5 February 2017

Science, Government, and the Environment. Society of Environmental Journalists Seminar

Posted by Dan Satterfield

The Society of Environmental Journalists held a mini-conference today (Saturday, 4 Feb. 2017), which I’d hoped to attend; Instead, I ended up watching the video replay (see video below.)

Kudos to AP Science Writer Seth Borenstein. He was involved in organising the conference, and you can watch a lot of it below. Right off, let me say that you should not miss the talk by my friend Ed Maibach of George Mason University. Here’s why: What percentage of Americans do not believe climate change is happening? Would you believe about 9%? I bet you thought the percentage was higher, and Ed has more surprises in his talk (which begins around 2:15:05).

If the USTREAM video gets a bit flaky, try and reload it (This sometimes happens if you try and skip ahead.)

Here was the agenda, courtesy of the SEJ website:

10 a.m.            Welcome by Seth Borenstein

10:10 a.m.       Water issues, G. Tracy Mehan III, American Water Works Association, former George W. Bush EPA appointee.

“AWWA Transition Paper,” American Water Works Association, November 16, 2016
“Quest for Crystal Clear Water,” Bloomberg BNA, December 22, 2016

11 a.m.            EPA policy at large, Myron Ebell, Trump transition team

12:30 p.m.       Lunch on your own

1:15 p.m.         Energy, Scott Segal, fossil fuels attorney

2 p.m.              Bob Perciasepe, Center for Climate & Energy Solutions, former Obama andClinton EPA appointee (for a view on what it’s like inside)

2:30 p.m.         Break

2:45 p.m.         Environmental advocates: Susan Casey-Lefkowitz, Natural Resources Defense Council; Kenneth Kimmell, Union of Concerned Scientists; Jeff Ruch, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility

3:15 p.m.         Public opinion and climate communications: Ed Maibach, George Mason University

3:45                 Panel of reporters: Jill Colvin, Associated Press, Washington, D.C. (she covered Trump on the campaign and will cover environmental issues in the White House); Andrew Revkin, formerly of The New York Times and now of ProPublica (historical context, especially on G.W. Bush and climate and environment, and past controversies); Sarah Terry-Cobo, The Journal Record, Oklahoma City (she covered Scott Pruitt); TBA Texas reporter who covered Rick Perry

5 p.m.              Adjourn

Kenneth Kimmell talked about the evolution of climate science ‘denial’ (Union of Concerned Scientists; his part starts ~ 1:42:00). He labelled the history of talking points as follows:
Version 1.0: It’s a hoax. (Ed Maibach’s data shows why this is no longer an appealing option)
Version 2.0: I’m not a scientist! (The last 3-4 years?)
(Newest) Version 3.0: It’s happening, but we do not know how fast or how serious it is, much less how much humans are involved in it. 

This new version may be successful, since the greatest myth in science right now may be v. 3.0. It’s effective because there are always unknowns in science, but that will always be the case.The science community long-ago realised it was humans, and that it’s serious, and the reason is basic physics. This is neatly explained by the following graphics, which show the energy balance of the planet. I’m tempted to post them on Twitter with the caption: “What the government doesn’t want you to see”! 

Both of these from Hansen et.al 2011

The Panel discussion that starts where video above ends is below: