As the climate change story has expanded, so has the journalistic coverage. But you don't need to be an expert environmental reporter to cover the topic. Here's one key principle for your reporting: Do not conflate science and policy. They are separate things.

Science informs policymaking but it does not dictate what policies should be chosen. If a climate activist tells you that the latest research on the risk of dangerous impacts shows that the U.S. Senate must pass cap-and-trade legislation, know that scientific research can do no such thing.

What research may be able to show, however, is this: If steps are not taken to prevent the global average temperature from rising more than a certain amount, the risk of dangerous impacts will increase substantially.

That statement requires action. Different people may reach different conclusions, depending on what they value.

Taken from Covering Climate Change, a self-directed course by Tom Yulsman at Poynter NewsU.

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