Dispatch from the Society of Environmental Journalists Conference

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At this weekend’s conference of environmental journalists in Palo Alto, the AP’s science writer, Seth Borenstein, moderated a plenary session called “Covering Climate Change.” A day before the event, he received an email from Marc Morano, a senior aid to Senator James Inhofe (R-Ok.)—the former head of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works and an adamant climate change denier—urging him to question the panel’s seeming assumption that scientists had concluded that climate change was a reality. Borenstein promptly forwarded the email to several other journalists.

Contrary to popular opinion (and Mother Jonescareful reporting), Morano wrote, scientists who challenge the climate change hypothesis are not a well-funded minority, but individuals whose research has held its own scientifically despite the PR victory of well-funded liberal fear-mongers.

You’ve gotta give it to Inhofe, whose major funders list reads like a who’s who of energy and forest products corporations—he’s really stuck to his guns.

But, back in reality, the experts at the conference indicated time and again that global warming was already hard upon us and that we need to act now to cap carbon emissions unless we want things to get really ugly. We also need to start planning for the consequences of climate change (the buzzword is “adaptation.”) Phillip Clapp, president of the National Environmental Trust, said “there has been no thought given to this issue” in the United States, despite the fact that by 2050, 100 million people a year could be displaced by weather disasters—and research suggests that among the hardest-hit countries will be Mexico, making our current immigration problems look like child’s play.

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You just sent an incredible message: that quality journalism doesn't have to answer to advertisers, billionaires, or hedge funds; that newsrooms can eke out an existence thanks primarily to the generosity of its readers. That's so powerful. Especially during what's been called a "media extinction event" when those looking to make a profit from the news pull back, the Mother Jones community steps in.

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