There were 212 press releases posted in the last 24 hours and 399,448 in the last 365 days.

The Plastics Connection to Climate Change

Sign up to receive the Climate Beat weekly newsletter in your inbox.

Plastics are everywhere in modern life. And since plastics are forever, the world’s seas are now littered with massive gyres of plastic waste — billions of tons of used food containers, water bottles, fishing gear, and other items that fragment into microplastics, “wreaking havoc on marine ecosystems,” NOAA warns, and increasingly on human health.

But how many people know that all that plastic was made from oil — and thus that plastics are a key part of the climate problem?

The plastics and oil industries are closely entwined, as a blockbuster report issued last week by the nonprofit research group Center for Climate Integrity made clear. For journalists covering the climate story, the very ubiquity of plastics is an opportunity to help our audiences see the connections between the everyday products they buy and the companies driving the climate crisis — as well as the lack of effective government regulation that allows the companies’ environmentally destructive conduct to continue.

Just as the oil industry has lied for decades about climate change, the Center for Climate Integrity report found, so the plastics industry has long touted recycling as the solution to the gargantuan problem of plastic waste, even as the industry’s own experts privately told management otherwise. “Industry insiders over the past several decades have variously referred to plastic recycling as ‘uneconomical,’ said it ‘cannot be considered a permanent solid waste solution,’ and said it ‘cannot go on indefinitely,’” wrote Dharna Noor for the Guardian in summarizing the report.

“If I were attorney general, based on what I read in CCI’s report, I’d feel comfortable pressing for an investigation and a lawsuit,” Brian Frosh, the former attorney general for the state of Maryland, told the paper.

The world is now producing twice as much plastic as it did in the 1990s, and both the plastics and the oil industry want to keep production levels climbing. Indeed, the oil industry sees plastics as a lifeline in the face of growing global efforts to transition away from fossil fuel in the name of climate survival. BP, for example, projects that plastics will account for 95% of demand for new oil over the next few decades. “Oil executives like to talk about how plastic can help ‘future-proof’ the industry as the world moves away from its product for energy,” journalist Amy Westervelt told Covering Climate Now.

CCI’s findings use some newly-uncovered documents but also build on years of beat reporting. In 2020, NPR and PBS’s Frontline produced a joint investigation of how the oil industry propped up recycling as a way to sell more of its product. Westervelt’s investigative podcast, Drilled, ran an entire season on the bridge between the fracking boom and plastics production.

“I think the first step in solving the problem is holding the companies accountable,” CCI’s president Richard Wiles told the Guardian. That’s where journalists come in. When reporting on plastic — on the failures of local recycling systems, on laws banning plastic bags, on the mountains of trash churning in our oceans — let’s make sure to connect the dots for our audiences. Often, it’s the same companies pushing the same discredited practices, making our world a more dangerous, not to mention a less beautiful, place.

From Us

Last Chance: Apply Now to 2024 CCNow Awards! Time is running out to submit your work for consideration in the fourth annual Covering Climate Now Journalism Awards. Journalism published or broadcast in 2023, anywhere in the world, in outlets big and small, is eligible. The deadline is March 1. Apply now and please share the opportunity with your networks!

Home Insurance. See our latest edition of Climate on the Ballot, “The Housing Crisis Has Americans Worried — and Climate Change Is Making It Worse.” Sign up to receive it every Monday.

CCNow Q&A. Climate change is inherently a political story, but political reporting often misses this critical connection. We spoke recently with Akielly Hu, Grist’s news and politics fellow, about the policy stories playing out at the state and local level and the importance of making the climate-politics connection when leaders and candidates do not. Read it at Columbia Journalism Review.

Talking Shop. See key takeaways from “Beyond the Stump Speech,” our recent webinar about integrating climate into elections coverage with Margaret Sullivan, Guardian columnist and Executive Director of Columbia’s Newmark Center, and Ben Tracy, CBS’s Senior National and Environmental Correspondent.

Noteworthy Stories

Under pressure. Four major financial firms (JPMorgan, BlackRock, State Street, and Pimco) have pulled out or significantly reduced their involvement in Climate 100+, an initiative aimed at reducing large companies’ emissions, citing heightened political risk. Republicans are increasingly pressuring companies about their efforts to fight against climate change. By Miguel Jiménez at EL PAÍS…

Debt and climate. In a recent interview, Barbados prime minister Mia Mottley called for debt cancellation for poor and frontline countries so they can better prepare for climate change. She argues that wealthy nations responsible for higher emissions should help poorer ones suffering disproportionately from climate impacts. By Zia Weise at Politico…

The IRA today. Eighteen months after the Inflation Reduction Act became law, electric car sales have largely met expectations, according to a new study by three organizations monitoring the law. Wind and solar projects, however, are behind schedule due to permitting delays, supply-chain issues, and local opposition. “Tackling these non-cost barriers will be critical,” the analysis said, “to achieve [the law’s] full clean energy deployment and emissions reduction potential.” By Brad Plumer at The New York Times…

Paying lobbyists. Lawmakers in eight US states have introduced legislation that would ban utilities from charging customers for lobbying costs, according to the Energy and Policy Institute. “People are starting to pay attention because they’re realizing that they’re paying for climate denial in their bills every month,” said Charles Harper of Evergreen Action, a climate advocacy group. By Akielly Hu at Grist…

Farmers’ health. European farmers, who face rising costs, climate change, environmental rules, and more, are enduring alarmingly high rates of mental health problems. Researchers urge more dialogue with farmers, access to information, and mental health services. By Kathleen Schuster at Deutsche Welle…

Resources and Events

Visualization tools. Mongabay has launched the Mongabay Data Studio, “an open space to convene interdisciplinary teams and collaborate to tackle complex challenges.” It has data tools to help visualize deforestation, fire risk, trade’s impact, and global environmental change.

Explainers. Audiences lack knowledge on climate change, and explainers are a great way to fill the gap. “Explainers can help connect local news consumers with science topics that might otherwise feel intimidating,” Roxanne Scott writes in “Writing Science Explainers for Local Audiences” at The Open Notebook.

Climate solutions. Solutions Journalism Network has a new guide, “Tips and Insights for Climate Solutions Practice,” with practical advice about how to effectively report on solutions.

EV charging. World Resources Institute will hold a webinar on “How U.S. Cities and Counties Are Accelerating the Deployment of EV Charging Infrastructure.” February 29. RSVP.

Youth leaders. The Hill and the American Conservation Coalition will hold a webinar “bringing together young conservative and progressive environmental leaders for a bipartisan discussion.” February 29. RSVP.

Climate justice. The Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs will host a webinar called “Climate Justice Series: Resource Extraction and Energy Equity.” March 1. RSVP.

UN Environment. The sixth session of the UN Environment Assembly, focusing on “climate change, nature and biodiversity loss, and pollution and waste,” will take place February 26 – March 1. Learn more.

Indian elections. The Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism will host a webinar on “Politics & data in India’s general election.” March 6. RSVP.

In the News

CCNow co-founder and executive director, Mark Hertsgaard, spoke with Democracy Now! about how the media cannot let pressure from climate deniers keep them from covering climate during the 2024 elections. “It’s not our job as journalists to censor ourselves because one party or one candidate decides that they’re going to deny climate science. We owe it to the public to report that to the public without fear or favor,” Hertsgaard said.

Jobs, etc. 

Jobs. Devex is hiring a climate correspondent (remote). Inside Climate News is looking for a newsletter writer (remote). The School of Media & Public Affairs at George Washington University in Washington, DC, is recruiting for the Ted Turner Professor of Media & Public Affairs.

Fellowships. The International Center for Journalists is accepting applications for the 2024 ICFJ Knight Fellowships. Apply by February 29. The Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs is accepting applications for the Energy Journalism Fellows program. Apply by March 1. The Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung European Union is accepting applications for its “climate disinformation media fellowship 2024.” Apply by March 10.

Awards. The Developing Asia Journalism Awards is open for entries. Apply by March 1.