The I-told-you-so heard ‘round the world
Credit: Eden, Janine and Jim/flickr

The I-told-you-so heard ‘round the world

The climate beat, where you constantly pray that you're wrong—but rarely are.

When I'm in the checkout line at the grocery, the tabloids invariably catch my eye for a split second.


Amid the cover stories about aliens, Elvis, the Royal Family or the continued search for JonBenét Ramsey's real killer, there's always a hardy perennial story about a miracle cancer cure or can't miss weight loss program. And even though I know these tales come straight from a money pit of fantasies and lies, for a fraction of a second, I really, really want to believe these things are for real.

Despite having been around the climate change story for about 40 years, and having seen the science validated time after time, I really, really, really want to believe climate change is a hoax; that politicians like Al Gore are the vanguard of a stealth Commie takeover; that Sierra Clubbers and their limo drivers and Gulfstream pilots are having a good chuckle at us alarmists; that seas encroaching on our coastlines are part of a cynical plot to shorten Michael Mann's vacation drive from State College, Pennsylvania, to the Jersey Shore.

Alas. In far less time than it takes to read the above, my head snaps back to the reality of what we know. But for a nanosecond every day, I let myself believe that climate change is not a problem and that a handful of ideologues and political operatives covered by a thin veneer of "legitimate" scientists are right.

It would be awesome for my world if they were right, and well worth the cost of my being embarrassingly, career-wreckingly wrong about climate change. Tens of thousands of journalists, policymakers, scientists, and advocates would be wrong along with me.

So that's quite a bargain: A world not imperiled by climate change for the relatively paltry price of disgraced careers would be wonderful. But what we appear to be headed for is the opposite: Vindicated careers, backed by a torrent of new science and on-the-ground evidence, credited with predicting an avoidable planetary disaster.

So let's call it an I-told-you-so for the ages. Climate journalists can take cold comfort in their vindication, and it's come with some vilification along the way. Seth Borenstein, science writer for the Associated Press, is a frequent target, and it can get personal: A photoshopped image of Borenstein as a "climate pimp," blinged out and wearing a white fur suit and wide-brimmed hat, has made the rounds on the Internet for a decade.

This piece, from climate-denying all-star Anthony Watts, criticized Borenstein for having a journalism degree rather than a science degree. It's a favorite tactic of Watts, who according to records, attended Purdue University for seven years without receiving a degree in anything.

An entire organization has also come under periodic attack. The Society of Environmental Journalists is stacked with a thousand-plus membership who have reported on the reality of climate change for nearly three decades.

The world's focus on the environment kicked into high gear about 50 years ago. Half a century is a long enough time for environmental journalism to have amassed a track record, and the verdict is clear: The track record is impeccably good; and for the most part, climate-beat journalists sometimes wish it weren't so.

But I could be wrong about this.

Peter Dykstra is our weekend editor and columnist. His views do not represent those of Environmental Health News, The Daily Climate or publisher, Environmental Health Sciences. He can be reached at pdykstra@ehn.org.

What Lego—yes, Lego—can teach us about avoiding energy project boondoggles

A new book looks at why big projects fail and finds that solar, wind and transmission lines are some of the best kinds of big projects, while nuclear power is among the worst.

Sunrise in the woods

Get our Good News newsletter

Get the best positive, solutions-oriented stories we've seen on the intersection of our health and environment, FREE every Tuesday in your inbox. Subscribe here today. Keep the change tomorrow.

Minnesota's carbon-free electricity bill: 8 questions, answered

A bill speeding through the Legislature would require utilities to quicken their transition to cleaner energy. But it includes exemptions and ways they could meet the standard without ditching fossil fuels altogether.

Auckland: New Zealand’s largest city sees wettest month in its history after ‘unparalleled deluge’

Auckland has recorded the wettest month in its history, New Zealand’s climate science body said after the city was pounded by record-breaking rainfall.

Wet winter won’t fix Colorado River woes

Although the moisture is welcome, some experts worry it could further delay the hard work that managers of the watershed must do to keep it healthy and make its service more inclusive as the climate grows hotter and more parched.

The threat of ocean acidification

This film explores the alarming effects of ocean acidification, drawing on the expertise of scientists and the first-hand experiences of a Native Alaskan community. The film also looks at what can be done to lessen the problem.

From our Newsroom
oil and gas wells pollution

What happens if the largest owner of oil and gas wells in the US goes bankrupt?

Diversified Energy’s liabilities exceed its assets, according to a new report, sparking concerns about whether taxpayers will wind up paying to plug its 70,000 wells.

Paul Ehrlich

Paul Ehrlich: A journey through science and politics

In his new book, the famous scientist reflects on an unparalleled career on our fascinating, ever-changing planet.

oil and gas california environmental justice

Will California’s new oil and gas laws protect people from toxic pollution?

California will soon have the largest oil drilling setbacks in the U.S. Experts say other states can learn from this move.

popular stories 2022

Our 5 most popular reads from 2022

A corpse, woodworking dangers, plastic titans ... revisit the stories that stuck with our readers this past year.

Pittsburgh environmental

What I learned reporting on environmental health in Pittsburgh in 2022

For a lot of people, 2022 felt like the first “normal” year since 2020. It didn’t for me.

Stay informed: sign up for The Daily Climate newsletter
Top news on climate impacts, solutions, politics, drivers. Delivered to your inbox week days.