On Monday, as Catania prepared to go without electricity and water, former Lega senator Simone Pillon posted a little potpourri of climate denialism on Twitter: “I bet 100 to 1 that 2024 will be the hottest year since the Jurassic. I understand that you want to sell electric cars and lower real estate prices, but you’re exaggerating. It’s hot in Italy in July, it has always been hot, and it’s going to be hot. Thank God for that.”
The city had reached a high of 47.6 degrees Celsius, not too far off the record high of 48.8 in the summer of 2021.
Even this week, as the country was engulfed in a heat wave that comes as a result of the climate change caused by our fossil-fuel-using civilization – as explained in the World Weather Attribution analysis discussed in il manifesto on Monday – there are those who continue to deny it.
Vittorio Feltri, interviewed in recent days on Rete4 by Andrea Giambruno (a good friend to the Prime Minister), said: “The environmentalists are conformists who keep talking about record heat, but it has always been like this since the 1980s. I don’t care about the heat, it doesn’t bother me and I don’t even sweat.”
His answer is hardly surprising given that this was how the reporter had brought up the subject: “The ‘news,’ if we can call it that, is that it will be hot in July and it will probably snow in December, but according to the environmentalists, we, the citizens, are to blame.”
While the climate crisis continues to have little visibility in the press and on television, and the dependence of Italy’s major newspapers on money from polluting corporations is a well-known fact, a new element of concern is coming to light: over 20 percent of the news stories in the nation’s major newspapers and TV news outlets are giving a platform to arguments against the energy transition and measures to mitigate global warming. That is, one-fifth of the news are promoting climate denialism.
This is the finding of a new report commissioned by Greenpeace Italy from the Pavia Observatory. The study, conducted between January and April 2023, examined how the climate crisis was being reported by the five biggest newspapers in terms of circulation (Corriere della Sera, La Repubblica, Sole 24 Ore, Avvenire and Stampa), by the evening news bulletins of RAI, Mediaset and La7, and by a sample of the 20 most followed news outlets on Instagram.
The results show that in the first four months of 2023, the major Italian newspapers published an average of two articles per day in which at least one mention was made of the climate crisis, but less than half that number actually focused on the issue. These are lower numbers than the 2022 average and show the lack of attention towards global warming whenever extreme events, such as those we have been experiencing in recent weeks, are not occurring. As evidence of this lack of attention, the climate crisis hardly ever made the front pages in the first part of the year: it did so less than once a month.
And when the issue makes it to the front pages, it often happens as it did on Monday, with the news (on the front page in La Verità, with a headline above the fold in Il Giornale) that a speech by physicist and Nobel laureate John Clauser, a prestigious representative of the CO2 Coalition, was canceled by the IMF because he “disputes climate dogma” – thus casting him as a victim of the eco-Taliban.
Some “small” details went unreported: that Clauser got his Nobel Prize for his work in quantum mechanics and is not a specialist in climate research; and that the head of the CO2 Coalition is the former president of the American Petroleum Institute (America’s largest oil company lobby).
For a decade, until 2019, the Climalteranti.it portal, run by Professor Stefano Caserini, who teaches Climate Change Mitigation at the Milan Polytechnic, had been awarding the “Some Like It Hot” Prize, dedicated to the worst instances of public discussion on climate change issues. Each year, the nominees for the award – well-known climate deniers in the media – included Professor Franco Battaglia and Franco Prodi, the brother of former Prime Minister Romano Prodi, according to whom “98 percent of the planet’s warming doesn’t come from us.”
Both continue to be given space on TV and in newspapers. “There is no climate emergency” was the title of one of Battaglia’s speeches published in March this year, as the country was facing a drought-related crisis, on the Pro Vita&Famiglia (“Pro Life&Family”) website – because it figures.
At the same time, on SkyTG24 on Monday, the Minister for Civil Defense, Nello Musumeci, admitted that “what is happening in the North and the South are two sides of the same coin: climate change.”
Perhaps this is a sign of a new awareness on his part, and he should maybe have a talk with Meloni, who in mid-July spoke via video link at a Vox rally, ranting against the “ecological fundamentalism” of progressives: “The ecological transition that the left wants is ideological and threatens our economy,” was her verdict.
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