New York Times reporter Justin Gillis speaks to SEED members

Scott Brown, Reporter

Members of Students for Ecological and Environmental Development had a chance to talk via Skype on Tuesday night with Justin Gillis, a writer on climate change for The New York Times.

Gillis began the session by describing what led to his current career as a climate change journalist. He described how he had been working at The Washington Post as a writer on genetics when he began a fellowship at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. It was there that he began hearing more about climate change and realized it is an important issue.

Gillis decided to change his focus to writing about climate change and started working for The New York Times. He said the lack of journalism on the topic in both print and television media concerns him.

Members also asked Gillis about the report on climate change released Sept. 30 by the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Gillis was present at the most recent meetings of the IPCC in Stockholm, Sweden, where a group of several hundred scientists was working to compile their Fifth Assessment Report.

Gillis emphasized the significance of the carbon budget established by the report, which says that we should not emit more than one trillion tons of carbon into the atmosphere. This establishes what Gillis called a “carbon pie” of how much carbon can be emitted and poses the question of how to split it up among nations.

SEED co-president Mark Silberg said Gillis serves as an example to students of what they can do in the environmentalism field.

“Climate change and environmentalism are broad and interdisciplinary challenges, and they require diverse perspectives,” the Weinberg senior said. “Justin exemplifies some of the best journalism on this topic, and at SEED, we want to inspire students to pursue environmentalism and show them that there are a lot of different ways to do that.”

Gillis also spoke on campus last year at an event sponsored by the Northwestern Energy and Sustainability Consortium.

“If you look at the politics of the moment, things are just not moving,” Gillis told The Daily last October. “The overriding imperative here is to get accurate information over to the public, and in order to do that we’ve got to go back to the basics. … So I feel like if I’m going to come anywhere and make this case for upgrading our journalistic knowledge base, this is the right place to do it.”

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