Role Playing for Climate Scientists: Try Writing This Story on a Tight Deadline

Here’s a fun (?) exercise for climate scientists. Put on a reporter’s shoes. The President gives a Rose Garden climate change change speech. You’re on deadline – let’s say one hour – and your editor is demanding a reaction story: Who thinks What about the proposal?

What follows is a tease, perhaps one-tenth – maybe more like one-hundredth – of what a beat reporter finds in his/her e-mail in box in the minutes after the speech.

How would YOU write it? Big story? Not so big? Major change? Minor change? Big impact? Not so much? Balance? Fairness? Accuracy?

You decide. Here’s a brief sampling of how various interests tried to “spin” your coverage on President Bush’s April 16th talk outlining his new approach to climate change:

From the skeptics

From the Competitive Enterprise Institute:

“a blueprint for slow motion economic decline. It legitimizes alarmism and undermines opposition in Congress to disastrous energy-rationing policies …. ‘could have been worse,’ said CEI’s Myron Ebell, ‘but it was still a pointless speech that was unnecessary …. the President has managed to re-energize that alarmism …. But perhaps we should be grateful that he hasn’t moved the debate far enough to please the global warming alarmists.”

From the Cato Institute and Pat Michaels:

“…Bush’s proposal would have little effect on global warming for decades after 2025.” Plan “will likely meet stiff resistance in the Senate, where pending legislation calls for sharp cuts in greenhouse gases, rather than a mere stabilization of emissions. Don’t ask how these will come about, because no one knows.”

From the environmental community, climate activists

From Environmental Defense Fund:

“…On the details, he falls far short of the mark today …. would only slow and stop the growth of utility-sector emissions, aiming to have emissions peak in 2025.” EDF’s President Fred Krupp: “Waiting until 2025 to stop the growth of greenhouse gas pollution means, for all purposes, admitting defeat. The President needs to set a much bolder goal if we’re going to succeed.”

From the Sierra Club:

Carl Pope: “…President George W. Bush has once again shown his contempt for the future. Finally coming forward with a global warming policy, he managed to simultaneously ignore the science and the politics.”

From Pew Environment Group:

Philip Clapp: “Nothing the President said today can overcome the biggest stumbling block to progress in Paris and in the UN negotiations – the administration’s refusal to commit the U.S. to emissions cuts in line with the efforts of the rest of the industrialized world.”

From Pew Center on Global Climate Change:

Eileen, Claussen, President: “…a step backwards for US climate policy, … a non-starter both domestically and internationally. The only good news is that this is irrelevant – both in the U.S. and globally – because this administration has only 9 months left in office and we have three presidential candidates who will take this issue seriously.”

From U.S. Senate politicians

Senator Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works Chair: “The President’s plan to have America stand by while greenhouse gases reach dangerous levels and threaten America and the world is worse than doing nothing – it is the height of irresponsibility. I strongly believe that the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee bill will not only make our nation a leader in the global warming challenge, but it will trigger an American economic renaissance.”

Senator James Inhofe (R-Okla.), Ranking Member of the Environment & Public Works Committee: “…a bold alternative climate initiative that rejects the concept that the United States must adopt economically ruinous cap-and-trade legislation … the only politically and economically sustainable path forward …. it will reduce air pollution, expand our energy supply, increase trade, and, along with these other goals, reduce greenhouse gases.”

So, scientists? What is your lede sentence? Your “nut paragraph,” the one that hooks your readers and keeps them engaged? Who do you quote? Who do you not quote? How do you describe the various interests? What is your headline? Who, beyond those here, do you go to for comment and analysis?

In the next update to the Yale Forum, we’ll try providing some insights into actual coverage from select media outlets: What they did and didn’t say and report on the Bush speech.

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