Dear Florida Newspapers,
We are a group of nonprofit organizations, fellow journalists, business leaders, educational institutions, and Floridians who are calling on you to unite and showcase your journalistic integrity when it comes to covering our planet’s most pressing issue – the climate crisis. This summer, you covered firsthand the devastating impact of a warming planet, from extreme heat and devastating flooding to catastrophic hurricanes and wildfires. While the impacts of the climate crisis were in full display, and 7 out of 10 Americans believe in global warming, only 4 out of 10 of them think it will harm them personally according to the Yale Climate Communication Opinion maps. Even more alarming is that only 2 out of 10 Floridians hear about global warming in the media at least once a week. This is a very low number, and we need our news outlets to cover this topic more widely and connect it to other news stories so readers can understand how a warming climate is affecting them.
Sunday, October 24th is the International Day for Climate Action. It is also a week before the United Nations COP26 climate summit, the most important meeting between world leaders when countries must set more ambitious goals for ending their pollution contributes to climate change under the Paris Agreement. We’re sure you will be covering COP26, the issue lies in how it is covered – it is usually only covered as an environmental or biodiversity issue. If there is something this past summer has shown us, this crisis is affecting people all around the world and here at home, especially the most vulnerable. Our changing climate has affected at least 85% of the world’s population claiming many lives, disrupting supply chains, impacting immigration, and sparking civil unrest but it is also affecting our water & food security, the quality of our air, and thus our health.
Here in Florida, our economic pillars — tourism/ports, agriculture, and real estate — and our quality of life depend on the long-term sustainability of our natural resources and a stable climate.
- A recent bill analysis from the Florida Senate notes the chance that Florida could lose more than $300 billion in property value by 2100.
- Over the last year and a half, the impacts of COVID caused our tourism dollars to collapse, and the agricultural industry (namely, farmworkers) kept Florida’s lights on while also putting food on our tables. In fact, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security issued an advisory last year deeming agriculture a part of “critical infrastructure” during the COVID pandemic.
- The Florida Chamber of Commerce also prepared a document showing that Florida accounts for 56% of our nation’s domestic citrus produce and is the second-largest producer of fresh vegetables. These crops, the farmworkers who harvest them, and the money this state receives from this economic driver will continue to be impacted by the climate crisis.
- Farmworkers are 20 times more likely to die from exposure to extreme heat than other kinds of workers in the United States. Outdoor workers and people without adequate cooling are at the greatest risk; this includes emergency responders, warehouse, factory, and restaurant workers, as well as seniors, children, and economically disadvantaged groups. Temperatures and sea levels will continue to rise. The Union of Concerned Scientists estimates that rising temperatures will lead to outdoor workers in Florida losing $8.4 billion in annual income by midcentury.
In short, More Climate Crisis = Less Florida. Continuing to do nothing is not an option and there is a severe gap in conversations connecting the dots between these issues. Thus, the signatories of this letter would like to see unified action from our Florida newspapers in taking the lead in informing the public. We are asking you to take bold steps to call attention to the climate crisis by removing the name of your city from your masthead for one day, October 24th, in solidarity, in both print and digital form. In addition, we ask that you publish a joint editorial on why you are taking this action, and include the significance of COP26 while calling Florida local and state elected leaders to do more to mitigate our planet-warming emission that threatens all Floridians.
Below are some of The Society for Professional Journalists principles that we feel apply to our request.
- Seek Truth and Report It– The global climate scientific community agrees*: Climate-warming trends over the past century are extremely likely due to human activities. In addition, most of the leading scientific organizations worldwide have issued public statements endorsing this position. (NASA) The truth is that human activities have increased our heat-trapping emissions, and the consequence is global warming. It is critical to not oversimplify the climate crisis by reporting it only as an environmental issue, but rather it should be included in all stories that relate to extreme weather, and when it’s connected to food shortages, civil unrest, immigration, etc.
- Act Independently – while we know that some of your readers may not understand your stance on the climate crisis and think it’s political. It is your job as independent newspapers to always report the facts, and not worry about what your readers might think, but rather inform them about what is really happening.
- Be vigilant and courageous about holding those with power accountable. – Our elected leaders have done little to nothing to address our heat-trapping emissions. Instead, in Florida, they have pivoted the conversation to adaptation and “resilience,” while preempting local energy progress thanks to national lobbying efforts from the American Petroleum Institute and the gas industry. Currently, at the state legislature, another dangerous preemption bill seeking to prevent any state agency from implementing a program to limit the aforementioned greenhouse gas emissions warming our planet has been filed. We simply can not adapt our way out of this crisis, we must address the sources of our warming pollution. The only way our elected leaders will do more is if we have an informed and engaged public demanding bolder, urgent, just climate policies.