Extreme weather is cropping up around the globe with increasing frequency: Hurricane Sandy in the United States, heat waves in Europe, and severe droughts in Africa. Easter Sunday, 2013, in the UK was the coldest on record. Is this weird weather the new norm? And how well is the media doing in writing about the changing weather and its connection to human-induced climate change?
Surveys show that the public increasingly believes that climate change is at least partially to blame for the recent wave of weather disasters. A comprehensive 2012 report by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change concluded that climate change was indeed increasing the likelihood of more extreme or more frequent weather events, with conditions likely to get worse in the 21st Century. This in turn could impact agriculture, energy, water, public health, tourism and transportation.
Science, environment and health writers have a challenge—and an opportunity—to improve public understanding of extreme weather and climate change amidst a barrage of hyped or often incorrect media coverage. Better understanding of the science and uncertainties, as well as possible adaptation strategies to help minimize the impact, are crucial.
This session will offer practical guidance on how to write about this complex subject in different regions of the world, with a panel of three speakers followed by an audience
Q & A. Two of the speakers work for global news services that provide extensive coverage of climate change. Our third speaker provides a regional perspective on the challenges of covering the devastating environmental impact of climate change in sub-Saharan Africa.
Producer and Moderator:
Cristine Russell, Senior Fellow, Harvard Kennedy School & Immediate Past-President, Council for the Advancement of Science Writing, Cambridge, MA US Twitter: @russellcris
Seth Borenstein, National Science Reporter, Associated Press, Washington, DC, US
Seth Borenstein is a national science writer for The Associated Press, the world’s largest news organization, covering issues ranging from climate change to astronomy. He has received numerous journalism awards, including the National Journalism Award for environment reporting in 2007 from the Scripps Foundation, and the Outstanding Beat Reporting award from the Society of Environmental Journalists in 2008 and 2004. He was part of an AP Gulf of Mexico oil spill reporting team that won the 2010 George Polk Award for Environment Reporting and a special merit award as part of the 2011 Grantham environment reporting prizes. He was on an AP team of finalists for the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for coverage of the Columbia space shuttle disaster. A science and environmental journalist for more than 20 years, Borenstein has also worked for Knight Ridder Newspapers’ Washington Bureau, The Orlando Sentinel, and the Sun-Sentinel in Fort Lauderdale. He is the co-author of two books on hurricanes and one on popular science. He has flown in zero gravity and once tried out (unsuccessfully) for the Florida Marlins. Twitter: @borenbears
Alister Doyle, Environment Correspondent, Thompson Reuters, Oslo, Norway
Alister Doyle has worked as Reuters’ Environment Correspondent since 2004, mainly covering U.N. negotiations and the science of climate change. For 2011-12, he was at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology on a Knight Science Journalism Fellowship. A British citizen based in Oslo, his work has taken him to places ranging from the Arctic to Antarctica, where he was on the last flight to land on a part of the Wilkins Ice shelf before it collapsed in early 2009. Previously, he has had postings with Reuters in Paris, Central America, Brussels and London in a career stretching back to 1982. Twitter: @alisterdoyle
Rosalia Omungo, News Editor and Environment Writer, Kenya Broadcasting Corporation, Kenya
Rosalia Omungo is an award -winning journalist with Kenya Broadcasting Corporation, Kenya’s state broadcaster. As news editor in charge of science and environment, she oversees product development and features, as well as mentoring reporters. She produces Earth Watch, an environment feature program as well as special assignments. Besides reporting widely on climate change issues, water, agriculture and health, she has been a presenter for Eco show, Kenya’s first environmental talk show, which became one of Kenya’s most watched talk shows.
Omungo won the Commonwealth Broadcasting Association Award for environment reporting (2010), Kenya Media Population (Kemep) 2010, and received a diploma from the World Federation of Science Journalists (WFSJ) in October 2012 after successfully participating in the two-year Sjcoop mentoring program. Omungo holds a BSc from Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology and a Postgraduate Diploma in Journalism from University of Nairobi, School of Journalism.