State of Journalism Among Concerns Of NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Add the flagging state of mainstream journalism to the list of worries on the mind of NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco.

In an hour-long open-mic conversation with ABC climate change reporter Bill Blakemore October 5 as part of the Grantham Prize journalism awards ceremony, Lubchenco allowed that her worries go beyond the endangered plights of the global climate and its increasingly acidified oceans to include the sorry state of the news media.

“We need good credible journalists who are doing what they should be doing,” Lubchenco replied when asked by Blakemore about the state of journalism. While Blakemore at one point joked that her oversight of oceans and atmospheric issues – the “wet” and the “dry” in NOAA parlance – gives her broad jurisdiction from the depths of the planet’s oceans to as far out as the atmosphere and stratosphere can go, Lubchenco said journalism’s travails also give her pause.

Government officials and earth scientists themselves need to keep up and improve their communication activities on issues like climate change and ocean acidification, Lubchenco said, but that job will only become more difficult if journalism’s headaches continue and worsen. She said she hopes that NOAA’s pending new climate service can help by doing more credible and more relevant climate science of immediate and practical relevance to private sector interests such as the farming and business communities.

Emphasizing the importance of both mitigation and adaptation in addressing climate change challenges, Lubchenco said improved management of coastal ecosystem “stressors” such as nitrogen loadings, overfishing, and introduced or invasive species can help those resources become more resilient to the pressures of a warmer climate.

She told Blakemore she has no idea when and whether President Obama might make a major national speech as President on the climate change issue … holding to that stance even when Blakemore teased, in front of a large crowd and cameras, that he sought the information “just between you and me.”

In the “no-analog world that we are entering,” Lubchenco responded to a question from the audience, it will be important to recognize that not all geoengineering strategies are identical or similarly risky. She said the administration is working on efforts to develop a process to distinguish the more practical geoengineering options from the “whacko.” As climate pressures intensify, she cautioned, pressures to resort to geoengineering likely will increase.

In response to another question, Lubchenco suggested that air travel, more so than shipping generally, is likely to be a focus of efforts to reduce carbon dioxide emissions once the U.S. adopts a carbon dioxide regulatory program.

A webcast of the Blakemore/Lubchenco keynote session and of the 2009 Prize-winning journalists’ presentations is available here.

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