Why climate protesters want to ‘target’ the White House Correspondents’ Dinner

Why climate protesters want to ‘target’ the White House Correspondents’ Dinner

It’s not often that huge parts of the Washington political and media elite are in the same room together in a spirit of conviviality. But that will be the case during Saturday’s White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner.

That’s exactly why climate protesters from the group Climate Defiance plan to blockade the event.

According to Margaret Klein Salamon of the Climate Emergency Fund, one of the group’s funders, the roast is a “very smart target.”

“Both the administration and the press really have so much more that they could do on climate,” she told The Independent.

She feels that without dramatic protest action, the Washington consensus will not move urgently enough to address the climate crisis.

“This is a climate emergency,” she continued. “We’re accelerating towards absolutely catastrophic outcomes. As a clinical psychologist, my diagnosis is that we’re in a state of mass delusion, an illusion of normalcy, when in fact we are in terrible danger. So these activists, by disrupting normal normal life events that are so publicly familiar, by disrupting those, they’re shaking us awake.”

Climate Defiance, which has already protested at multiple appearances from White House climate adviser Ali Zaidi in recent weeks, announced the action in February.

“As the seas rise, our politicians dither. As storms surge, they delay. As people die and forests burn and ice shelves collapse, they cower,” the group said in a video statement.

Ms Klein Salamon hopes the protest will psur the administration to declare a climate emergency, cease fossil fuel development, and speak more frankly about the climate crisis.

“In terms of what more the administration can do, I mean, seriously, it is insane that we would be continuing to expand fossil fuel infrastructure,” she said. “At this point it’s totally out of step with what is needed to avoid apocalyptic outcomes.”

Joe Biden has a mixed record on the climate. In 2022, he helped pass the Inflation Reduction Act, the most major climate law and clean energy investment in US history, but the Biden administration has also backed the kind of large-scale fossil fuel projects climate experts say we need to transition away from, including the Mountain Valley pipeline and the $8bn Willow project in Alaska.

The press also has room to improve.

A 2022 study from Northwestern University found that the media continues to employ “both sides” framing and feature commentary from climate deniers, despite the overwhelming scientific consensus about the extent and urgency of climate change.

“The media is still giving air to the opinions of people who do not believe there is cause for alarm, which makes the problem seem less dire than it actually is,” David Rapp, a psychologist and professor at Northwestern’s School of Education and Social Policy, said last year in an interview with the school, describing the research.

The problem of poor climate journalism is urgent enough that the United Nations has weighed in as part of the IPCC process.

The convening of climate experts has noted that while there are encouraging signs, including nearly a doubling of the amount of climate journalism articles between 2016 and 2021, the media can still do better and build more trust with audiences.

“[The dramatic angle] will get you the clicks. But one thing I say a lot these days is if clicks are the metric of success in environmental journalism, then, we’re kind of doomed because what you really want is to build an engaged back and forth with readers and with experts so that you as a medium, or journalist of a media company, become a kind of trusted guide,” environmental journalist Andrew Revkin told the UN in a 2022 interview.

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