Techno-Optimism or Pessimism? Media Coverage of Quick Fixes for Global Climate Change

Sunday, February 20, 2011: 10:00 AM-11:30 AM
147A (Washington Convention Center )
Media coverage of global climate change includes a variety of political, economic, and technological solutions for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. This symposium will focus on the role of the media in communicating about old and new energy technologies that may reduce the amount of carbon going into the atmosphere as well as controversial proposals to "fix" the planet's climate change problem after the fact through approaches known as geoengineering. Too often, journalists fall into the trap of “techno-optimism” by overpromoting new or alternative energy technologies and then swing their coverage to “techno-pessimism” when the promised technologies fail to pan out, take longer than originally reported, or have unintended consequences, as was seen with biofuels. The coverage often fails to provide perspective on the overall energy picture and the speed with which emerging “clean energy” sources will affect the total amount of greenhouse gases going into the atmosphere or reduce reliance on fossil fuels. The media will also play a crucial role in public understanding and debate over proposals to “fix” the climate problem through geoengineering, which are beginning to get more scrutiny as political solutions flounder. Coverage of energy and climate-related technologies varies around the globe in developed and developing countries. The panel will look at ways to provide improve international media coverage of climate-related technologies.
Cristine Russell, Harvard Kennedy School
Cristine Russell, Harvard Kennedy School
James McCarthy, Harvard University
and Kelly Sims Gallagher, Tufts University Fletcher School
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