The Niagara Falls of reports releases into any journalist’s in-box attest that there’s at all times loads of rivalry for the shifting highlight of media consideration.
As early as March of this yr, the Pew Analysis Institute, a think-tank that research media developments, noticed that individuals had change into “immersed in COVID-19 news.”
And whereas different points have often nudged the pandemic and its financial affect off centre stage, it’s arduous to consider many topics which have so persistently hogged the limelight for thus many months in a row.
In keeping with one in every of Canada’s main environmental economists, that single-minded focus has each diverted and delayed consideration on a topic that he anticipated in 2020 would lastly get its second within the solar: local weather change.
Shut out by pandemic
“For 2 months and even three, folks like me had been shut proper out as a result of ministers had been coping with facets of COVID in cupboard,” stated Mark Jaccard, one in every of Canada’s foremost local weather scientists who is usually described as an architect of the pioneering carbon-pricing scheme launched by the B.C. Liberals again in 2008.
With what might have turned out to be unhealthy timing, the Simon Fraser College professor’s political guide, The Citizen’s Guide to Climate Success, lastly hit bookstores in February — simply earlier than the pandemic started to dominate the information agenda.
Whereas inevitably upset, the longtime adviser to governments on sensible local weather financial coverage stays philosophical. Jaccard’s greatest thought — one which some local weather activists might discover irritating — is that the one reasonable path to defeating local weather change is political motion to put in “climate-sincere” politicians and governments after which maintain their toes to the fireplace.
Whereas private makes an attempt to eat much less meat, say, or purchase an electrical automotive make people be ok with themselves and will affect a number of others, Jaccard insists that the short-term financial benefits of including carbon to the ambiance are so profitable that they require concerted authorities motion to push issues the opposite approach.
And placing political strain on governments means garnering media and public consideration, one thing tougher to do when the entire world is fearful about one thing that appears much more urgent — particularly a deep financial recession attributable to a lethal well being disaster that simply will not go away.
“You’ve gotten coverage home windows,” Jaccard stated, referring to these moments resembling after Hurricane Katrina, which struck New Orleans and the encircling space in 2005, or following the previous yr’s devastating forest fires in Australia and the U.S. west, when the general public and politicians are compelled to take local weather points critically.
He stated COVID-19 is simply the 2020 model of a sequence of worldwide occasions which have redirected consideration away from the local weather change concern simply because it was starting to take off.
‘We obtained actually excited’
“We obtained actually excited in regards to the Kyoto Protocol within the late Nineties, after which alongside got here 9/11 — and everybody obtained diverted with the U.S. desirous to invade nations within the Center East,” Jaccard stated, referring to terrorist assaults on america on Sept. 11, 2001.
“After which you possibly can say the identical factor once we obtained enthusiastic about Hurricane Katrina, and also you had Republicans and Democrats within the mid-2000s placing collectively coverage … and China began to say, ‘Uh-oh we higher get going.’ After which alongside got here the  monetary disaster.”
Because the world, and particularly Canada, gave the impression to be getting the pandemic beneath management in the course of the summer season, local weather advocates had been hoping their concern would come to the highest of the agenda. However subsequent waves of the illness as soon as once more pushed COVID-19 tales to the highest of the “most learn” columns, narrowing the information gap for local weather protection.
Whereas political analysts had been anticipating a nod to inexperienced spending in Monday’s fiscal replace, they are saying short-term allocations will largely be diverted, fairly fairly, to bailing out elements of the Canadian financial system devastated by a brand new spherical of pandemic lockdowns.
Jaccard says that has added to delays, as the most recent authorities plan — to make use of post-pandemic financial restoration spending to advance the inexperienced agenda in a approach that may lastly put Canada on a path to Paris 2030 — has meant earlier coverage plans and spending have been deferred.
Regardless of the most recent postponement, Jaccard stays hopeful. Conversations with conservatives have left him with the impression that even a change of presidency wouldn’t forestall Canada from shifting ahead on the local weather change agenda.
And whereas he thinks the Trudeau authorities stays “climate-sincere,” he says media consideration is crucial to maintain strain on the Liberals to not spend an excessive amount of cash on political feel-good plans, resembling tree planting, on the expense of actual measures to chop carbon output. As The Economist reported recently, rising timber in a single place doesn’t suggest they are not being reduce down elsewhere, and pure programs are inclined to return their carbon again to the ambiance.
“In the event you’re permitting somebody to maintain polluting and then you definately’re kind of convincing your self that you’ve offset that or compensated it,” Jaccard stated, “the cautious proof would not assist that.”
A part of Jaccard’s continued optimism is because of the election of what appears to be like like a climate-sincere Democratic authorities south of the border that — even with out the assist of a Republican Senate — can start to make greenhouse gas-limiting laws.
The election of a Joe Biden presidency might have created a brand new “coverage window,” he stated, because the U.S. strikes towards current Canadian schemes such because the coal phaseout regulation, the place Canada is a pacesetter. In the meantime, Jaccard expects a U.S. push towards things like the clean fuel standard, which is able to coax Canada into following swimsuit as producers insist on one algorithm for all of North America.
Comply with Don Pittis on Twitter: @don_pittis