Covering Climate Change, with Urgency and Creativity

Covering Climate Change, with Urgency and Creativity

A look at news outlets bringing innovation, urgency and new audiences to stories on climate change

A rescue helicopter hovers in the background as a woman and her poodle use an air mattress to float above flood waters from Hurricane Harvey while waiting to be rescued from Scarsdale Boulevard in Houston  [Photo: Adrees Latif / Reuters]

A rescue helicopter hovers in the background as a woman and her poodle use an air mattress to float above flood waters from Hurricane Harvey while waiting to be rescued from Scarsdale Boulevard in Houston [Photo: Adrees Latif / Reuters]

The assignment was simple: find out what energy companies knew about climate change, and when they knew it. InsideClimate News (ICN) reporter Neela Banerjee was initially skeptical they’d find any significant evidence that fossil fuel companies knew about the dangers of global warming. “At first, we thought, this was ridiculous,” she says. “We are not going to find anything.” As the nonprofit news organization’s team began to work through congressional testimony and talk to climate scientists, however, they found mention that oil giant Exxon has not only been involved with climate change research, but had actually published studies in peer-reviewed journals in the 1980s.

One Exxon scientist, Henry Shaw, had even published studies as far back as the late 1970s. When Banerjee and her colleagues tracked down his research, they discovered Exxon had fitted out one of its supertankers with sophisticated equipment to monitor carbon dioxide in the ocean and the atmosphere at a time when few scientists were studying global warming at all. Though Shaw had passed away, the reporters discovered document after document showing how Exxon’s scientists had agreed that emissions from fossil fuel companies were warming the planet, putting humans at risk. “It was astounding,” Banerjee says.

InsideClimate News published its findings in a nine-part series, “Exxon: The Road Not Taken,” in fall 2015, detailing the extent of Exxon’s scientific research, as well as how the company covered it up after it turned in the 1980s to suddenly denying climate change existed.

Michael Blanding, writing at Nieman Reports, takes a look at some of the most compelling and creative ways news organizations cover climate change. Check it out at the link below.

A Tip from a ‘Concerned Citizen’ Helps a Reporter Land the Scoop of a Lifetime

A Tip from a ‘Concerned Citizen’ Helps a Reporter Land the Scoop of a Lifetime