Even as energy/climate legislation moves to center stage on Capitol Hill in coming months, however, Revkin won’t necessarily concentrate on the wrangling over a bill.
“My focus will remain what it has always been: How do we have a smooth path toward roughly nine billion people on the planet?” he said. “If I see that federal legislation or some new program Obama is rolling out could play a role in smoothing the path and sparking the kind of innovation and dissemination of energy technology that’s required, then I’ll definitely track it closely. If it’s a political sparring match that isn’t relevant, then I’ll leave it alone or just say it’s not relevant, but I won’t be doing the dot-and-dash kind of political coverage.”
Revkin added that he’s more likely to focus on “laying out some new ways to approach international discussions about climate in the run up to the next treaty negotiations in Cancun, Mexico” scheduled for the end of the year.
“If you look at the way my reporting on these issues has evolved over twenty years, it started out looking at the physical sciences – how greenhouse gases work and how warm it is likely to become,” he said. “Then I started covering Kyoto and other attempts to deal climate change. More recently, though, given the lack of progress, I’ve done a lot more looking at the sociological and psychological issues – you know, how humans manage risk or don’t; what signals we miss and what signals we get. You’ll see a lot more of that content.”
By way of example, Revkin cited a recent piece he wrote headlined, “Is the Climate Problem in Our Heads?”—about how psychology shapes behaviors related to humans’ environmental impact—and another, “Puberty on the Scale of Planet,” which explores the idea that we are in our “adolescence as a species,” learning to take responsibility for about our growth and development.
“The voice of science in this saga is kind of like the parent talking to the wayward teenager: ‘If you keep doing x, then y will happen,’” he said. “What does it take to shift the way that all play out? My take on why the whole geoengineering idea makes people so queasy is because it reinforces this reality that we’re not just talking about slowing a warming influence. We’re talking about henceforth being managers of climate, and we’re not a species that is attuned to do anything like that.”
Geoengineering is, of course, one of those controversial topics that brings critics out of the woodwork, and Revkin has weathered his fair share of attacks from both the right and the left on that and other topics. While he has never shied away from responding to criticism, Revkin says that he will likely use his newfound freedom in the Opinion section to confront his critics more directly.
For example, earlier this month, Revkin expressed a few opinions about the feasibility of an international climate treaty at the American Bar Association’s Conference on Environmental Law. His talk was covered by Greenwire and, in turn, drew some critical remarks from Climate Progress’s Joe Romm. The same day, Revkin responded to Romm in post on Dot Earth that he said “hints at” some the news things he’s thinking about, as well as the ways in which he’ll engage critics.
“But I’m not going to make a big deal out of it,” he said of his critics. “Pissing contests, even the ones that occur within my comment thread, are not in the end very productive. I think that if someone makes a substantiated point, and you’re wrong, then you acknowledging that is important. But if someone is on the attack and just out to discredit you in way that’s not justified, I’m not going to be constantly responding to things like that, whether they come from Newsbusters, or Climate Progress, or wherever.”
Indeed, despite his departure from daily reporting, Revkin still has many demands on his time. He is finishing a book about natural disasters for middle-school students, and the talk he gave at the environmental law conference was delivered under the auspices of his new position at Pace University, where he will begin teaching in the fall. Although it won’t be ready for another year or two, he is designing a new course based on some of the ideas and issues he has explored at Dot Earth.