Top Stories on Climate Change
As world leaders convened last week in Copenhagen for the U.N. Climate Change Conference, NewsTrust teamed up with Link TV to focus on the issues behind the talks -- from climate change science to economic development.
Our Climate Change News Hunt, which ran from Dec. 3 to 13, covered these issues and the first week of the conference, where international delegates worked to negotiate an international treaty to replace the expiring Kyoto Protocol in 2012.
Rather than trying to stay ahead of breaking news about the talks, we looked at a wide range of topics that help put the Copenhagen conference in context.
• "ClimateGate" - FactCheck.org
• Africa: Cash for Climate Change? - Link TV
• Dutch approach to climate change: Adapt - Washington Post
• On climate, lost decade now leads to final chance, 'last' decade, scientists say - Associated Press
• Senate Poses Obstacles to Obama’s Climate Pledge - New York Times
• Crisis Guide: Climate Change - Council on Foreign Relations (Multimedia)
• An Affordable Truth - New York Times
• Environmentalist says 'going green' is a waste of time - National Public Radio (NPR)
• Naked Copenhagen - Wall Street Journal
• Copenhagen: What would success look like? - Mother Jones
• The climate denial industry is out to dupe the public. And it's working - The Guardian
• The Story of Cap and Trade - Story of Stuff (Multimedia)
Copenhagen: Building a Consensus
As talks began in Copenhagen, we started the News Hunt by reviewing early analysis of the conference. Mother Jones examined what success in Copenhagen would entail, calling a binding treaty impossible but outlining likely positive outcomes. The Economist was less optimistic, saying the most the world can hope for is a framework for a future deal. The Washington Post, meanwhile, reported on the Netherlands' efforts to prepare for inevitable climate change.
What can individuals do to address climate change? While Scientific American debated investing in solar power and an Independent columnist said change had to be society-wide, a longtime environmentalist told NPR individual attempts to live a carbon-friendly lifestyle are inconsequential without top-down change. All three were highly rated by our community.
Other Climate Change Themes
Our partners at Link TV posted one of our top stories, "Africa: Cash for climate change?", which rounded up coverage of Africa's calls for reparations from the industrialized world's contributions to climate change. The Associated Press ran a narrative of the scientific community's warnings about global warming. And the Council on Foreign Relations offered its own multimedia climate change "Crisis Guide."
Climate Science vs. Skepticism
The debate over whether human activity causes climate change was one the most discussed issues in the stories we reviewed. Two weeks before the conference, hackers circulated several thousand emails stolen from a prominent climate research lab, some of which included exchanges about withholding information and adjusting measurements. Climate change skeptics seized upon the emails as "smoking guns," proof that scientists have fabricated global warming data and overstated the impact of human involvement in temperature changes.
The controversy, now known as "climategate," brought us some of our best -- and worst -- stories of this News Hunt.
"They [the emails] don't provide proof that human-caused climate change is a lie or a swindle," the Washington Post reported, continuing:
"But they do raise hard questions. In an effort to control what the public hears, did prominent scientists who link climate change to human behavior try to squelch a back-and-forth that is central to the scientific method? Is the science of global warming messier than they have admitted?"
The New York Times wrote that the emails had ushered in a "revival of skepticism" on the eve of the conference:
"as representatives of about 200 nations converge in Copenhagen on Monday to begin talks on a new international climate accord, they do so against a background of renewed attacks on the basic science of climate change."
The Times on the same day wrote in an editorial that although the emails were a "windfall" for skeptics, they do not undermine the science itself.
Later in the week, FactCheck ran an in-depth analysis of "climategate." Our top rated story for this News Hunt, FactCheck called skeptics' claims "far wide of the mark":
"The e-mails (which have been made available by an unidentified individual here) do show a few scientists talking frankly among themselves — sometimes being rude, dismissive, insular, or even behaving like jerks. Whether they show anything beyond that is still in doubt... many of the e-mails that are being held up as 'smoking guns' have been misrepresented by global-warming skeptics eager to find evidence of a conspiracy. And even if they showed what the critics claim, there remains ample evidence that the earth is getting warmer."
Views from skeptics were represented in our News Hunt, but were generally not well received by our community. Other views from the right fared better, such as this opinion from the Wall Street Journal, which agreed that the earth is warming, but opposed mandatory carbon emissions cuts from western nations:
"An expensive effort to reduce Western emissions sets a worthless example. Only emissions cuts that provide measurable economic benefit to the developing nations will be adopted by them. If the 80% U.S. emissions cut winds up hurting the U.S. economy, it guarantees China will never follow our example."
An op-ed by Thomas Friedman seemed to bridge the gap. He offered a potential solution:
"If we prepare for climate change by building a clean-power economy, but climate change turns out to be a hoax, what would be the result? Well, during a transition period, we would have higher energy prices. But gradually we would be driving battery-powered electric cars and powering more and more of our homes and factories with wind, solar, nuclear and second-generation biofuels. We would be much less dependent on oil dictators who have drawn a bull's-eye on our backs; our trade deficit would improve; the dollar would strengthen; and the air we breathe would be cleaner. In short, as a country, we would be stronger, more innovative and more energy independent."
For a full listing of the stories we reviewed for this News Hunt, check our Climate Change News Hunt listings. And for more recent stories on this topic, check our Climate Change topic page.
Thanks to our Partners at Link TV
We'd like to give a big thanks to our partners at Link TV for joining us in this News Hunt. Our kudos go to Kim Spencer, David Michaelis, Evelyn Messinger, Heidi Blobaum, Hannah Eaves, Erin Coker and the rest of the stellar team at Link TV. It's been a true pleasure to partner with you again.
-- by Derek Hawkins, with Fabrice Florin and Kaizar Campwala