Viewing: The Climate Story
- How Science Works
- Sources and Experts: Where to Find Them and How to Vet Them
- Making Sense of Science Stats
- Editing for Story
- Editing Controversial Science
- Holding Science to Account
- Covering Health Care
- Climate and the Environment
- Fact-Checking Science Journalism: How to Make Sure Your Stories Are True
Illustrating Complex Science Stories
- The Role of Visuals in Science Journalism
- The Process of Building Science-Centric Graphics
- Strategies for Using Visuals to Put Breaking Science in Context
- Special Considerations for Data Visualization
- Uncertainty and Misinformation
- Editorial Illustration, Photography, and Moving Images
- Additional Reading and Resources
- About the Author
- Social Media and Reader Engagement
- About This Handbook
The Climate Story
By Fen Montaigne / 2 minute read
As you assign and edit stories about global warming, a few basics are worth keeping in mind:
- The science is settled. Human-caused emissions of greenhouse gases, most notably carbon dioxide, are the major reason the planet is warming at a rate not seen in millions of years. There are not two sides to this story, so don’t worry about inserting “balance” into your coverage. Doing so would actually be propagating misinformation. When it comes to the details and timing of the impact of global warming, things are less certain. Keep in mind, though, that to date the scientific community and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change have generally been too conservative in projecting how rapidly global warming is altering the earth.
- You can exclude climate-change deniers and global-warming skeptics when you are writing about the science. But when you are writing about politics and policy, especially in the United States, you ignore the deniers at your peril. Climate skepticism or outright denial is embedded in the Republican Party, and this anti-science attitude influences life throughout the country, from efforts to strip away environmental and climate regulations at the federal and state levels to the inclusion of false or misleading information on climate change in public-school textbooks.
- The climate-change story is everywhere. As the effects of global warming intensify — worsening floods, mass die-offs of trees from insect infestations, rising seas causing an increase in coastal flooding — climate change is intruding into everyone’s lives and muscling its way into nearly every beat: agriculture, health, the economy, politics, social justice.
- The climate-change story is increasingly a local story. Few regions of the world remain untouched by global warming. In the United States, the frequency and severity of wildfires, from Colorado to California, is having an impact on tens of millions of people. So called “sunny day” flooding, from sea-level rise, is affecting coastal residents along the East Coast. The Upper Midwest has been subjected in recent years to extreme rain events and deluges. And nearly everywhere, winters are milder, summers hotter, and weather more extreme. The more you can bring coverage down to the local level, while also tying it to larger global trends, the more you will engage readers and viewers where it matters most to them — in their backyards.
- Look the problem in the eye and give the news to your readers and viewers straight. Cover the impacts of a warming world, but also cover possible solutions. While global warming is a politically contentious issue among some segments of American society, the overwhelming majority of people agree that developing renewable energy is a good thing. At the same time, don’t hype potentially promising developments or oversimplify the challenge of decarbonizing the global economy. But keep in mind that many scientists, entrepreneurs, and officials at the local, national, and international levels are working to solve this problem, and it’s good to keep readers, viewers, and listeners informed.