Know Your Beat: How Climate Change Impacts Us All

In 2020, Vanessa Hauc became the first climate reporter to moderate a presidential debate, asking Democratic candidates about their environmental policies. Before tens of millions of viewers, Hauc, anchor and director of “Planeta Tierra,” Noticias Telemundo’s investigative unit on environmental issues, made the case that climate change is a central concern of voters.   

Hauc’s conviction is reflected in her reporting, in which the environment is a driving force. “The climate crisis is affecting every single area of our lives — the economy, politics, food supplies, our health,” said Hauc. “We make sure that we connect the dots for our audience.”  

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In the video above and her comments below, Hauc shares advice with reporters who want to focus on climate change and recalls the emotional moment that started her own environmental beat reporting.  

What should young journalists do if they want to report on the environment?

Be prepared to understand the science, be resourceful and be creative. The climate story is not easy to tell. Of course, we need the data, numbers, the voices of the experts, but it is also a human story. Our audiences [need to know] why they should care about what is happening and how they can be part of the solution.  

The climate crisis is affecting every single area of our lives — the economy, politics, food supplies, our health. We might be doing a story about inflation, but maybe prices of food are rising because a certain region has drought. We make sure that we connect the dots for our audience.

What is a memorable climate change story that you worked on?

Hauc during Hurricane Maria coverage, 2017.

I covered a lot of hurricanes because we’re based in Florida. One that really broke my heart was Hurricane Maria, when it hit Puerto Rico [in 2017]. Hours after this monster Category 5 system [hit], everything absolutely collapsed. They didn’t have electricity, communications, water or food.    

We were there for two weeks reporting on the story. The last day, we were about to take the plane back, when somebody told us that there was a grandma whose home was completely flooded and she refused to leave because it was the only thing she had. It was heartbreaking to see — her feet were infected and she was crying. She [told] me she was going to celebrate her 90th birthday and all her family was going to be there. We had to convince her to come with us and see the doctor.   

That is the perfect example: People that have contributed the least to [climate change] are the most affected and the most vulnerable. Those are women, children, the elderly and minority communities like the Latino community.

You’ve covered the environmental beat for 18 years. What made you focus on this area of news?

Hauc and her son Sacha in 1999.

When my son Sacha [was little], we saw a documentary, “An Inconvenient Truth,” by Vice President Al Gore. I remember [Sacha] was very scared. He asked me, “Can that really happen?” And I had to say, “Yes, that can really happen.” Immediately, he came up with a plan to save the planet — “I’m going to do this and talk to my friends” — and then he asked, “Mom, what are you going to do?”   

That question was resonating in my head for weeks. I realized at that moment there is nothing I love more than my children. There is nothing I won’t do to protect them. I decided I was going to invest my career in [environmental reporting].   

I knew if I was able to bring this message to the Latino community in a way that touched their hearts, they will act on it like I did. We Latinos recycled growing up. I remember my grandmother and I never used plastic bags. We used to take a little costal, a fabric bag made in South America, and we put all our products there. My dresses or my toys were inherited [from or passed on to] my cousins or my mom’s friends. This is something I try to do with my daughter and son. We grew up feeling that love and connection to the planet.  

I love stories on our planet and how it’s changing and what we can do to support it. They’re the [stories] that give me the energy and drive to wake up every day and do the best I can.

Gallery: Vanessa Hauc on the Climate Beat

Clarisa Melendez

Clarisa is a bilingual associate producer based in New York City with NBCU Academy’s content team. She also co-edits The Weekly Rundown newsletter. Previously, she produced for NBC Telemundo Network in Miami.