When it comes to energy and the environment, we face a massive paradox.
On the one hand, these issues have never mattered more. Humans are facing the biggest environmental threat in history — climate change — and gambling with the chances of not only substantial warming but a dramatic rise in sea levels. At the same time, new environmental and energy challenges are emerging. Energy companies today are seeking ever harder-to-get resources, ushering in a new host of risks — and opportunities — associated with deep water drilling, fracking, tar sands and more.
And yet even as we see the potential of these developments to reshape the world — witness how the shale oil revolution helped to tank oil prices — we also find a public deeply disengaged from these subjects or even in outright denial about them. Partisan schisms and diverging, emotionally rooted values about environmental issues are now the norm. Climate change may be the most polarizing issue in America, second only to whether you like President Obama.
My name is Chris Mooney, and today we launch new coverage at The Washington Post that will deconstruct these issues with an audience of consumers, policymakers, executives and scientists in mind — in the United States and around the world. We’ll explain the news, the problems and, importantly, the solutions from technological advances to legislation that can help.
Bookmark our page, follow our Twitter account, sign up for our e-mail newsletter, check out our first major story, and return often — because we’ll be posting multiple times a day about everything from how to save the world from climate change to how to save money by better conserving energy at home.
Some of you will know me already as a longtime science and environmental journalist, and more recently, as the energy and environment voice at Wonkblog. That was just a start. We are now upping our environmental focus and launching this new coverage to bridge the gap between the urgency of environmental and energy problems and a public that too often finds them mystifying, off-putting, daunting and dizzying.
Granted, it’s easy to understand why people often ignore or turn off from environmental problems and why they show such low salience in public opinion polls. Generally speaking, it’s just tough going: As if the science behind them isn’t complicated enough, the economic and policy considerations are equally complicated.
On a deeper level, there may be something about human beings, at their core, that makes certain environmental issues just plain difficult to comprehend or care about. Take climate change: It seems that our brains just aren’t good at coping with slow-moving, long range problems of this type. Climate we tend to shut out, ignore, forget.
That’s why with this blog, even as we’ll be covering all aspects of energy and the environment, we’ll also be intensely focused on the disconnect that often prevents these topics from resonating as they should.
That includes exploring the psychology of how people process environmental and scientific information and how they interact with energy and environmental conservation in their daily lives. This will be a key part of what makes our approach here unique, and if you’ve read some of my prior pieces at Wonkblog — “Americans could save a fortune this winter, if they only understood their thermostats,” “The 7 psychological reasons that are stopping us from acting on climate change,” and “This is why people still think they should idle their cars in winter” — then you have a preview of what to expect.
Or you can just check out our first piece, which continues very much in the same tradition: “The next energy revolution won’t be in wind or solar. It will be in your brain.”
I’m the lead writer and curator here, but the content won’t be mine alone. It will also include freelance contributions (from Wonkbook contributor Puneet Kollipara) and contributions from The Post’s talented environmental writers such as Juliet Eilperin, Joby Warrick, Darryl Fears, Steven Mufson and Lori Montgomery.
So we hope you’ll visit Energy and Environment often, for this simple reason: This stuff matters, and we’re making it our job to show you why.