Media and climate – part of the solution, or the problem?

2007 was a watershed year in media coverage of global warming/climate change. It is the year these topics finally went mainstream. The Sunday Times led the charge last March with a cracking cover to its Magazine, entitled ‘Tomorrow’s World’.

Tomorrow’s World

The cover image (above) was of the islands of Britain and Ireland partially submerged and broken into an archipelogo of hundreds of tiny islands. The story was based on Mark Lynas’ book, Six Degrees (covered in detail on To get a clearer sense of what will happen if global temperatures rise by between 1ºC and 6ºC, have a look at a short, shocking video below…

Since then, the media drum has begun to beat with more intensity on this topic. And this is all positive. Well, nearly. That same issue of the Sunday Times Magazine featured glossy ads for the usual slew of luxury goods, from giant plasma TVs to high-powered cars. Right in the middle of the doomsday article on runaway global heating, there’s a lovely ad exhorting readers to visit the ‘beautiful unspoiled, white sandy beaches and warm turquoise lagoons’ … of faraway Mauritius. Turn over a few pages, and the white sands and turquoise waters of the Maldives beckon…OK, everyone has to make a buck, and newspapers can and do argue that they can’t very well fight the good fight on climate change if they go bust – so they just keep taking the money, and hope nobody notices the widening gulf between the fantasy ‘Because You’re Worth It’ world pedalled on the ad pages versus the crisis-riven and climate-stressed real world in which its readers actually live.

Closer to home, the Irish Times, especially via its Planet Matters column in its Saturday magazine, has been making some useful contributions. Environment correspondent Frank McDonald wrote a memorable piece some months back on Dubai, perhaps the world’s largest living monument to humanity’s vanity and hubris in the face of the climate threat.

Take ‘Ski Dubai‘, the Middle East’s first indoor ski resort. It may be 50ºC outside in the desert, but inside the dome, real snow awaits you. It is in fact the world’s third largest ski slope. If you’re feeling homesick, you won’t have to go far to find an Irish voice; we are among the biggest overseas buyers of property in Dubai. Irish people now think nothing of hopping on a plane to pop over to their new ‘pad’ in the Middle East, to enjoy all that the scorching sun and the ski slopes can offer in this man-made monument to our certainty that the world really is just one giant playground.

Jane Powers’ 50 steps to lightening your footprint on the earth is a solid, well informed primer. Too bad you need a subscription to the archive to view the online version.

If the phoney ski slopes of Dubai don’t quite do it for you, the Sunday Business Post had an article some time back on heli-skiiing, which apparently has all the benefits of backcountry, without you having to break a sweat.

First, you fly to New Zealand, then you can get helicopter rides right to the top of the slopes in Queenstown. Out you hop for what author Roisin Finlay calls ‘the James Bond moment, when you exit the helicoper’. Aaah, the bliss.

Finlay does a cursory nod in the direction of the climate impact of this insanity by noting first off that heli-skiiing is in fact banned in France. She then helpfully suggests you can offset some of your carbon emissions to assuage any troublesome guilt pangs at

“After all”, Finlay concludes on a serious note, “if we don’t look after the planet there will be no snow”. We can just see this re-shot as an ad for MasterCard. Carbon credits: €200. ski package: Five grand. Flights to NZ: Thousands more. ‘Doing my bit’ to save the planet’s snow for heli-skiing: Priceless!

ThinkOrSwim is a blog by journalist John Gibbons focusing on the inter-related crises involving climate change, sustainability, resource depletion, energy and biodiversity loss
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