John Ward: Trust scientists on climate change
Scientists seek to discover the structure and function of things by measuring and testing. Falsifying research is uncommon, since it corrupts scientists’ primary purpose — to understand. And cheating and errors get exposed by other scientists, who retest questionable research.
When a finding has stood up under more than a century of challenges and has been accepted by a consensus of experts in the field (the best judges of its correctness), it may be regarded as a “fact.” Scientists may still contest it, but it becomes increasingly hard to overturn.
The Places in the U.S. Where Disaster Strikes Again and Again
New York Times
In the last 16 years, parts of Louisiana have been struck by six hurricanes. Areas near San Diego were devastated by three particularly vicious wildfire seasons. And a town in eastern Kentucky has been pummeled by at least nine storms severe enough to warrant federal assistance.
These places are part of a small fraction of the United States that has sustained most of the damage from major natural disasters, forming a pattern of destruction concentrated in particular areas.
About 90 percent of the total losses across the United States occurred in ZIP codes that contain less than 20 percent of the population, according to an analysis of data from the Small Business Administration.
The federal government, through disaster relief programs and flood insurance, subsidizes the cost of rebuilding in areas hit repeatedly by storms, floods and fires. Critics say that encourages too much development in those regions, wasting tens of billions of dollars in tax money and endangering lives.
In a warming West, the Rio Grande is drying up
New York Times
LEMITAR, N.M. — Mario Rosales, who farms 365 acres along the Rio Grande, knows the river is in bad shape this year. It has already dried to a dusty ribbon of sand in some parts, and most of the water that does flow is diverted to irrigate crops, including Mr. Rosales’s fields of wheat, oats, alfalfa and New Mexico’s beloved chiles.
Because last winter’s mountain snowpack was the second-lowest on record, even that irrigation water may run out at the end of July, three months earlier than usual. But Mr. Rosales isn’t worried. He is sure that the summer thunderstorms, known here as the monsoon, will come.
“Sooner or later, we’ll get the water,” he said.
The monsoon rains he is counting on are notoriously unpredictable, however. So he and many of the other farmers who work 62,000 acres along 140 miles of the Rio Grande in central New Mexico may get by — or they may not.
In an internal memo, the White House considered whether to simply ‘ignore’ federal climate research
White House officials last year weighed whether to simply “ignore” climate studies produced by government scientists or to instead develop “a coherent, fact-based message about climate science,” according to a memo obtained by The Washington Post.
The document, drafted Sept. 18 by Michael Catanzaro, President Trump’s special assistant for domestic energy and environmental policy at the time, highlights the dilemma the administration has faced over climate change since Trump took office. Even as Trump’s deputies have worked methodically to
uproot policies aimed at curbing the nation’s carbon output, the administration’s agencies continue to produce reports showing that climate change is happening, is human-driven and is a threat to the United States.
Catanzaro, who prepared the memo for a meeting of senior White House and agency officials that took place a couple of days later, asked whether the Trump administration should “consider having a firm position on and a coherent, fact-based message about climate science — specifically, whether, and to what extent, anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases are affecting the climate system, and what level of concern that warrants.”
Covering climate change: What reporters get wrong and how to get it right
Before she was a journalist, Elizabeth Arnold spent several seasons fishing salmon commercially in her home state of Alaska. In 1985, she began reporting for Juneau’s NPR member station KTOO, covering local environmental and political stories. From 1991 to 2006, she served as a political correspondent out of NPR’s headquarters in Washington, D.C., where she covered campaigns, Congress and the White House
She later returned to Alaska to teach journalism at the University of Alaska and focus on environmental reporting through Arctic Profiles. Through the project, which is funded in part by the National Park Service, Arnold produces “intimate portraits of people making a difference within Beringia,” a region currently experiencing dramatic effects of climate change that includes Alaska and parts of Russia and Canada.
It’s a window into Arnold’s broader approach as a proponent of solutions journalism – reporting stories on how people are responding to problems in meaningful ways.
In the spring of 2018, she spent a semester at Harvard Kennedy School’s Shorenstein Center as a Joan Shorenstein fellow, researching the media’s role in communicating climate change and its effects. In an interview with Journalist’s Resource, Arnold highlighted how reporters following their instincts might contribute to public apathy about climate change, and how they can adopt a solutions approach to improve their coverage of the subject.