Planet Burns, and Folha Blows It

Readers Call for More Spotlight on Climate Crisis and Dismissal of Columnist

"Human activity has been altering the Earth's climate in 'unprecedented' ways for hundreds of thousands of years, with some changes already unavoidable and 'irreversible,' warned climate scientists."

"Countries have delayed so much in curbing fossil fuel emissions that they can no longer stop the intensification of global warming for the next 30 years, even though there is a window to prevent the most distressing future, concluded a major UN scientific report."

"For the first time, scientists from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) have quantified in a report the increase in the frequency and intensity of extreme events linked to climate change."

If you know the giant by finger, the first paragraphs of the most important news of the year about the climate crisis show how the subject is far from common sense. The three opening lines above were published by, respectively, The Guardian, The New York Times and Folha. The difference in tone is not negligible: the apocalypse is close for the British daily; politicians need to wake up before it's too late, according to the American; science shows that something happens, says the Brazilian.

The highlight of the news in the three newspapers also presented many differences. Taking advantage of the time zone, the Times made the news headline in Monday's print edition (9) and kept the subject on the cover the following day. The treatment on the website was similar. The Guardian investigated the contents of the report with politicians and NGOs and said that the tone of the alert would be serious on Sunday. It made two headlines in a row in print and 12 titles on its website only on Monday, in addition to a video.

Folha was much more economical. It resolved the issue in three texts. On the website, on Monday morning, the subject did not even appear on the first scroll, the top part of the Home Page, more noble and with the greatest audience. Where it was, the call had weight similar to that given for an article on the sale of Porsches in Brazil. The main title said only that the "climate crisis is already aggravating droughts, storms, and temperatures."

In internal criticism, this ombudsman noted that the treatment did not match the size of the story and that the comparison with the international media and even with local competitors was not favorable. The prominence increased slightly in the following hours, and the word "irreversible" was added to the original statement.

On Tuesday, in its form, Folha preferred to headline the military parade in Jair Bolsonaro's banana plantation. The weather became a headline, at the bottom of the front page, into a column. The president's reloaded Bolsa Família deserved two columns. There are, of course, too many problems in the country, but Folha's option remained among the exceptions on an important day.

From direct competitors, O Globo and O Estado de S.Paulo to major newspapers in the United States, United Kingdom, and Europe, including the economic The Wall Street Journal and Financial Times, IPCC document dominated all headlines. With or without alarmism, but correctly reflecting the magnitude of the problem, the dimension of the news.

Readers complained. Some in an activist tone, demanding that Folha commit to the environmental cause. Others with pure concern, the one that feels in front of the almost daily news of forest fires, heat waves, floods and droughts across the planet. The fear that several Brazilian cities already feel about water rationing. And what will we all feel in a little while in light of the lack of energy if the federal government maintains its usual incompetence?

In the midst of all this, a harbinger of change emerged. The newspaper, on Tuesday, standardized that extreme events should preferably be treated as a "climate crisis." On Wednesday, however, another revolt was installed in the inbox. Leandro Narloch, back at Folha, repeated denial arguments on "global warming" in his debut column.

Angry readers listed the controversies surrounding the conservative journalist. They called him homophobic and racist. They asked for his resignation, announced the cancellation of subscriptions to the newspaper and UOL.

The episode reinforces Folha's contradictions in climate coverage. Its brave Science team does an excellent job and has good analysts and consistent coverage, but that is not enough to face a multidisciplinary challenge.

Climate crisis needs to become a real priority, an agenda that imposes itself on the public for the simple fact that it will impose itself anyway. It's no longer a matter of believing or not believing in scientists or brats announcing the end of the world.

The country is in the hot seat on the environmental issue. Folha does not need to be together.

José Henrique Mariante

An engineer and journalist, Miriante has been a reporter, correspondent, editor and editorial secretary at Folha, where he has worked since 1991. He is an ombudsman

Translated by Kiratiana Freelon