James West

James West

Climate Desk Producer

James West is senior producer for the Climate Desk and a contributing producer for Mother Jones. He wrote Beijing Blur (Penguin 2008), a far-reaching account of modernizing China’s underground youth scene. James has a masters of journalism under his belt from NYU, and has produced a variety of award-winning shows in his native Australia, including the national affairs program Hack. He's been to Kyrgyzstan, and also invited himself to Thanksgiving dinner after wrongly receiving invites for years from the mysterious Tran family.

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Explained in 90 Seconds: What the @#% Is Climate Change Doing to El Niño?

| Fri Jan. 11, 2013 7:01 AM EST

Imagine this is your office: a tropical island skirted by coral-packed azure waters, somewhere near the equator between Hawaii and Tahiti. Your job involves a lot of swimming. Tough, huh? "My field research is the best part of my job," says Kim Cobb, Associate Professor of Climate Change at Georgia Institute of Technology. "It's probably the reason I have stuck with corals for the last 15 years."

Stuck with, and collected and sampled. For the past seven years, Cobb and her lab team have been recontructing the history of El Niño events across several millenia by taking core samples from corals in the Pacific. That process has uncovered reams of fresh climate data. And it's within this new, longer baseline of temperatures from the tropical Pacific that Cobb spotted something surprising: "The 20th century is significantly, statistically stronger in its El Niño Southern Oscillation activity than this long, baseline average," Cobb says. El Niño events have gotten worse.

That led Cobb to wonder: Is man-made climate change, and the level of carbon in the atmosphere, shifting in El Niño events along with it? Or should we chalk it up to coincidence? "We need a lot more data," Cobb says. But Cobb's 7000-year baseline study should push researchers in the right direction to discover more connections between Earth's complex climate systems, and the role man-made climate change is playing.

Cobb's results have been published in the latest edition of Science.

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VIDEO: Drought, Floods, and One Giant Storm: The Year in Climate Insanity

| Thu Dec. 20, 2012 12:10 PM EST

2012, the hottest year on record in the United States, has been a wild year for Climate Desk. We've scoped out coal-guzzling data centers; traipsed across New York City's solar-paneled rooftops; stepped through the ashes of Colorado's record-breaking wildfire season; mingled with drought-striken cattle; been awed by the North Dakota fracking boom; cruised down the shrinking Mississippi River; strained to hear through the climate silence; seen communities pick through debris left by Superstorm Sandy; and more.

Along the way, we've depended on you to share stories and insights about this warming world, what we see as the most important issue of our time. A big thank you to all our readers, and we can't wait to give you a front-row seat to whatever 2013 has in store. To be continued…

To stay on top of the climate conversation, follow us on our website, YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter.

WATCH: Newtown Residents Remember Nancy Lanza, Shooter's Slain Mother

| Sat Dec. 15, 2012 3:25 PM EST

My Place is a pizza joint and bar just off the main drag through Newtown. It's a microcosm of this town: Everyone knows everyone, knows where they live, who their brother is dating, what their favorite microbrew is. Framed photographs of Babe Ruth cover the walls. Having a smoke outside, Alex Helfer, 26, recalls the days when high school partiers knew they were safe if the town's two post-midnight cops busted the other party. After spending the day reeling from the Sandy Hook murders, last night locals here did what they always do: head to My Place for a pint. Only this time, Nancy wasn't there to join them.

Nancy Lanza, mother of alleged shooter Adam Lanza, was one of My Place's most popular regulars; she was found dead in her home yesterday. "She was wonderful, beautiful, classy…everyone knew her," says waitress Laurie Champagne. Proprietor Louise Tambascio seconded the words of the local school superintendent that yesterday's reports of Nancy being a teacher at Sandy Hook were wrong. But Nancy was involved with the gun community, she says, belonging to a club and taking her sons shooting.

Losing Nancy is a devastating blow to this close-knit community, Tambascio says. She's known Nancy for 12 years, and remembers hiring Adam Lanza's older brother, Ryan, as a busboy a couple years back. When initial reports came out that he was the shooter, she says, she knew they had the wrong brother. 

Meanwhile, across town, outside Sandy Hook Elementary (or as close as police would allow anyone to get), a media feeding frenzy approached critical mass, swarming with reporters speaking English, French, German, and Japanese into TV cameras and bright lights. The few locals who braved the main street quickly found themselves circled by microphones and lenses, asked to share their shock with the world. Nick Verderame, 20, had come from a few towns over to lay flowers outside the fire station where children and teachers had fled for cover as the shooting unfolded. "I thought there was going to be more of us," he says. "And less of you."

Everyone here is anxiously awaiting the release of the names of the dead, to find out which neighbor, or neighbors, suffered an unimaginable loss. Champagne circles around My Place delivering beer, pizza, and hugs to folks in the crowd, whom she addresses by name. Despite the horror that unfolded yesterday, she says, looking forward to the coming weeks is almost worse: "There are going to be 28 funerals in this town before Christmas."

WATCH: Newtown Residents Gather to Mourn and Reflect

| Fri Dec. 14, 2012 10:41 PM EST

Less than 12 hours after a gunman took the lives of 20 schoolchildren in the tiny, picturesque community of Newtown, Connecticut, locals gathered outside a Methodist Church for a healing vigil. Nearly all were in shock, hardly able to articulate their bewilderment. But many were in agreement on one point: Lax gun laws were partly to blame.

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