Andy Revkin on America Adapts
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In the latest episode of America Adapts, Doug Parsons talks with legendary journalist, Andy Revkin. Andy has been a long time reporter for the New York Times, covering climate change science, policy and impacts for decades. Andy also blogged at Dot Earth for the New York times, one of the most popular ‘hang outs’ for those wanting to learn more about global warming. Doug talks with Andy about his recent move to Propublica, an independent, nonprofit newsroom that produces investigative journalism in the public interest. Andy talks about his early days in science journalism, going all the way back to the 1980s when he started working for the now defunct Science Digest. In what becomes almost a climate change history lesson, Andy then explains how global warming awareness grew in the sizzling summer of 1988, with Yellowstone National Park on fire and famed climatologist James Hansen testifying before Congress. As Andy put it regarding his shift to climate reporting after these events, “I never got off the bus.” Discussing climate change with Andy is like rehashing an Indiana Jones movie: from his visit to the North Pole, writing on the Vatican and global warming, to the policy and science implications of the issue.
Andy has long been associated with his perch at the New York Times and we discuss the details of that identity pivot to Propublica. We talk about his long term goals of writing longer investigative pieces, to highlighting some of the daily reporting he’s done during the first weeks of the Trump administration. Andy discusses the need for anonymous tips in climate reporting and how Propublica has created an encrypted page for these tips.
Other topics covered:
Propublica has a section “Steal our stories” that encourages others to repost their work.
Andy describes how the Obama administration went through their own secretive information sharing process especially regarding the work of scientists at the EPA.
Andy revisits his reporting during the George W. Bush years,. This includes the tampering with NASA research by Bush administration officials.
“Science is like putty, unfortunately, in the policy arena,” as Andy describes how administrations handle issues like science.
Andy describes how natural gas fracking, went from officially ‘unconventional gas’ to a ‘conventional gas’ supply and how that affected climate emissions trends.
For other countries, climate change has become a key issue like trade and security, so Trump just can’t come in and ignore it.
Andy discusses the positive aspects of adapting to climate change versus fighting global warming through mitigation.
Andy thinks focusing on adaptation is a good thing, since it’s a ‘now’ issue, with impacts impacting communities now, whereas mitigation will be an issue that takes decades to address.
Encourage America Adapts to go on the road and talk to the communities facing these challenges first hand.
Doug poased the question, “Do you think the messaging that will come out of the upcoming scientist march on Washington will be helpful?” Andy responds: “No.” (Again, listen in to hear the nuance behind his answer.)
“The global warming problem is too big for Trump to do much about…” meaning Trump’s ability to impact action in a negative way. “He can’t make it worse. Just like Obama couldn’t make it better.” (Listen to get the nuance of these quotes!)
“Trump can’t order West Virginia’s miners to go back in the mines” meaning Trump’s ability to get the country to switch back to coal.
“The end of coal in America is a done deal, and Trump can’t force that to change.”
Andy’s final message and it’s a great one: “At the grandest scale, the thing I’ve learned about the climate problem, it is so big and multi-faceted, that everyone can play a role.”
Doug also brings on previous guest, Tristram Korten to discuss reporting in the age of Trump. Tristram is the reporter who broke the viral story, “Florida Governor Bans Climate Change”. Tristram and Doug discuss the challenges of journalism in the face of a hostile government and what some options are for those in government who want to share information with reporters.
So please have a listen, it’s an amazing conversation with a legendary figure in climate change circles.
For those who didn’t know, Andy is quite the accomplished musician (and toured regularly with the late, great Pete Seeger).
Stories in Propublica:
Final Dot Earth Post:
Doug Parsons and Speaking Opportunities:
If you are interested in having Doug speak at corporate and conference events, sharing his unique, expert perspective on adaptation in an entertaining and informative way, more information can be found here!
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Producer Dan Ackerstein
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Doug can be contacted at americaadapts @ g mail . com