If you are genuinely concerned about what climate scientists are telling us, and have followed for the past few years the emerging Twitter version of the energy and climate conversation, you probably know that Grist’s David Roberts (@drgrist) is a force of nature. On occasion I disagree with him, but I always admire his his blunt, unapologetic, informed climate hawkishness. On a daily basis he takes on pressing topics that journalists are not addressing—an extremely valuable service in an era defined by a fast-growing volume of partisan noise around complex issues like energy.
So it would make sense that prominent press critic Jay Rosen would ask David this vital question:
Forget for a moment about the energy journalism we have. What, in @drgrist‘s view, is the energy journalism we need?
(It is worth mentioning here that implicit in this question is that climate change is a big problem. Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign does not consider it a big problem, or at least one that is big enough that the government should help solve it. Clearly, if it is not a big problem we don’t need the same type of energy journalism we need if it is one. Your choice.)
David’s answer is exactly right, and you should read it in its entirety. Here’s a snippet:
What I’d like to see in all these varieties of energy journalism is a little bit more systems thinking, a greater sense of context. Humanity’s relationship with energy is changing in fundamental ways and lots of the familiar frames for energy coverage no longer make much sense, or at least are woefully inadequate.
Here are the three great energy challenges of the 21st century:
- Maintain safe and reliable energy supply to developed countries, where demand is leveling off and infrastructure is aging.
- Supply energy to the developing world, where demand is absolutely exploding, and to the one in three people in the world who have no reliable access to energy at all (“energy poverty”).
- Rapidly and substantially reduce emissions of greenhouse gases from fossil fuels
Lots of energy journalists, especially of the political variety, operate as though only No. 1 existed. Biz and tech journalists are more likely to grapple with No. 2. As for No. 3, that’s an “environmental story” and so it’s left to environmental journalists, a tribe that has traditionally been science-focused and keenly, self-consciously nonpartisan.
In short, we need more articles about the forest—not just about the various tree species. We need more explanations of the scientific and technological reasons for, and implications of, the talking points on both sides—and less stories fueled by those talking points. WE NEED MORE CONTEXT! And that is what we’re trying to give here at The New Fuelist (check out our About page). Tell us what you think.