In October, following reports of comments he made about population control on a climate change panel, Revkin drew the ire of conservative commentator Rush Limbaugh. Limbaugh’s harsh comments on the air that Revkin should kill himself if he cared so much about cutting back carbon emissions became a widely covered story (“If he really thinks that human beings, in their natural existence, are going to cause the extinction of life on Earth,” Limbaugh asked, “Mr. Revkin, why don’t you just go kill yourself, and help the planet by dying?”)
Earlier, Revkin’s coverage of the Bush administration’s handling of climate change led to a string of breaking stories in 2005 and 2006 about how conservative politics was interfering with science, particularly at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. His story that the Bush administration was trying to restrict public comment by NASA’s top climate expert, Dr. James E. Hansen, long one of the most outspoken scientists on climate change dangers, created a firestorm.
One of Revkin’s passions has been showing science in action, not just writing about it from an armchair. Even before publications started pushing reporters toward multimedia reporting, Revkin carried a camera and video equipment in addition to his reporter’s notebook. He has traveled extensively for his environmental coverage, starting with a trip to Tahiti long ago and including three trips to the Arctic. In 2003, he became the first Times reporter to file stories and photos from the sea ice around the North Pole. He spearheaded a Times series, “The Big Melt,” and one-hour documentary in 2005 on threats to the Arctic. He has also covered major catastrophes such as Hurricane Katrina and the Asian tsunami, as well as the September 11 terrorist attack on New York City.
Revkin’s work has received numerous awards, including the National Academies of Sciences’ inaugural Communication Award in 2003 for his global climate change reporting and the American Association for the Advancement of Science Journalism Award in 2002. Last year, he was awarded Columbia University’s prestigious John Chancellor Award for his “dogged reporting” on the environment and climate. He received a master’s degree in journalism from Columbia University and earlier graduated from Brown University with a bachelor of science in biology. He has taught at Columbia’s Graduate School of Journalism and the Bard Center for Environmental Policy.
Revkin has written three books, including a children’s book, “The North Pole Was Here” (2006) and “Global Warming: Understanding the Forecast” (1992). His prize-winning first book, “The Burning Season” (1990), which chronicled the life of the slain Amazon rain forest activist Chico Mendes, was made into a television movie. Revkin began his career in 1983 at Science Digest before spending a year at the Los Angeles Times. In 1987, he moved to Discover magazine where he spent two years as a senior editor and published his first cover story on climate change. Revkin freelanced and wrote books for a number of years before joining the Times in 1995.
Although intense as a reporter, Revkin is also known for his laid-back approach to life, including his alter-ego as a guitar-playing songwriter who is part of what he calls a “fun retro-rootsy band” known as Uncle Wade. He lives in New York’s Hudson River Valley with his wife and youngest son and also has a grown son who is currently serving in the Israeli army.
[Update: Tom Yulsman, who has known Revkin since the beginning of his career and is now co-director of the Center for Environmental Journalism at the University of Colorado, had this to say at the CEJournal blog:
“I’ve known Andy since 1981, where we both started our careers as science writers at a magazine called Science Digest. On a personal level, while I’m sorry to see the Times lose him (and I think their environmental coverage will never be the same), I’m also very happy for him. In recent years, the demands of reporting for the Times and maintaining his ground-breaking blog, DotEarth, have consumed pretty much all of his waking hours. In a recent conversation, he even admitted that he wasn’t playing guitar much — and Andy is an extraordinarily talented musician. When I heard that, I knew something had to give. On balance, I’m glad it finally has.”]