The reverberations of the hacked e-mails fiasco – conveniently or otherwise characterized as “climategate” – continue to be felt deeply within the journalism and scientific communities.
In many ways, the episode that originated six months ago remains a pivotal moment for media coverage of climate change. The Yale Forum asked three people with deep involvement in, and different perspectives on, the story to look back at how the media performed in the controversy’s initial stages, and to offer some lessons learned (see related posting).
DURHAM, N.C. – When it comes to climate communication, many scientists have a “love-hate” relationship with the media.
That’s the assessment of Bill Chameides, dean of the Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University. Before his appointment at the Nicholas School, Chameides worked for three years – from 2005 through 2007 – as the chief scientist of Environmental Defense Fund. Previously, he had spent 25 years at the Georgia Institute of Technology, where he served as chair of the atmospheric-sciences department from 1998 to 2005. He was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1998.
Chameides spoke recently from his campus office about how both journalists and scientists can do a better job of educating the public about climate science.
'Artifact' of Current Media Economy
Health care insurers are woefully behind the curve when it comes to preparing for the risks that climate change poses to human health. Wine grapes, highly sensitive to extremes in temperature, may well foretell how continued warming will stress global agriculture. Most corporations, focused on a five- to seven-year time horizon, aren’t planning for how they’ll adapt to climate change in coming decades.
Where can you find these stories, presented in one place and generated by a new collaboration by national publications such as Slate, Wired, Mother Jones, The Atlantic and Grist?
The answer: The Climate Desk, a new collaborative journalism project launched on April 19.
Following 'Holy Grail' of Dow Jones Index
A number of scientific efforts comparable to the climate index initiative mimicking the widely publicized Dow Jones Industrial Average are at various stages of development in the scientific community.
One such effort is that championed by climate change investments expert Dan Abbasi to help improve public understanding of climate change, described on this site in a recent posting.
Several other interests also have established indexes with similar aims.
Americans since 1896 have tracked the economy’s health with the Dow Jones Industrial Average.
Now, a climate policy expert working for an investment firm thinks it is time for a climate change average. It would be based on a wide range of data scientists are keeping on oceans, temperatures, permafrost, the atmosphere, storm trends, and more. The information would be synthesized into a daily number called the Global Climate Change Index, or GCCI.
How the number would emerge is still unclear, but the most optimistic view is that the number could rattle off the tongues of news announcers, roll out in websites, appear in its own spot in newspapers, and perhaps flash above Times Square like Deutsche Bank’s carbon counter.
Environmental News in the Digital Age
Tracy Davis vividly remembers her reaction when she got word nearly a year ago that The Ann Arbor News, where she worked for nine years, primarily covering the environment, was closing.
“I stood there with my mouth open for an hour.” With the closing of The News, the town of 114,667, home to The University of Michigan, became the largest market in the country to lose its only daily newspaper. It now has only an online newspaper. The online version goes to hard copy twice a week for delivery to subscribers.
... and moves to Times' opinion side
It took longer than he had thought it might, but by the end of March, former New York Times science reporter Andrew C. Revkin had secured his new position with the “opinion side” of the online Times while maintaining his new “communicator” position with Pace University and embarking on a new opinion-writing role with the newspaper’s Dot Earth blog, which he had started.
“Don’t expect momentous changes,” Revkin said in his final post to the original Dot Earth blog format before setting out with what he called the site’s “new iteration.”
“I’m not going to suddenly be revealed as an ardent liberal or conservative,” he wrote, but rather as an advocate … “for reality.” By his count, he had overseen some 940 blogs at the original Dot Earth site.