Journalists discuss the importance of covering climate change

Ako Salemi, an award-winning photojournalist documents the impact of climate change on Iran’s desert landscape and the region surrounding it.

Climate change was the center of discussion during a week-long visit by distinguished journalists from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting to Northwestern University in Qatar (NU-Q).

As part of an annual visit to NU-Q to raise awareness of journalism campaigns that focus on global issues, three international reporters who specialize in reporting on climate change, shared their experience and discussed the future of the environmental issue.

As part of a presentation to the NU-Q community, Eli Kintisch, a contributing correspondent for Science magazine and author of Hack the Planet: Science's Best Hope — or Worst Nightmare — for Averting Climate Catastrophe shared his personal experiences covering the Arctic, where glaciers are melting, temperature is drastically increasing, and the wildlife is being severely affected.

“Antarctica is different to the Arctic because Antarctica is land surrounded by water, whereas the Arctic is water surrounded by land, which makes for a very interesting climate,” said Kinitsch. “The temperature in the Arctic has increased by two degrees, twice as much as the rest of the earth, and as the temperature has gone up, the sea ice, which usually reflects solar energy back into the atmosphere, has plummeted, and that is contributing to global warming, rising sea levels, and even hotter summer days in Qatar.” 

NU-Q is one of 30 international universities who partner with the Pulitzer Center to foster greater discussions around prevalent global issues and to involve students in projects and fellowships aimed at analyzing worldwide areas of concern. 

“The Pulitzer Center’s mission is to support journalists who are covering urgent issues and to improve coverage on global issues. NU-Q is committed to educating our students on the importance of accurate and objective reporting, as well as exposing them to the realities of crisis reporting. We have had great success in partnering with the Pulitzer Center, which has also provided our students with fellowships and journalism residencies in Washington D.C.,” said Everette E. Dennis, dean and CEO of NU-Q.

In addition to Kintisch, this year’s visiting journalists included Ako Salemi, an award-winning photojournalist from Iran who documents the impact of climate change on Iran’s desert landscape and the region surrounding it, and Janice Cantieri, a Northwestern alumna and Fulbright-National Geographic digital storytelling fellow who most recently reported on the impact of rising sea levels in Kiribati, an island in the South Pacific.

Accompanying the journalists was Tom Hundley, Pulitzer Center senior editor, who has almost four decades of experience as a foreign correspondent for the Chicago Tribune. He served as the Tribune’s bureau chief in Jerusalem, Warsaw, Rome, and London, and reported from more than 60 countries, including three wars in the Arabian Gulf, the Arab-Israeli conflict, and the rise of Iran’s post-revolutionary theocracy.

During the presentation at NU-Q, Cantieri discussed her experience covering the daily struggles of a third-world nation in the South Pacific where rising temperatures and sea levels are literally life threatening.

“In Kiribati, people are losing access to clean drinking water, and their staple food crops are dying because they are facing drastic environmental change due to sea levels rising – especially given that the island is only two meters above sea level,” said Cantieri. “The dilemma of climate change is that it is caused primarily by first world countries, but disproportionately affects the developing world, and as a result the people of Kiribati have been victimized as climate refugees.”

“At NU-Q, we teach our students to always be curious and think critically about global issues and how they can impact societies and communities,” said Mary Dedinsky, director of the Journalism and Strategic Communication Program. “The Pulitzer Center journalists serve as role models to our students and will help them bring nuance to critical issues and to find creative ways to bring the story to life.”