of reports for someone who wants to be informed on the subject.
How do you choose your topics? How do you decide what gets published?
First, I would like talk about the environmental journalist – the area of coverage is a lot wider than just climate change – there is also traffic, energy sector, science, politics and NGOs. Environment topics are located in several areas and you cannot simplify it.
How do I decide? I usually work on my own, since I am the one who is monitoring the situation and knows what is going on. Most of the time, my editors back my decisions. I try to combine several aspects of the reporting – one of the aspects being the political point of view, where we deal with the european comission, local politics and environmentalist. For some parts of the audience that is the whole scope of the reporting, when in fact politics are just one of the parts. The reports on COP15 summit is a good example of this point of view – COP15 is nothing but a bunch of meetings between boring bureaucrats and politicians, who are extremely bored by the subject. However, they deserve our attention, since the outcome of the political process will have enormous consequences on our everyday lives. I try to report on the political point of view at least once a week, including Slovenian point of view as well as the wider scope of the matter.
You mentioned several different points of view – how big do you think the political aspect of the matter is compared to reporting on the actual climate change? Is it more productive to exclusively report about draughts, floods... or is it better to seek the golden middle ground?
Apart from the political point of view, there is also the NGOs which are extremely well organised, very loud and very active in their actions. If there wasn`t for them, the politics would not move an inch.
There`s also the field of science where different scientist spend their time in the field and the field of natural disasters. It took me quite some time to establish the notion that not every natural disaster is a direct result of the climate change.
When I was talking to a scientist who was measuring the temperature of Grenland`s fjords and found out that the temperature of the water rose for four degrees Celsius, which shows the changed dynamics of the Atlantic Conveyor Belt, I immediately assumed that it has something to do with the climate change. She corrected me that as a scientic, she cannot make the same conclusion since the research is still pending. On the other hand, Greenpeace is very quick in making exactly that assumption. And as a journalist I have to report truthfully on the subject, however, in the field of climate change, people ofter assume too much automatically.
The problem lies in the media recapitulation of the science articles. News gets bounced around, things get added or they get misinterpreted and every time a source gets quoted you can get a different report of the actual information.
Which point of view I find most important? I think the NGOs are the major player. NGOs and scientics. Right now, the political point of view is mere cosmetics – political representatives like to show they care about the subject, while in fact they could not care less.
You also mentioned a certain reasonable doubt in events that are suppose to happen because of the climate change and that you trust the NGOs the most...
That is correct. The NGOs are the one who inform the public about researches and scientists. There are so much things happening in this field and journalists by themselves cannot track all the changes. Of course, you need to keep your distance – several journalists make a common mistake and report on everything without any discrepancies. I think that is a mistake since it is very simple to check your sources...
Is there a formula to separate the weed from the grain? In my opinion, there so many different actors in this field, each with its own agenda that it is hard for a person to truly know which information is responsible and useful and what information is deceiving...
I find this inflation of information very surprising. The main blame has to be put on the world wide web which brought a lot of good thing but on the other hand the online communication is one of the main reasons for reports to get misinterpreted and misquoted.
As a journalist I find it hard to rely on politicians and official agencies, since they spend most of their time producing political agendas and goals which are sometimes truly bizzare. The NGOs on the other hand have a more educated staff but are generally focused on a small set of topics within the general topic.
In the end, you can only rely on yourself and your own research. I learned most by talking to scientics in the field. I went to Paris in the year 2008 and I met a fellow Slovene there, Jošt Valentin Lavrič, who is active in the field of developing tools for measuring the carbon dioxyde in the air. I learned a lot from talking to him, since he has more than ten years of experience in the field of changes in the atmosphere.
One part of their research involved developing theoretical models for measuring the path carbon dioxyde travels from the point that is released into the atmosphere and the point where it comes down to earth. By the year 2011 all EU member states are required to install this equipment and that should radically change the EU carbon dioxyde coupons market.
In general, journalists are very good at reading through reports. When Vaclav Havel visited Slovenia recently as a part of his book tour, I was shocked by this interpretations, since he was using data more than five years old. In this field, data that old is almost completely irrelevant.
Let us talk about environmental lobbies. What is the situation in Slovenia? Are there any lobbies present, which side has the most leverage...?
There are some public figures in Slovenia, most notably Mišo Alkalaj, who is trying to provoke the public and distrupt the ideology of single mindness. In general I think the most powerful lobbies are on the side of the NGOs. On the anti-climate change side there are some annonymous individuals which communicate mostly through letters to the editor and websites, other than that, the lobbies do not exist. However, there are traffic and energy lobbies who do not deal with climate change directly, but deal with the environmental laws, which try to limit the consequences of the climate change. One of the most powerful societies is the Nuclear society of Slovenia which is promoting the usage of nuclear technology. I do not know if that is good or bad, however, I think that the overall feeling is that the politics is not taking the NGOs seriously.
How serioulsy are the environmental problems perceived by the slovenian politics?
I`ve read the operative plan to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions in Slovenia and there was a paragraph in the report which said that Slovenia will have to pay eighty million euros by the year 2012, because we are failing on our Kyoto agreement goals. When I wrote and article about it, I got a call from one of our MP`s who was shocked by the news. I was shocked even more – by the fact that he did not know that already, since the report was public.
I`ll say it again – the NGOs are the biggest generators of change in Slovenia. Political parties are writing declarations about climate change in their programs, but nothing ever happens.
I find it interesting that my previous guests in these inteviews put every ounce of hope in the hands of the politicians...
Well, they do carry the biggest burden but in really they lack initiative. If we examine the promises that were given at the beginning of the term and check the fullfiled goals at the end of the term, we can see that our government set ten eco-related goals and by the end of the term, nine of those were left unfullfiled.
On the other hand, Slovenia is facing big problems because of the dust particle count in the air, problems with the carbon dioxide emissions and problems with the failure to comply with the Kyoto agreement. Which is scary, if you consider there are states in the world which overpassed the Kyoto goals by ten to twenty percents. And I am not talking about underdeveloped countries with no industry. I remember a talk I had with a journalist collegue from spanish El Pais. She was older and in her point of view journalists are here to present the data and let the people decide for themselves. She was very critical towards the younger colleagues who were not eco-sceptical. She told me that she was covering the climate change for eighteen years and never declared her own point of view in her reports.
In my opinion expecting any of the before mentioned groups (politicians, NGOs, media) to actually make a difference before climate change really sets in is not reasonable. I think climate change will happen and then we`ll adapt to it.
Do you face any conflicts when reporting about the climate change, presenting both sides of the argument?
Of course. Although, after covering the subject for so many years, you develop your own opinion and you act on it. I am not having problems with taking a side in my articles, however, you cannot distort facts. In my opinion, people are getting sick of climate change reporting. They are starting to become immune on the subject and maybe that is part of the reason why people do not act on the matter. The reports are faster than the actual development and that is not good...
Should the media be more aggresive then? More activistic?
I think journalists already are activistic, but they are not getting through to people. The fact is, if a person wants to change his or her lifestyle in accordance with the environment, the information is there. I think this eco subject is a lot similar to healthy lifestyle issue. If you want to make a change, nobody is stopping you. However, people are selfish and think only of themselves. We are living too good of a life to change it just for the sake of the environment.
Let`s wrap this up with a short prognosis of the COP15 summit. What do you think will happen?
In short...absolutely nothing. They`ll spend the first three days arguing about procedures, they`ll spend a lot of time discussing the language used in the documents, but in the end, the politicians will not accept the recommendations made by the science community. They will sign a much smaller agreement and justify it by saying that we have to be realistic about it.
In the year 2020, when we will evaluate the success of the COP15 agreement, Slovenia will still fall behind the accepted goals. I am being realistic, Slovenia is not a big international player and if the leaders of the major countries would be really set on exercise the suggested COP15 agreement, the whole thing would lead to a new world order. The politicians are aware of that and that is exactly the reason nothing will happen. For the politicians the whole COP15 deal is a show and you know what they say...show must go on.
About the author
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