Covering Climate Change, with Urgency and Creativity

2016 study by the Yale Project on Climate Communication and George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication, found only two-thirds of Americans even believe climate change is happening. Just over half believe it is caused by humans. And only 15 percent are aware that more than 9 out of 10 scientists agree on both points.

The dearth of coverage can be explained, at least in part, by the difficulty in covering an issue that defies most journalistic conventions, says Bud Ward, who has reported on the issue for more than 20 years and is editor of Yale Climate Connections, published by the Yale Project. Climate change is often perceived as an abstract concept, he says, lacking a timely news hook: “It affects only polar bears I’ll never see, or it will only take place in 2150 or beyond.” Just as crucially, since nearly all scientists are in agreement on the problem, the issue often lacks clearly defined sides. “The villain is us, or villains are everywhere.”

The science behind the phenomenon, meanwhile, often lacks headline-grabbing revelations. “Science’s goal is to incrementally advance fundamental understanding on very basic questions,” says John Wihbey, an assistant professor of journalism and new media at Northeastern University who recently collaborated with Ward on a paper about climate change coverage for Oxford Research Encyclopedia. “If they [scientists] can collect data, test a hypothesis, and show something new … they’ve done their job.” By contrast, he says, journalists’ goal is to inform as many people as possible in as accessible a way as possible. “They are both dedicated to truth, but the importance of publicity and the scope of the audience is just very different.”

READ MORE HERE! 

A Houston interstate is submerged in water after Hurricane Harvey brought widespread flooding to the area.  The devastating impact strong and more frequent rainstorms are having on the city was detailed in The Texas Tribune/ProPublica's “Boomtown, Flood Town” months before Harvey hit

A Houston interstate is submerged in water after Hurricane Harvey brought widespread flooding to the area. The devastating impact strong and more frequent rainstorms are having on the city was detailed in The Texas Tribune/ProPublica’s “Boomtown, Flood Town” months before Harvey hit 

 

Hurricane Harvey: Why Is It So Extreme?

Spoiler Alert: It may have to do with climate change.

Experts say Harvey has been stuck longer in one place than any tropical storm in memory. That is just one of the hurricane’s extremes; the storm is off the charts by many measures.

Scientific American wanted to learn why, and asked meteorologist Jeff Masters for help. Masters is the co-founder of Weather Underground, a web site that meteorologists nationwide go to for their own inside information about severe weather. Masters also wrote a fascinating article on why the jet stream is getting weird.

 

Read about it here!

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Record-shattering 2.7-million-year-old ice core reveals start of the ice ages

Is anyone else tired of hearing climate deniers say “this isn’t the first ice-age, this is all part of a cycle”. No. That’s wrong.

But now we have science to prove it! Scientists announced today that a core drilled in Antarctica has yielded 2.7-million-year-old ice, an astonishing find 1.7 million years older than the previous record-holder. Bubbles in the ice contain greenhouse gases from Earth’s atmosphere at a time when the planet’s cycles of glacial advance and retreat were just beginning, potentially offering clues to what triggered the ice ages.

Want to know more? Read about it here.

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Science will not be silenced

I was on a tour of Berlin this past summer and there’s a monument outside of Humboldt University. It’s a room full of empty bookshelves, meant to remind people that during Hitler’s rise to power the Nazi’s striped books from the University library and burned them. My tour guide mentioned that when you start censoring science and knowledge, you know you’ve got a real problem.

In his first week in office, Trump has done just that. There is a TON of information out there about what happened in the last 24 hours, I’m going to summarize SOME of it here.

First Trump signed an executive order to freeze all grants and on-going projects. The following was posted by scientists on social media.

“The EPA was just directed to freeze all grants. This means that grad students and researchers funded on EPA funds are now without funds. All ongoing studies are stopped.It happened in a moment with a memo, by executive action, with zero input or oversight.It could happen to any Federal institute, including the National Science Foundation, which funds research at universities around the country — including the health insurance and living stipends of many, many students. Trump also froze all federal hiring yesterday.Please, if you can safely raise your voice, raise it loudly. Call your congresspeople, call the White House, write op-eds and articles and blog posts. This is only Day 4. Please, stand up for science and the environment. This is the emergency we were all worried about. (Share widely. I did not write this. It was copied and pasted from a scientist who wants to remain anonymous. The fear of retaliation is real.)”

A gag order on both the USDA and ESA followed quickly, which means that scientists are not allowed to communicate science. This is not normal. 

In response, Badlands National Park twitter feed went rougue, in direct defiance of the order, began posting nothing but climate change facts. Those tweets have since been deleted.

Today was a bad day for the environment, but a terrible day for scientists. Meanwhile, the Republicans in the House quietly closed any investigation into the Flint water crisis.

Before now we were talking in hypotheticals, about what might happen if Trump was the president, what that might mean for science or for the environment. The reality is scarier than I imagined.

Please don’t take this likely. Call your senators or congressional representative. It is not acceptable to silence scientist, let them know we will not stand for this.

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Fact Check

“Alternate facts” are not a thing. The great thing about facts is that they are true regardless of whether you choose to believe them or not.

So let’s take a moment to check some facts about science that are being “altered” under the Trump administration.

Luckily, NPR has already done that for us, thanks NPR! Some of them are old, some of them are recent, all of them are problems.

But it’s important to first understand the facts. And here they are. 

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3 Ways the Federal Government Can Support Local Climate Resilience to Protect Communities and the Economy

How bad is climate change? How is it currently effecting coastal communities? What can we do to stop it?

An interesting blog post from the World Resources Institute addresses just these questions!

Check it out here, and keep looking out for garage octopuses.

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The Altered Arctic Food Chain

Food chains are complicated. That simple idea of a direct line from primary producer, to primary consumer, to top of the food chain is just that, overly simplified.

And given the complexity of these interactions (who eats who) it’s hard to predict what happens when the menu suddenly changes.

Which is what is happening right now in the Arctic, due to the effects of climate change.

Read about it over at the NYTimes!

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Watch Old Sea Ice Vanish

Speaking of #ThanksNASA, using a really cool infographic, we can now see how sea ice since 1984 has been disappearing! Like a really sad kind of magic!

Ok I’m trying to be upbeat here, but really what we need to see and understand if that climate change is continuing to drastically affect the Arctic.

And understanding this is the first step in trying to stop the procession toward no ice.

Read about it here! 

 

#ThanksNASA

The incoming presidential administration has talked about axing funding for NASA earth science research.

This would result in a loss of 40% of funding dedicated to understanding our planet.

Why? It’s been suggested it has to do with NASA’s focus on what was called “politically correct environmental monitoring“.

In response, scientists have taken to twitter, with the hashtag #ThanksNASA to highlight the good work done at NASA

Read about it here! 

 

Black Friday for the Environment

As with most things in the US, Black Friday is pretty divided. People either love it (And will camp out for the deals) or hate it and post on social media.

And this year, in wake of the election and asking “what can I do” Patagonia decided to put their money where their mouth is.

They pledged to donate all proceeds to grass roots environmental organization. Then they generated a record breaking 10 million dollars in profits (5x the projected amount).

And Patagonia STILL plan to donate it all to environmental organizations. Patagonia did not specify which groups, but they have a list of groups that have previously received grants.

Read about it here! 

TELLURIDE, CO - JULY 7, 2014: A Patagonia store is among the several shops catering to outdoor enthusiasts in Telluride, Colorado. (Photo by Robert Alexander/Getty Images)

TELLURIDE, CO – JULY 7, 2014: A Patagonia store is among the several shops catering to outdoor enthusiasts in Telluride, Colorado. (Photo by Robert Alexander/Getty Images)