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New York Times Closes Environment Desk

J. Mijin Cha

This is not a good idea. The New York Times is shutting down its environment desk. The justification for closing the desk is that the environmental beat is no longer siloed. The paper’s managing editor for news operations, Dean Baquest said that environmental stories are now, “partly business, economic, national or local, among other subjects.” While this is true and we’ve also argued that issues like climate change should be seen outside a strict environmental lens, it’s hard to see how environmental issues won’t be less visible with the elimination of the environment desk.

This news comes at a time when climate change reporting continues to decline worldwide, even though 2012 was the hottest year on record. The decline of climate reporting is exacerbated by a recent study highlighting how the U.S media gives more time and space to climate deniers than any other country. Given that climate change will impact every aspect of our economy, reporting on it should be increasing, not decreasing.

It is true that messaging and reporting on climate change in a way that people can relate to will help increase support for meaningful climate action. But, there is still a need to emphasis the environmental aspect of these issues. For instance, fracking makes sense economically and will help us reach energy independence more quickly. So, if the goal is cheap energy that also makes us less dependent on foreign oil, fracking seems like a good energy future.

However, as soon as you look at the environmental aspect, including impact on climate change, you see that fracking is a terrible idea. It poisons water supplies, increases earthquakes, and releases a large amount of methane, which is 25 times more carbon intensive than carbon dioxide. The cost of mitigating these impacts negates any economic benefit.

From 2000-2012, the Times published the most stories on climate change. Let’s hope my prediction is wrong and that the trend continues, even without a dedicated environment desk.