Climate change reporter covers mix of angst and ambition

Time initiate explains who we are and what we do, and offers a behind-the-scenes look at how our journalism comes together. The United...


Time initiate explains who we are and what we do, and offers a behind-the-scenes look at how our journalism comes together.

The United Nations recently issued a major scientific report conclude that a warmer future is certain, but that there is still a chance to prevent the most disastrous results. Brad plumer, a climate reporter for the New York Times, says there is a consensus among scientists on what needs to happen to limit global warming: Nations must stop adding greenhouse gases to the atmosphere. In an interview, Mr Plumer, who focuses on political and technological efforts to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, discussed the importance of the UN report, how it tackles a subject that may be disturbing readers and its own environmentally conscious efforts. This interview has been edited.

What questions are you interested in exploring at your own pace?

He is a huge task, and that means rethinking so many fundamental aspects of the modern global economy, from the cars we drive to the way we produce food. So I’m drawn to writing about people trying to find the best ways to achieve zero emissions, as well as the huge structural challenges that stand in the way.

Did you know that this UN report was coming?

We had known this report was coming for some time. Every few years since 1990, the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has released comprehensive assessments of the latest science on global warming, which essentially means summarizing thousands of existing studies into one. consistent picture. This was the sixth such assessment, and hundreds of scientists had been working on it for months.

For this particular report, we were able to get our hands on some early drafts that gave us an understanding of what was new and remarkable here. And my colleague Henri fountain and I called a number of scientists ahead of time to get a better idea of ​​how climate research has progressed since the last major IPCC assessment in 2013. This early prep work helped us write a first version of the story in advance. Then, when the panel released a finalized embargoed draft to reporters three days before it was released, we were able to quickly check our facts to make sure we hadn’t missed anything big, then called other writers for official comments. .

What is the significance of a report like this?

In many ways, the overall picture of climate change has not changed much since the first IPCC report in 1990. Scientists have been warning us for decades that emissions from fossil fuels and deforestation can and will heat the world. planet, with damaging consequences.

But a few big things are different now. First, global warming is much more pronounced today than it was then. Countries around the world have continued to increase their emissions and the planet is now about 1.1 degrees Celsius warmer than it was in the 19th century. This means that many of the impacts that scientists have long warned against – more frequent heatwaves, more severe droughts, melting ice caps in Greenland and Antarctica that are causing sea levels to rise along the coasts – can now be seen very clearly in the present tense. This latest report offers the clearest look yet at how climate change is already fueling an increase in extreme weather around the world today.

And scientists are now able to model much more precisely what is likely to happen in the future. So there’s more confidence now that humans have basically blocked another half a degree of total global warming over the next 30 years. This adds an important twist to the challenge facing humanity: yes, we will have to cut emissions if we do to prevent future global warming from getting even worse. But there are also dangers which are now inevitable and we will have to take measures to adapt, such as manage forests to reduce the risk of forest fires Where protect city dwellers from heatwaves.

What questions did the UN report raise for you?

One of the most striking points of the report is that the nations of the world must essentially reduce all their fossil fuel emissions to zero over the next few decades if we are to avoid an even greater increase in global warming than is already blocked. . Plus we probably have to figure out how to suck up large amounts of carbon dioxide get out of the atmosphere.

To do all of this would require an overhaul of the global energy system at a rate unprecedented in human history. It is mind boggling. So how do we do it? What technologies do we need? What kind of problems or upheavals could a huge transformation like this create? What mistakes could we make along the way? There are a lot of smart people out there who think this transformation is doable, but it sure won’t be easy.

Climate coverage is a major concern for The Times, but the topic can be troubling to readers. Is this something you think of when you report and write these articles?

We think about this a lot. When scientists warn that global warming will impose real dangers and hardships around the world, I don’t think we can hesitate to point it out as clearly as possible, although it can be frightening or disheartening. It’s impossible to tackle a challenge like climate change unless we can clearly see what we’re up against.

But there is also so much more to the story of climate than just the sadness and gloom. At the Climate Bureau and elsewhere at The Times, we write about people and cities find creative ideas for to protect yourself against bad weather. We write about how climate change intersects with existing social inequalities, and what could be done in response. We write about inventors and companies who tinker with new strategies for reduce emissions. We write about how climate change is transform politics. We write about how people struggle with their feelings in the gut on climate change.

Climate change, along with efforts to reduce emissions and limit damage, will be central to the world for decades to come, affecting so many different aspects of modern life. Some of these stories will be dark, others will be hopeful. The trick is to try and capture this world, as best we can, in all of its messy complexity.

Has reading this report or previous reports changed your own behavior?

I generally think individual efforts to reduce emissions are great, but most people’s choices are limited by the environment around them. So, for example, I mostly walk, cycle, or take the bus to get around every day, but it’s easy for me to do that because I live in a pedestrianized Washington neighborhood with transportation options. in common easy. Most people in the United States do not have this choice, because most cities just aren’t built like that. Finding ways to transform our built environment so that more people have alternatives to driving would go far beyond trying to blame people for driving less when they don’t have much choice.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Climate change reporter covers mix of angst and ambition
Climate change reporter covers mix of angst and ambition
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