Wednesday 7 April 2021 5:30 am

Sky News boss: Covid has taught us to tell stories with data, we must do the same with climate change

John Ryley is the head of Sky News

Reporting on the Covid-19 pandemic has been a wake-up call for those who argue the public do not crave the data behind a story. To stay informed, we have had no choice but to learn a new language of data and numbers.

Projections from scientists now shape household conversations, people on the street can quote their local R-Rate, and data has allowed us all to understand the scale of the threat posed to us by the pandemic.

This fluency with facts and figures gives us an important lesson in how the media must tell the story of climate change more effectively.

The climate crisis has too often sat at the bottom of the running order on TV news. It is covered episodically, or its validity is debated nonsensically, or it is dismissed as a middle-class obsession.

The public are bombarded with the scale of the crisis facing humanity as our planet warms, but they are often not given a key to unlock its relevance and threat to their own lives.

This approach has let audiences down. It has offered them bombast over facts, and arguments over information. That has to change.

All of us in the media must shift our mindsets, and as mediators it’s essential that we put the facts of climate into the fabric of the daily news agenda.

We must consider how every political decision, big business move, or societal trend will impact our ability to cut the pace at which our planet is warming.

We must report on how much carbon each new technology will enable us to remove from our atmosphere, and how much carbon those out of date and high-polluting technologies continue to pump into it.

We must hold the world’s leaders, and our own, to account for their commitments to cap global temperature rise at 1.5 degrees in this century.

To do this we must put data at the heart of the climate story.

I commit to data-driven journalism and reliable newsgathering being at the heart of our storytelling at Sky News.

Our climate coverage and new daily Climate Show will include live data on the Earth’s temperature rise; a running total of global C02 emissions and the split of energy use in the UK between fossil fuels, nuclear and renewables.

This is no longer just about recycling and planting trees. It means providing facts to enable governments, businesses, and people to adapt the decisions that they make.

We must remember the strength of original, independent, trustworthy journalism is built on assessing the facts. Our editorial policy is not to have ‘both sides’ debates about whether climate change exists. We evaluate the evidence with an open mind and then we are very happy to tell our audiences what the facts are.

There is no denying that the facts confirm the climate crisis is real, now it’s time that we recognise our audiences who watch, listen and scroll deserve the data behind the climate crisis.

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