For some reporters at the conference, the immensity of the problem and the complexity of the science and policies of climate change seem at times overwhelming. “As a reporter, I sometimes feel hopeless,” admitted Sweet.
But rising climate-change concerns have pushed some scientists and policy experts out of their comfort zone, into stepped-up efforts to communicate with the press and the public. “What is it going to take?” asked scientist Lonnie Thompson, who is concerned about not only the polar glaciers, but also the “dying” tropical mountain glaciers that are crucial to water supplies from Peru to China. “We respond only to crises…when our backs are to the wall and we have no other choices,” he said. Thompson took the conference journalists on a chilly tour—30 degrees below zero—of the Byrd Polar Research Center’s unique storage center which houses frozen ice cores from around the world that can provide an invaluable history of climates past and present. A nearby poster shows the melting globe in an ice cream cone and a quotation from Thompson: “The world is warming and it’s foolish to pretend that it’s not.”
The conference was funded under a journalism program grant from the Chicago-based McCormick Foundation to Ohio State’s Kiplinger Program in Public Affairs Journalism, which specializes in digital journalism. So the meeting had a decidedly techie side. Organizers set up a Ning social network site, which includes PowerPoint presentations, resources (including a recent CJR article, “Climate Change, Now What?”) and video from the meeting. Also available is a Twitter thread by Amanda Zamora, a WashingtonPost.com editor, which provides a running commentary and lots of Web links.
(By the way, all this Twittering and Ninging convinced me you can teach old dogs new tricks. Using a brand new iPhone, this reporter joined Twitter during the conference and discovered her first “TwitPic” — a photo posted of me meeting eighty-seven-year-old former Sen. John Glenn, an astronaut hero of my childhood who, in 1962, became the first American to orbit the Earth. And yes, he is very concerned about climate change—the view from space gives a special sense of just how fragile the earth’s atmosphere is. Now if I can just figure out how to download that photo…)