January 24, 2017

The climate story has moved beyond science and is increasingly local. It touches communities and coverage in new ways every day. As you cover the topic in your area, here are some guidelines 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. Different people may reach different conclusions, depending on what they value.

Be specific about which climate change “debate” you are covering. There is no single debate; there are separate debates within science, within policy and within economics, and debates about how scientific findings should guide policy.

Be clear about the science. The overarching issue is as settled as things get in science: The planet is warming and humans are largely responsible. As a result, glaciers and ice sheets are melting. New, contradictory evidence could come along–science is always subject to revision. But the idea that humans are causing climate change is not scientifically controversial.

Avoid “global warming: yes or no?” coverage. Although there are still many scientific questions to be answered, the climate change story has shifted to policy. What should we do, if anything, about climate change? Just as governments routinely make decisions about fiscal policy under great uncertainty, environmental policy can proceed even though scientific uncertainties remain.

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

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Vicki Krueger has worked with The Poynter Institute for more than 20 years in roles from editor to director of interactive learning and her current…
Vicki Krueger

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