From the Editor

Here we are in the waning days of what from the start was to be the year nothing much would happen on actually controlling greenhouse gas emissions. But during which time the table would be set for lots of things to start happening, big time, come 2009.

And here we are at last on the verge of 2009, when, again from the start, lots of important things are to begin happening at the national and international levels, actions that very clearly will make for big news on the subject of climate change.

Let the games begin.

But they’re surely not games. The collapse of the global economic and financial situation only further underscore the seriousness of the challenge facing industrialized societies everywhere on the climate change front, where a year’s worth of additional and ongoing scientific research offers no justification for complacency. In the U.S., the incoming Obama administration team gives every appearance of being serious about their commitment to make the energy/climate change equation a major element of a much needed economic stimulus and recovery effort. One need not look long and hard at the new Obama energy and environmental team to recognize that this is a very different crowd indeed from those who have held the reins during the past eight years.

Whether one likes or fears the directions likely soon to be traveled, the reality remains: Elections have consequences.

Standing fully prepared to chronicle, assess, and, where necessary, watch-dog every coming climate change initiative, we have a fully engaged and well-armed corps of informed, watchful and diligent journalists.

Or do we? The media, including the public radio and TV media, are not immune to the financial pressures leading to widespread economic pain and layoffs rippling across the economy, National Public Radio reminded us this month in the midst of its own “down sizing.” Major metropolitan newspapers, as in the case of Detroit, are initiating unheard-of economies, ending home-delivery on most week days when ad revenues tend to be lowest. In Denver, there’s talk of soon losing one, and perhaps before long even the second, of the two daily newspapers. Out-of-town newspapers’ Washington, D.C., bureaus, where they still exist, are shadows of what they were just two years ago.

As if we need reminding. CNN’s elimination of its entire environment, science, and technology unit is still fresh in mind, as is Gannett’s paring of more than 2,000 of its work force. Newspapers’ “worst year ever” in 2008 stands highly likely to be eclipsed just one year later.

Journalism. How many journalists can be down-sized before it’s journalism itself, and not just the general infrastructure of the news-gathering/disseminating enterprise, that suffers?

And how long, then, before the critical information- and knowledge-based tenets of a modern democracy also suffer?

Climate change, for sure, isn’t the only critical and complex policy/economic/social issue that stands to suffer from an under-informed electorate. But it’s as big as most others in the range and scope of its impacts. And also in its need that those carrying related journalistic responsibilities into 2009 do their best in a time uniquely troubling from financial, journalistic, and climate perspectives.

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