David Biello is a journalist covering environmental issues in the United States and internationally. In 2009 Biello won an Internews Earth Journalism Award for his series, A Guide to Carbon Capture and Storage, published in Scientific American. Since the Awards, held alongside the UN Climate Summit in Copenhagen, Biello has made reporting on international climate negotiations a priority in his coverage, most recently reporting from the 2011 summit in Durban, South Africa.
Q: What interests you about reporting on environmental issues? How did you get started?
I have always been fascinated by environmental issues, perhaps because of growing up in St. Louis and early exposure to the alien-like takeover of Times Beach due to dioxin contamination. That made quite an impression on young me.
But it was only years later, towards the end of the 20th century, that I actually became a reporter and, of course, the biggest environmental story of that day (and this one) is climate change. I got my start covering it for a trade publication, Environmental Finance, and have never looked back.
Q: What are the challenges to covering environmental issues for American audience?
One of the biggest challenges in covering environmental issues is how politicized they have become. Once the basic information is out there (i.e. people are aware of the environmental issue, whether climate change or toxic pollution), the challenge is how quickly positions become hardened and minds have essentially pre-judged any stories on the subject. Breaking through that barrier remains a huge challenge, particularly in the U.S. but, I suspect, everywhere in the world. If it's in someone's economic interest not to believe in something, they won't.
Q: What impact did your time in Copenhagen for the Earth Journalism Awards have on your coverage of climate negotiations?
Winning the Earth Journalism Award afforded me the chance to cover the Copenhagen climate summit, still the high water mark for global climate change action. It broadened my perspective on this most global of environmental problems and also helped me to convince my editors that the global perspective is part of what might help break through pre-judged mindsets. It also helped convince them to fund my coverage of the Durban climate summit last year.
Q: How do you think global coverage of climate change and other issues can be improved?
There are so many ways to improve that I hardly know where to begin. From a U.S. perspective, simply stopping the mis-reporting of information is vital. Pair that with an ever-shrinking number of science / environment reporters in this country generally and you have a recipe for exactly what we've observed here in the U.S.: a confused and misinformed public. So why don't we start there?