I’m continuing to clean out my inbox and I don’t mean that to diminish what I conceive to be the value of this and other similar columns that don’t address a single idea, theme or thread. The items below are pieces of the puzzle of the climate crisis, some positive, some negative, but all, when added up, fuel either a hopeful or despairing view of where we are and where we’re headed.

First up, what’s happening in Indiana? The state is among the top 10 coal producers in the U.S. and coal-fired power plants provide nearly three-fourths of its electricity. Some of the utilities in the state are planning a move away from coal and toward natural gas and renewables; something the coal industry is furiously opposing and leading to some fairly incredible legislative proposals.

A bill introduced last year would have placed a moratorium on the building of new power plants in order to prevent competition to coal from natural gas and renewables. This year, legislation has been brought forward to prohibit the state’s utility regulators from allowing a power plant to be retired prior to the end of its useful life unless ordered to do so by the federal government, excluding the Environmental Protection Agency.

One could consider these proposals to be negative news, or the lack of their passage as yet to be positive news. One thing’s for sure; creative proposals such as these will be coming up from all over the country as the fossil-fuel lobby fights to protect its interests.

Next up, five years ago, 21 kids got together and sued (Juliana v. United States) the U.S. government, arguing the lack of action to reduce emissions threatened to harm their life, liberty and pursuit of happiness. Just a couple of weeks ago the Ninth Circuit dismissed the kids’ case, indicating that they had no standing to sue and the court had no ability to order the complex and numerous legislative remedies necessary to reach the kids’ goal of limiting global temperature increase to 1-degree centigrade.

This was not an unexpected result for this novel attempt to rescue a future for the kids and could be viewed as a negative outcome, except for one thing. One of the three judges lambasted the government’s inaction.

She wrote, “In these proceedings, the government accepts the fact that the United States has reached a tipping point crying out for a concerted response — yet presses ahead toward calamity. It is as if an asteroid were barreling toward the Earth and the government decided to shut down our only defenses. Seeking to quash this suit, the government bluntly insists that it has absolute and unreviewable power to destroy the nation.” Maybe not enough to move this into the positive news column but perhaps at least a silver lining.

Third in line, it can be wearying, even terrifying, particularly if you are an environmentalist, to watch or read the news. It sometimes seems that crisis, calamity and corruption are everywhere. And, we have to admit, the political turmoil adds to our daily angst.

Well, it appears that some of the major purveyors of entertainment, including Netflix, Disney, BBC America, PBS and Apple, have noticed and, as pointed out in a recent New York Times article, “At a time when millions of species are at risk of extinction and deep-pocketed streaming services are spending billions on content, an old television genre, the nature show, is booming.” And, “There has never been more to watch for fans of the genre.” And, “nature shows are thriving on cable and public broadcast networks with roughly 130 original nature series airing in 2019, more than the previous three years combined.”

David Attenborough has become a global icon. This is not just about salving the stress of the times. According to network executives, the health of the environment, the plants and animals, the ocean and the land, is “the issue of the age.”

People care, and this translates directly into a positive signal that echoes the growing clamor for urgent action on the climate crisis. Lest we get to feeling too positive about all this coverage of the beauty and majesty of the world, we should not forget the elephant in the television world in the United States, Fox News, that speaks an entirely different message to its millions of believers.

Also positive, and fourth in line for this column, is one result of the increasingly negative news about the momentum of the climate crisis. People who directly report to the public on extreme weather events, TV meteorologists, are figuring out how to include climate science into their daily forecasts.

Discussion of climate science has long been a fraught topic for weathercasters and their TV stations, with many viewing it as a political issue and not wanting to take sides. This appears to be slowly but certainly changing. A survey of members of the American Meteorological Society and the National Weather Association found that in 2011 only 20 percent were sure that humans are the primary culprit when it comes to global warming. A survey in 2017 found that had increased to 80 percent.

A lot of this increased awareness can be attributed to the Center for Climate Change Communication at George Mason University and the nonprofit Climate Central that developed “Climate Matters,” a “climate reporting resource” that includes graphics and other materials to help meteorologists. Also provided were teaching sessions, workshops and even conflict resolution tips to deflate controversy, and how to tell stories about climate.

More meteorologists are now “skilled climate science communicators. One item not included in this toolkit is a black Sharpie pen.

— John Mott-Smith is a longtime resident of Davis. This column appears the first and third Wednesday of each month. Please send comments to johnmottsmith@comcast.net.

Crossposted from the Davis Enterprise

Published online on February 18, 2020 | Printed in the February 19, 2020 edition on page A3