KSJ Tracker November 29, 2012

A science writer in Doha metamorphoses into... Mr. Global Warming

 Stephen Leahy is a crusading science journalist, which has to be frustrating as his crusade is to write stories that convince policy makers and regular people to do something serious about climate change. I've mentioned him before in post, largely because he manages to get around the world reporting on the topic while scrimping and wheedling constantly to fit it into his freelancer- and small-commission budget. For one thing, he simply asks his readers to send him money if they like what he writes, much of it for the small IPS news outlet (His website spells out that tactic).

  He's now in Doha, Qatar, for the latest round of IPCC climate talks. His consternation with lack of progress is evident in an email he sent to many of his readers, including this passage:

Hello from Doha, Qatar and the UN climate conference COP 18. This one is as busy and challenging as the previous but the strangest yet. I am trying to convey some sense of this by bringing a fresh perspective to COP18 as attempted with "Hurricane Sandy Speaks". It's a big leap but here goes: Global Warming Goes to Doha.

 The link to his effort is there in the pull-quote. And yes, a few weeks ago he wrote a first-person account, if a storm can be a person, by Sandy the Nor-eastercane Monsterstorm on politics and weather. Now he's done it again, from Doha, as the delegate named Global Warming.

He asks us what we think.

Which is, in sympathy, nice try.

Here's the problem - Leahy does not adopt a persona that captures deep interest. He's such a decent guy he seems to have felt compelled to write this as though Mr. Global Warming is also a decent and empathetic guy. If one is to impersonate, one must embrace the character's soul however dark it may be. Here's what I might have done if it were not sure to take more more time and many many rewrites to polish. I'd have asked myself what the motive would be for this anthropomorphised Anthropocene-spawned entity to have gone there. What is the motive that'd work? Evil would do. Pure malice. Few miscreants, from cads to outright sociopaths, welcome their own demise. More likely is the instinct toward self-preservation. So I'd have had Mr. Global Warming smuggling himself in to do mischief and pick up tips on how to further ensnarl the geopolitical mess that is climate change policy. Maybe register himself as Terrestus Hypotherm from the tiny island nation of Tulo Atoll. He'd reflect on his mischievous intent to spawn more superstorms or droughts but still refuse to label them in English, Arabic, Chinese, and Cyrillic Russian as "this one really IS global warming." He'd vote for more research but no deadlines or sanctions for nations to reduce emissions. He'd cackle at the tiffs between industrialized nations and poor ones, egging each on into further intransigence. And he'd sneak around and steal the power cords from all the laptops and charging stations in the NGO headquarters area. Then stuff himself happily on jumbo shrimp at a hospitality suite sponsored by OPEC or maybe Peabody Coal or whoever shows up at meetings like this to argue subtly against the meeting's theme.

   That'd be just like a real Mr. Global Warming.

   Leahy also has filed a few straight and solid, if crusade-spiced, information-packed news stories for IPS including these three, one from there and the others curtain raisers as the meeting approached.

-  Charlie Petit



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