China's rapid economic expansion in recent years has been widely heralded as a boon for its people and its government. In this sweeping 10-part series, The New York Times fully exposed and explored the dark side of that unprecedented development: ravaging degradation of the environment.
Right now, a group of scientists is working on ways to minimize the catastrophic impact of global warming. But they’re not designing hybrids or fuel cells or wind turbines. They’re trying to lower the temperature of the entire planet. And they’re doing it with huge contraptions that suck CO2 from the air, machines that brighten clouds and deflect sunlight away from the earth, even artificial volcanoes that spray heat-reflecting particles into the atmosphere.
This is the radical and controversial world of geoengineering, which only five years ago was considered to be "fringe." But as Jeff Goodell points out, the economic crisis, combined with global political realities, is making these ideas look sane, even inspired.
Goodell himself started out as a skeptic, concerned about tinkering with the planet’s thermostat. We can’t even predict next week’s weather, so how are we going to change the temperature of whole regions? What if a wealthy entrepreneur shoots particles into the stratosphere on his own? Who gets blamed if something goes terribly wrong? And perhaps most disturbing, what about wars waged with climate control as the primary weapon? There are certainly risks, but Goodell believes the alternatives could be worse. In the end, he persuades us that geoengineering may just be our last best hope—a Plan B for the environment. His compelling tale of scientific hubris and technical daring is sure to jump-start the next big debate about the future of life on earth.
Jeff Goodell's remarkable book, ”How to Cool the Planet", is a must-read for anyone concerned about climate change -- policymakers and ordinary citizens alike. Mr. Goodell does not, in fact, provide a detailed prescription for cooling the planet. Instead, he takes us on a fascinating tour of the world of geoengineering. He introduces us, one by one, to the small band of scientists and engineers experimenting with last-ditch ways to avert a climate emergency if, as is entirely possible, our present efforts to stop climate change turn out to be insufficient.
There are a lot of kooky ideas out there; Goodell focuses on those that have attracted serious researchers and, no less important, serious research dollars. The schemes include quickly cooling the Arctic by reflecting sunlight back into space (either by blasting aerosols into the stratosphere or brightening clouds with massive injections of seawater), and increasing marine sequestration of carbon dioxide by fertilizing the oceans at a massive scale. Some of the ideas make more sense than others. Some could have serious unintended consequences. Some even seem plausible.
But the idea of geoengineering in general, Goodell argues, must be taken seriously. His fondest hope, stated passionately, is that we will never have to ”launch particles into the atmosphere, dump iron into the oceans, or brighten clouds." His strong preference is that humankind come to its senses and substantially limit its emissions of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, thus making geoengineering unnecessary. Yet our repeated domestic and global failures to address climate change suggest that we will have neither the courage nor political will to make the changes needed to produce and use energy while averting catastrophe.
"In the end," he writes, "the rising interest in geoengineering is driven less by mad scientists than by spineless politicians." Geoengineering cannot be seen as a quick fix, as simply another excuse not to make hard choices; it is not a substitute for cutting emissions. But if those more difficult choices are not made soon, we may find ourselves needing to manipulate the global climate in ways that nature never intended--and that none of us could welcome.
This immensely readable, carefully researched and groundbreaking contribution to the literature on climate change is thoroughly deserving of a Grantham Award of Special Merit.
Jeff Goodell was born and raised in Silicon Valley, where his family has lived for four generations. Shortly after graduating from public high school, he took a job at Apple Computer, Inc., where he worked as a technical writer and junior software programmer. He quit to attend the University of California, Berkeley, where he received a BA in English in 1984. He continued his education at Columbia University in New York, graduating from the writing program with a Master’s in Fine Arts in 1987. He taught logic and rhetoric at Columbia college for three years before leaving to pursue a career as a journalist.
In 1989, Goodell began covering crime and politics in New York City for 7 Days, a weekly magazine that won a National Magazine Award for General Excellence in 1990. Since 1996 he has been a staff writer at Rolling Stone and a frequent contributor to the New York Times Magazine. He has written hundreds of articles about a wide variety of subjects, from hookers to internet billionaires to climate scientists and venture philanthropists. “Down and Out in Silicon Valley,” a Rolling Stone story chronicling life in homeless shelters in the Valley, was chosen as one of the best business stories of the year by the editors of Business Week.
In 2001 after writing a cover story about the comeback of the U.S. coal industry for The New York Times Magazine, Goodell shifted his focus to energy and environmental issues. He has written about and interviewed most of the major figures in this field, from U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu to climate scientist James Hanson. Our Story (Hyperion, 2002), his account of the nine miners trapped in a Pennsylvania coal mine for 77 hours, was a national bestseller. He followed that up with Big Coal: The Dirty Secret Behind America’s Energy Future (Houghton Mifflin, 2006). Goodell spent for years researching and writing about the industry, traveling through the coal fields in West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Wyoming, as well as making several trips to China. To better understand the science of global warming, he spent a month in the North Atlantic with leading climate scientists aboard the RV Knorr, a research vessel operated by Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. When Big Coal was published in 2006, the New York Times described it as “a compelling indictment of one of the country’s biggest, most powerful and most antiquated industries… well-written, timely, and powerful.” His book became the basis for Dirty Business, a feature documentary about the coal industry produced by the Center for Investigative Reporting.
As a commentator on energy and environmental issues, Goodell has appeared on NPR, MSNBC, CNN, CNBC, ABC, NBA, and Fox News. He is a frequent speaker on college campuses – recent engagements have included Princeton, Harvard, Stanford, the University of Texas and the University of Massachusetts. He lives in Saratoga Springs, New York with his wife, three children, and three chickens.
Two days after an explosion ripped through the Deepwater Horizon, it sank in the Gulf of Mexico – and The Associated Press was first with the news.
Two days later, AP revealed that the resulting oil leak was far larger than BP admitted. When the first tendrils of oil hit land, when the first oil-covered bird was rescued, AP journalists were there to capture it in words and images. At every juncture, the AP was a prime source for news of the disaster. But that was not enough.
The AP’s investigative team was determined to uncover the causes of this immense environmental disaster. Time and time again, AP reporters asked the tough questions: How did this happen? And who is responsible? The AP used sources and documents to tell the inside story of this massive spill. But it did more – videojournalist Rich Matthews took his camera and dove into the muck; in a video that went viral, he showed how the oil spill was impacting marine life, capturing striking images of oil underwater and revealing a surprising lack of marine life just below the surface.
And when the flow from the well stopped, the AP did not. Instead, it formed a panel of 75 scientists to issue periodic progress reports on the health of the Gulf. That kind of creativity has been the hallmark of AP’s coverage of this extraordinary story – voted by AP member editors as the top story of 2010.
The images of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig burning in the Gulf of Mexico are among the most graphic reminders of the impacts offshore oil exploration can have on the environment when things go wrong. The Associated Press was there first with the news after an explosion ripped through the rig and as the first tendrils of the ensuing massive oil slick first landed off Venice, Louisiana. The Grantham jury is pleased to recognize the AP team with an Award of Special Merit for its continued coverage of the worst oil spill in US history, and the team’s tenacious, gargantuan effort in getting the story quickly and accurately.
The depth of coverage speaks to real teamwork as seventeen journalists documented the unfolding disaster and the massive gaps in oversight at the heart of the environmental crisis. Their stories, stark images and videos illustrated not only the oil slick and its impact on local fisheries and sensitive marshes, but also gave audiences an underwater view of the oil, creating viral videos as the reporters dove into the muck. The AP uncovered the glaring omissions and mistakes in BP’s oil spill response plan. BP had listed cold-water marine mammals including walruses and sea otters as “sensitive biological resources” when none of these animals live anywhere near the Gulf. The AP investigation showed how regulatory loopholes allowed the company to understate how it would handle a major oil spill. The AP wrote: “In the spill scenarios detailed in the documents, fish, marine mammals and birds escape serious harm; beaches remain pristine; water quality is only a temporary problem.” Those projections turned out to be far from the reality of what took place. The AP detailed how the plans contained “wildly false assumptions about oil spills.” BP’s proposed method to calculate spill volume was not in line with internationally accepted formulas. AP’s sources and documentation brought to life the successive chain of equipment failures and the tragic broken chain of command on the rig that was at the heart of the explosion. A year later, the AP team continues to monitor the health of the Gulf by periodically checking in with a panel of 75 scientists for research updates. This thorough, consistent coverage of breaking environmental news and its longer-term consequences is a model for other news organizations, and highly deserving of recognition by The Grantham Prize.
Richard T. Pienciak is national investigative editor for The Associated Press. He heads a national team, helps oversee four regional investigative units and often runs investigations tied to breaking news. He is a former assistant managing editor for investigations, metro editor and investigative reporter for the New York Daily News. He’s the author of three nonfiction books, including one that was made into a CBS-TV movie. Before working at the Daily News, he was a member of the AP’s National Reporting Team.
Ron Harris is a reporter and multimedia editor/producer at the South Regional office of The Associated Press in Atlanta, Ga. His responsibilities include the planning, oversight and delivery of multimedia content for AP stories originating out of the southeast U.S. region. Ron is a native of Santa Cruz, Calif. and holds degrees in Journalism and English from San Francisco State University.
He has worked for The AP for 17 years, beginning as an editorial assistant and completing The AP internship program before moving on to a full-time general assignment reporter position at the AP's San Francisco bureau where he worked for 14 years.
He was the winner of the 2005 Bernard Hurwitz Award for Excellence in Reporting for his coverage of the video game industry, and was a member of the AP reporting team that won the 2010 George Polk Award for environmental reporting coverage of the Gulf oil spill. Ron enjoys good tennis (played ITF pro circuits in Europe and U.S.), bad golf (95 is bad, right?) and new technology.
Justin Pritchard is an investigative reporter for The AP, based in Los Angeles. Much of his work over the past year has focused on the Pacific Rim and issues of imported food and drug safety. In 2004, he won a Polk Award for his series detailing disproportionate on-the-job death rates among Mexican-born workers in the United States. Before joining AP, he covered Congress for the Washington Post Co. He graduated magna cum laude from Brown University and is a native of the San Francisco Bay area.
Jeff Donn is a Boston-based national investigative writer for The Associated Press. He joined the AP in 1985 and has served as newsman, foreign-desk editor, regional correspondent, national feature and medical writer. He helped cover the collapse of Communism in Eastern Europe, U.S. wars with Iraq, terrorist attacks of September 2001, Enron’s bankruptcy, Washington-area sniper attacks of 2002, Hurricane Katrina, and other major national stories
Mitch Weiss, a correspondent for The AP, is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author. Weiss has investigated government corruption, white-collar crime, police misconduct and clerical sexual abuse. He was assigned to an investigative series that uncovered the longest string of atrocities carried out by a U.S. fighting unit in the Vietnam War. “Buried Secrets, Brutal Truths,” led to an investigation by the Pentagon. Weiss and his colleague Michael D. Sallah, were awarded the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Reporting.
Michael Kunzelman, has worked for The AP since early 2005. After Hurricane Katrina struck in August 2005, he accepted a yearlong assignment to cover the storm’s aftermath and recovery in Mississippi., based out of Gulfport and Biloxi. At the end of the year, he moved to the New Orleans bureau. When he’s not writing about the oil spill, his beat is criminal justice and the courts.
Seth Borenstein has been a national science writer for The Associated Press since March 2006. Based in Washington, he writes about earth sciences and does database reporting. He was a national correspondent for Knight Ridder Newspapers’ Washington Bureau, space reporter for The Orlando Sentinel, and a specialty writer at the Sun-Sentinel in Fort Lauderdale. He was part of a Pulitzer Prize finalist team for coverage of the Columbia shuttle disaster. He has co-written three hurricane and science books.
Rich Matthews was the first video journalist ever hired by the AP. He’s covered everything from Hurricanes Ike and Katrina, the earthquake in Haiti, Fort Hood mass murder, California wildfires, Iowa floods, the 2008 presidential election, the death of Michael Jackson, and the BP oil spill. When the AP launched an online video network in 2005 Rich was tapped to help create the video journalist program which now has 7 vj’s stationed across the country. When not on the road Rich lives in Dallas Texas with his wife and two kids.
Jason Bronis is a videojournalist with The Associated Press based in Atlanta, working both behind and in front of the camera. He provides national reports to more than 2,000 websites via AP online video. He joined the AP in 2006 Jason graduated from the School of Communications at American University.
Tamara Lush is a reporter with The Associated Press in Tampa, Fla. Lush, first joined the AP in Miami in 2008. Since arriving at the Associated Press, she has covered the Tiger Woods scandal, South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford’s disappearance and Florida’s weak economy.
Mike Baker joined the AP in 2006 and now works as an investigative reporter based in North Carolina, where he covered John Edwards’ 2008 presidential campaign, the security firm formerly known as Blackwater and criminal investigations targeting public officials. He was part of a team of reporters covering the 2009 mass shooting at Fort Hood, Texas, winning national awards.
Holbrook Mohr joined the AP’s Jackson, Miss., office in 2004 after working at newspapers in Florida. He is a member of the South Region’s Investigative Team. Mohr has covered such events as Hurricane Katrina, the Gulf oil spill and high-profile federal court cases.
Dave Clark is a producer in the Interactive Design & Graphics Department for The Associated Press in New York. A native of Milford, Conn., Clark has a degree in political science from the University of Connecticut. He has worked for The AP for 22 years, first as a temporary employee in the Richmond, Va., bureau and later as a reporter in Bismarck, N.D. He has been working on interactive graphics since 1997. Clark was a member of the AP reporting team that won the 2010 George Polk Award for environmental reporting coverage of the Gulf oil spill.
Fielding Cage is a entrepreneurial-minded journalist and graduate student living in New York. He joined The Associated Press in 2010 as an interactive designer, focused on building agile templates and engaging interactive stories for the web and handheld and tablet devices. Most recently, his work for AP has included live maps of returns for the midterm election, and ipad-friendly interactives explaining the Japan nuclear crisis and details surrounding the death of Osama bin Laden. Cage graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2006 with a degree in journalism and mass communication. He moved to New York to create multimedia and user-interaction design for Time magazine’s website, Time.com. Cage is completing a master’s degree at New York University in graphic communication, technology and management, with a focus on mobile business strategy.
Merrill Sherman is a graduate of the University of Alabama. Through stops in Alabama, Illinois and New York, he's worked for the Montgomery Advertiser, Chicago Tribune and Journal News. Merrill has been with the Associated Press for seven years.
Peter Prengaman is the Associated Press’ multimedia editor for the South, leading and overseeing interactive, graphics and video content for a 13-state region spanning from Louisiana to Delaware. Before moving to Atlanta in 2008, Prengaman spent three years working for the AP in Los Angeles, as a beat reporter covering minority communities in Southern California and as a supervisor his last year. Previously, he was an AP Caribbean correspondent based in Dominican Republic and a statehouse and general assignment reporter in Oregon.
Before joining the AP in 2002, he worked as a freelancer in Morocco, was editor of El Centinela, a Spanish-language Catholic newspaper in Oregon, and interned for the Wall Street Journal Europe in Madrid, while working as a translator for Cinco Dias, Spain’s largest economic newspaper.
He has a B.A. in Spanish and English literature from Wabash College, a Master’s in Latin American Studies from Stanford University and a certificate of Arabic from the University of California, Los Angeles.
Cain Burdeau was born in New Zealand in 1973. He landed his first full-time reporter’s job in 1999 for the Sedalia Democrat in Missouri. He was hired in 2000 by The Associated Press in New Orleans. He was named a member of the AP’s national environmental team in 2010, shortly before the BP oil spill.