Lessons from The Atlantic Magazine
Major wars shape the way a nation sees the world. From World War II, Americans gained the vocabulary and metrics for a “good war” fought with steely determination against clearly defined enemies.
The legacy of that war, which the U.S. officially entered 69 years ago, on the date of this posting, can be seen even in today’s national debate over climate change, in the charges and countercharges of “climate change appeasers,” “climate change deniers,” and “climate change fascists.” More useful, but for some equally polarizing, is the aspirational “World War II-scale effort.”
What should the journalistic community expect of a joint venture formed to cover a topic as complex as climate change? Of a joint venture begun during the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression? Of one that must operate in the context of changing rules and failing business models? What, in short, should the journalistic community expect of Climate Desk, now that it has passed the half-year mark?
Bags under the Eyes Named Schmidt … and Gavin
|Skeptical Science’s John Cook of Queensland.
Australian and native Queenslander John Cook has a day job. And it’s not in the climate science field.
You’d never know it based on what the 38-year-old Cook has accomplished while moonlighting. In fact, what he’s accomplished just since launching his popular Skeptical Science website about three years ago.
Translated into 18 languages and with monthly readership now reaching 400,000, much of it from across U.S., Cook’s Skeptical Science site recently has adopted a “Basic” format to accompany the “Intermediate” and “Advanced” explanations of established climate evidence, often in the form of debunking climate myths spread by climate science doubters or “skeptics.”
Science communications expert and advocate Nancy Baron knows of what she speaks.
A science writer, zoologist, and communications trainer for COMPASS and the Leopold Leadership Program, Baron has had years of first-hand training experience with the science community, helping them wend their way through the public communications morass increasingly recognized as a key to sound science generally.
Journalists' 'Lessons Learned'
Climate science and climate scientists aren’t the only ones who have come under some withering scrutiny over the past 12 months. The controversies — or were they “pseudo-controversies”? — stemming from the hacked e-mails at a British university put the media also under the microscope for their handling of the breaking news and its aftermath. Why, some scientists wondered, were the media focusing on the “what” message of carefully cherry-picked “private” e-mail messages, and seemingly under-playing the “who” and “why” … as in who released the e-mails in the first place and why, if not to purposefully disrupt and derail last December’s Copenhagen climate negotiations?
Scientists' 'Lessons Learned'
By any account, it’s been a challenging 12 months for climate science, for climate scientists, and for the ever-changing face of journalism as its practitioners struggle, or not, to keep their audiences adequately informed and knowledgeable.
From the November 19, 2009, New York Times and Washington Post front-page initial news reports of hacked e-mails from the University of East Anglia (a place up until then unlikely to find itself on American newspaper’s front pages) … to subsequent findings of a silly factual mistake in the IPCC’s Fourth Assessment forecasting disappearing Himalayan glaciers just 25 years from now … to the disappointments of last December’s international negotiations in Copenhagen … to data pointing to growing uncertainty and confusion on the climate change issue in the minds of many Americans and their public officials ….
“It’s the climate, stupid.”
So far as anyone knows, that was decidedly not the campaign counsel that first-string political confidants were giving their top-rung candidates, Bill Clinton’s campaign savant James Carville notwithstanding.
The pre- and post-election punditry focused more on the economy, jobs/jobs/jobs and the lack thereof, and repealing, repairing, or retaining the Obama administration’s landmark accomplishment, health care reform. Climate change, to the extent it was a campaign issue at all, was miscast as “cap-and-trade” and as part of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s political ploys.