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.
Cap-and Trade Votes: How Big an Issue?
Major national newspapers’ post-election analyses of the November 2 election results ranged from meticulous reporting on climate and related energy issues … to the incongruous.
An analysis of several major newspapers’ coverage shows the major dailies increased coverage of climate change coverage in the days after the election, with only spotty pre-election coverage and commentary (see here and here).
How State's Dailies Played Prop. 23 Run-Up, Defeat
A funny thing happened to Prop. 23, the California ballot measure designed to suspend the state’s landmark law to lower carbon emissions, on its way to election day.
It was basically mugged — stopped dead in its tracks by opponents who were better funded, better organized, and better represented in the torrent of campaign ads that flooded the airwaves leading up to November 2.
At a recent briefing on Capitol Hill, far from the alert attention of mainstream news organizations, retired General Anthony Zinni warned that the global loss of forests, freshwater, fish and arable land is driving political instability and threatening global security.