As intense partisan politics begin to infuse the climate change story, what do journalists and journalism students need to know?
By Tom Yulsman
As humans, we are finally recognizing that the promise made in Genesis has come to pass: We’ve achieved dominion over every living thing that moves upon the earth—and even more important, each of the planetary life support systems that sustain us, including the climate.
“We’re big. We’re really big,” says James White, director of the Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research at the University of Colorado at Boulder. “So far, humans have changed carbon dioxide in the atmosphere by an amount equal to what nature was capable of doing over at least the last million years.” Those natural fluctuations were accompanied by climate changes as momentous as the coming and going of ice ages. So we should not be surprised by what our emissions of greenhouse gases will likely bring.
“Big climate change is a done deal,” White says.
Blind dominion of nature is risky business, and the extent to which the public now gets this can be attributed in large measure to the work of journalists. So the recent publication of “Communicating Climate Change: An Essential Resource for Journalists, Scientists, and Educators,” by longtime environmental journalist Bud Ward, comes at an especially appropriate time. Ward has done a masterful job of synthesizing the outcome of a series of workshops involving scientists and journalists between 2003 and 2007, offering valuable advice both to working journalists and student journalists, who are preparing to cover the topic in very uncertain times.