Monday, February 26, 2024

The summer season Greece found the local weather disaster

Within the run-up to Greece’s two parliamentary elections in Could and June, the local weather was of little or no concern to the political events. Lower than 0.5% of pre-election speeches of all of the political leaders contained the phrases “surroundings” or “local weather change”. The topic was conspicuously absent even from the remaining TV debate between the leaders of the nation’s most outstanding events.

This appears to go in opposition to the priorities of Greek residents. In keeping with the newest Eurobarometer survey, 94% of Greeks imagine that “tackling local weather change and environmental points needs to be a precedence to enhance public well being.” One other survey by Metron Evaluation discovered that 29% of Greeks take into account local weather change the most important challenge dealing with the planet immediately, adopted by the destruction of the pure surroundings (21%). Nonetheless, relating to the most important points dealing with Greece, a unique image emerges: the price of residing tops the Greeks’ issues, adopted by the economic system and solely then by environmental destruction (9%). 

This would possibly partly clarify why Greece’s inexperienced events usually are not flourishing. Within the June elections, the Ecologist Greens acquired 21,188 votes, or 0.41%, whereas the Inexperienced & Purple alliance obtained 15,725 votes, or 0.3%

In contrast, the climate-sceptic, conspiracy-minded far-right occasion Niki (“Victory”) obtained 3.69% of the vote, gaining 10 seats within the Greek parliament. In keeping with an article hosted on the occasion’s web site “By concentrating on carbon dioxide [emissions], the idea of local weather change has turn into the instrument for sustaining world energy and thru it, world wealth”. 

Shortly after the June election, Greece skilled disastrous wildfires that triggered at the very least 28 deaths and burned greater than 120,000 hectares of land. In September, the nation’s central area of Thessaly was hit by devastating floods. Finally, local weather change made its look within the Greek political and media debate.

Of their protection of the environmental disasters, a number of Greek media shops quoted English-language information reviews. In style government-friendly publications Efimerida and Newsbomb, referring to an article revealed in Deutsche Welle, titled, “Greece is on the forefront of local weather change”. Newsbomb additionally quoted the BBC’s title “Floods in Greece: Prime Minister Mitsotakis warns of a really unequal battle with nature”.


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Ekathimerini, the English-language model of one in all Greece’s important newspapers, quoted Mitsotakis telling CNN, “We did the perfect we might” in coping with the catastrophic fires. “I’m afraid that that is going to be the fact that areas just like the Mediterranean will face sooner or later”, Mitsotakis added. These narratives have contributed to the depoliticisation of environmental disasters in Greece’s public debate. 

This isn’t a brand new pattern. Again in 2018, former left-wing prime minister and Syriza chief Alexis Tsipras reacted to the floods in Mandra and the wildfires in Mati, within the capital’s Attica area, saying that Greece must replace civil safety protocols as a result of “local weather change means we’ll face extra frequent excessive climate occasions”. Then-opposition chief Mitsotakis replied paradoxically, “Mr Tsipras found immediately that local weather change causes excessive climate occasions”. 

Polariasation and de-politicisation

The late Eleni Kapetanaki-Briassoulis, a geographer and professor at College of the Aegean, warned in 2021 {that a} fatalistic acceptance of the impacts of local weather change shifts accountability to distant causes, thereby sidelining “native (particular person and collective) selections and interventions on pure assets”.

“The dominant narrative of local weather change, by sharpening the dimension or slightly complicated the native/contextual with the worldwide/distant, exonerates a portion of the official and unofficial culprits and redistributes the blame, spreading it over a bigger inhabitants,” Kapetanakis-Briassoulis wrote.

Nonetheless, the federal government went one step additional, attacking the scientific neighborhood within the aftermath of final summer season’s disasters. In September, when the Nationwide Observatory of Athens (NOA) reported a 195% enhance in burnt areas regardless of a 52% discount within the variety of wildfires in 2023 in comparison with the annual common from 2002 to 2022, the federal government accused the Observatory of being politically motivated. Deputy Minister of Migration and Asylum Sofia Voultepsi spoke of a “propaganda of numbers”, whereas MP and former minister Stelios Petsas referred to “political video games”, including, “I don’t like its position”.

In early December, the federal government moved from phrases to deeds, asserting its intention to include the NOA into the Ministry of Local weather Disaster and Civil Safety. Researchers from varied establishments oppose the change, citing issues over the independence of the Observatory.

Political controversies apart, final summer season’s environmental disasters introduced the local weather disaster to the fore, presumably marking a change in media attitudes. In keeping with an evaluation by the Nationwide Community for Local weather Change CLIMPACT of over two thousand information objects revealed on-line between 2009 and 2020, protection of the local weather disaster by the Greek media was missing for a number of causes.

First, journalists weren’t involved in detailed reporting about local weather change, whereas 11% of the analysed content material reproduced local weather sceptical views. Second, though the implications of local weather change are already tangible in Greece and throughout the globe, 28% of the analysed articles solely referred to local weather impacts anticipated at some unspecified time sooner or later. Solely 17% of them talked about the consequences of local weather change within the current.

Third, the articles centered totally on nationwide governments as accountable for addressing local weather change and its impacts. Native and worldwide actors (the EU, residents, native authorities, environmental teams, and NGOs) had been talked about much less incessantly.

On a extra optimistic notice, the evaluation discovered that one in two information articles included statements by consultants. One in three contained statements by politicians, adopted by members of civil society (14.5%), residents (12%), and enterprise representatives (9%).

As famous within the survey, the presence of scientists within the media can improve the general public’s understanding of the hyperlink between local weather change, human exercise, and pure disasters. However, CLIMPACT stresses that on-line media discourse – which frequently reproduces offline discourse – must turn into extra explanatory and to raised convey the urgency for political motion on local weather change.

Alexandra Politaki, European Local weather Pact ambassador in Greece, wrote in a current article that the nation lacks large-scale data and awareness-raising campaigns designed centrally and applied over time by state our bodies. As a substitute, individuals are uncovered to “pictures of present or future disasters, […] fragmentary photographs that supply nothing greater than impressions. Thus, key ideas […] resembling adaptation, transition, local weather neutrality, European Inexperienced Deal, and Simply Transition Mechanism, are left with out broad understanding”, argued Politaki.

Even the Nationwide Local weather Legislation, adopted in Could 2022 and aiming to scale back Greece’s greenhouse fuel emissions by 55% by 2030 in comparison with 1990 ranges and web zero by 2050, didn’t obtain the visibility it deserved. The approval of the legislation, which a number of environmental NGOs take into account insufficient to satisfy the 1.5-degree goal, adopted a public session interval of solely two months between late 2021 and early 2022.

This inadequate public session “has been mirrored within the Local weather Legislation, in addition to the dearth of a complete strategy, depth, and political imaginative and prescient,” says Politaki.

Authorized threats

Political polarisation and weak media protection usually are not the one issues plaguing the general public debate on local weather in Greece. Certainly, as consideration has grown round environmental points, there has additionally been a rise in lawsuits in opposition to journalists by financial pursuits, together with corporations concerned within the power transition. Intimidatory authorized motion often known as SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit Towards Public Participation) has focused journalists who uncover environmental injury or report on environmental issues round large-scale mining and power tasks. 

Examples embody a lawsuit filed by renewable power firm WRE HELLAS in opposition to Tasos Sarantis and the newspaper Efsyn for his or her reporting; one by a high-ranking government of Hellas Gold in opposition to the net information outlet Altherthess and journalist Stavroula Poulimeni, who reported on environmental air pollution linked to the corporate’s mining operations in Greece’s northern area of Halkidiki; and one by recycling firm Antapodotiki Anakyklosi in opposition to journalist Thodoris Chondrogiannos for an article revealed within the unbiased information outlet Inside Story

Authorized threats don’t solely concern journalists. ONEX shipyards focused a neighborhood environmental NGO on the Cycladic island of Syros; a wind power firm sued 100 residents of the island of Tinos for mobilising in opposition to the set up of wind generators; and one other wind energy firm filed a lawsuit in opposition to 9 authorized entities on Andros, additionally within the Cyclades, after they’d contested the building of a street by the corporate. The record might go on.

“These SLAPPs don’t solely try and hinder our obligation to supply data unbiased of political and financial pursuits. Additionally it is the appropriate to obtain data that’s steadily being restricted’’, explains Stavroula Poulimeni. Fortuitously, most native communities and lots of environmental organisations stood in solidarity with journalists and NGOs in opposition to the burgeoning business of intimidatory lawsuits.

But silence prevailed in many of the nation’s mainstream media. Right here, for the local weather and surroundings to be remembered, it took flooded cities, mud-covered villages and 1.7 million acres burnt in a single summer season.

Since 2016, Greece has had a Nationwide Technique for Local weather Change Adaptation (NSCA), primarily based on a 2011 examine by the Financial institution of Greece. Nonetheless, seven years after the technique was developed, Greece has but to approve the 13 Regional Local weather Change Adaptation Plans (PESPACA) wanted to implement the NSCA. Little appears to have modified even after final summer season, and the media comprises little reporting on the matter.

Higher media independence is essential if we’re to supply the general public with high quality data on local weather impacts and responses whereas holding politicians accountable. There’s additionally an pressing have to “co-educate” scientists and journalists to assist them higher talk the complexities of local weather science and higher clarify the social and financial impacts of the disaster.

This text is a part of a sequence devoted to local weather discourse within the European media. This challenge is organised by the Inexperienced European Basis with the assist of the European Parliament, and in collaboration with Voxeurop and the Inexperienced European Journal.

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