Articles in the Daily Nebraskan from 1998 - 2010 Relating to Global Warming and Climate Change

Steven Kirchner, History 250: The Historian Craft

Global warming and human-induced climate change have historically been politically polarizing. College campuses have not been excluded from this conversation. At the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL), students and faculty have reported on and expressed their opinions regarding global warming and climate change through publishing articles in the campus press, The Daily Nebraskan (DN). The Daily Nebraskan will be examined to determine how the tones and viewpoints in articles published relating to global warming and climate change developed between 1998-2010.

Different categories of acceptance exist on this topic. While a variety of beliefs exist in regards whether or not humans are causing global warming and global climate change, the science is settled: the climate is changing and humans are the primary driver. People either outright believe in global warming and human-induced/accelerated climate change, believe the climate is changing but are skeptical on how much impact humans have, or deny that the climate is changing. Anyone can believe what they want, but that does not change what is actually happening.

One of the largest efforts to educate the public on global warming was led by former Vice-president Al Gore. Al Gore led massive public outreach to discuss his book, An Inconvenient Truth . Filmmaker Francis Guggenheim captured the behind-the-scenes of Gore’s mission in a 2006 documentary of the same title as Gore’s book. This placed this issue in front of many Americans, sparking an increase in overall public awareness and conversation about global warming and climate change. The year 2006 will be utilized as a perspective benchmark to place the DN articles in full perspective .

The first article to appear in the DN relating to global warming was in 1998. Jeff Woodford, a graduate student, submitted an editorial titled “Let me waste not”. The editorial focused on the role government should play in addressing “environmental problems of global warming, ozone depletion, filled landfills, wasteful energy expenditures, etc”. Woodford proclaimed it should not require the government to “regulate, demand, require, cooperate and otherwise be heavily involved” in addressing the aforementioned problems. These efforts should come from individual citizens who take the initiative and do what we believe to be environmentally sound.” This editorial shows the values of limited government on behalf of Woodford. (Let me waste not).

Ken Dewey, an important figure in the climate conversation at UNL, is a Regional Climatologist and an associate professor of climatology and meteorology in the School of Natural Resources at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Dane Stickney, staff writer for the Daily Nebraskan, published an article in 1999 about Dewey speaking at Love Library’s Great Plains Art Collection Gallery. Dewey spoke on the polarization of global warming and noted it as a “sensitive issue that has become very political”. Dewey asserted “global warming is mainly a result of more people and more industry.” The article demonstrates that sensitivity of this topic occurring even before the turn of the millenium. (NU professor dispels weather myths)

Two articles were posted in 2000, one regarding research and the other being Earth Day. Both articles were reports about happenings on campus. The article on research was short, and informative. Brigid Amos was studying the potential effects of global warming on soils (Down and Dirty). The second article reported on the 2000 Earth Day event and a Recognized Student Organization (RSO) on campus, Ecology Now. Ecology Now’s booth at the event focused on global warming. Aaron Ross, a member of Ecology Now, made a comment to the DN about their booth and said “ "We're focusing on bussing and biking as a solution to global warming." These articles are examples that both researchers and students were concerned enough about global warming to take action. (Organizations team up to celebrate Earth Day)

Evan Kuchera wrote an article in 2001 describing the theory of global warming and detailing reasons the science is not settled. Kuchera’s main purpose is show reasons for more needed research and to sensationalize the issue. Describing the theory, Kuchera asserts “Earth's surface is continually receiving heat from the sun. Some of that heat is radiated away from the surface, and certain molecules (carbon dioxide, ozone, water vapor, etc.) in our atmosphere trap it. Without this effect, dubbed the "greenhouse effect", our planet would be significantly colder than it is now.” The problem, Kuchera states, is “all the extra carbon dioxide [human-generated] traps heat that would normally be allowed to escape into space.” Kuchera’s call for more research and concerns relate to the “Urban Heat Island Effect”, negative feedback loops, and natural variations in Earth’s climate. This article shows students on campus were familiar with and understanding of global warming enough to raise logical rebuttals. (Understanding Global Warming).

Josh Knaub submitted a satirical piece in 2001 about global warming titled “Kill the ozone, turn-up the heat.” The author built the article around: “Whatever happened to global warming?” because he was “friggin’ freezing.” Knaub begins with suggesting building a wall to block the cold wind, realizing the difficulty in this he suggests something easier, “two words: Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), baby.”  Knaub goes through all the ways he will increase his CFC footprint to increase the amount of emissions he admits, from extra hair spray to leaving “comment cards until McDonald's brings back styrofoam Big Mac containers.” “With the pesky ozone out of the way”, all of his frigid problems will be solved. At the end of the article, Knaub admits one problem with his plan, “millions of other people will have to produce greenhouse gases with the same fervor I intend to.” He ends his article with “Maybe I should start building that wall to block the wind.” The article is satire because of the way the problem is framed, the solutions posed, and the conclusion thought of the author. Satire and comedy may have made the issue more approachable and taken it out of the typical politically polarized feeling.  (Kill the ozone, turn-up the heat)

“The Day After Tomorrow” released in 2004 and sparked concern over global warming. The movie may have been a sci-fi flick, but it increased awareness about the problem of global warming. Josh Haws wrote an article about the movie, asserting the movie was “over-simplistic to the point of propagandizing.” Haws went on to say that “while the movie may oversimplify the issue,it does integrate some truth that an increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide, because of burning fossil fuels and other human activities, is rapidly accelerating this global-warming trend.” In addition to an increase in CO2, Haws asserts that Milankovitch Cyclicity “plays an unpreventable role in global climate change.” He believes we have sped up the warming process and references Eileen Claussen, director of the Pew Center for Climate Change says on "The truth is that global warming is happening and that it is already too late to avoid some of the effects." This article also references the 2004 presidential election and Nebraska Senator John Kerry running for president. Haws touches on the seriousness of a multifaceted problem like climate change being “linked hand-in-hand with the economy.” Haws is explicit that whoever is president will need to be serious about “fuel research and science” and how they are linked to the economy. This article exemplifies the effect a movie can have on a person’s perspective and interest about a topic. Haws’ purpose is to make sure the audience understands “The Day After Tomorrow” is an oversimplified movie that touches on a real problem.  (Summer action flick sparks concern over global warming)

Energy, global warming, and climate change were popular topics in 2006 with five articles being published in the Daily Nebraskan. Alex Clark wrote on the 2005 Energy Policy Act and believed that the policy “came up short.” Focusing on the upper-class tax break portion of the bill, Clark stated that “if our goal is to slow global warming, shouldn't our nation institute a system of incentives that will lead to fewer fossil fuels being burned, no matter who is burning them?”  (New energy program comes up short) . Justin Marcus wrote an article titled “Diminishing oil supply should be first priority.” His article focused on the June 2005 issue of National Geographic that estimated a “trillion barrels of crude oil left” and Marcus asserts that this supply may be exhausted by 2040. Marcus is explicit that “this is the real crisis of our generation, not terrorism or AIDS or global warming”. (Diminishing oil supply should be first priority)

2006 is a particularly interesting year in the history of global warming and climate change. In March, Al Gore released his documentary “An Inconvenient Truth.” Jeremy Buckley of the DN wrote an article referencing the movie to set the context of the article. Buckley notes the vast amount of attention brought to global warming and its effects on Earth, but that scientists have been paying attention to this issue long before Gore’s documentary released. The article explains the effects of global warming on Arctic ice and the feedbacks associated. She interviews Mark Anderson, associate professor at the UNL, who received a $225,000 grant from NASA to sesearch the melting of sea ice in the Arctic. The article ends with a quote from Anderson, "This stuff is as relevant as taking any English class." (Global warming interfering with sea ice in the Arctic)

Two different events hosted speakers on the topic of global warming at the University in 2006 and 2007. The event in 2006 stressed the importance of global warming’s history. DN contributor Erich Eisenach reported on a lecture titled "Exploring the Role of the Hydrologic Cycle in Climate Model Simulations of Past Greenhouse Worlds," presented by keynote speaker Greg Ludvigson, a faculty member at the University of Kansas and member of the Kansas State Geological Survey. The lecture focused on how to understand the “greenhouse world on earth” and how to reconstruct climates. The 2007 speaker connected global warming to the Nebraska Sandhills. The lecturer was Haim Tsoar, a geoscientist at the Department of Geography and Environmental Development at Negev University in Beer Sheva, Israel. His research in sand dunes was interesting to connect to Nebraska. Michael John, a student in attendance said, “You hear a lot about the global warming debate. It’s kind of interesting that there is evidence of it in Nebraska.” (Global warming interfering with sea ice in the Arctic)

2008 presented two important viewpoints that are explicitly stated in their titles: “Lecturing Prof tries to convert global warming nonbelievers” and “'Inconvenient Truth' spouts global warming lies.” These two articles represent the ends of the climate belief spectrum. In January, professor Ken Dewey hosted a lecture titled, “The Arguments Against Those Making an Argument Against Human Induced Global Warming.” Dewey used the lecture to dispel climate denial myths and place the topic in realistic perspective for the attendees. Talking points included: human activity relation, reversing global warming and the economy, trade with China, and viewing climate in front of you. Dewey also talked about the importance of convincing nonbelievers is just as important to the “green movement” as reducing carbon footprints. The latter article was an opinion piece submitted by sociology student John Turner to discuss errors in Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth.” Turner opens the article with: “here is a shocker for you all: global warming is fake.” Turner points to a court case in the United Kingdom in which a parent sued the school for showing the film in his daughter’s class. A judge reportedly found eleven errors in the film. Turner discusses some the errors and then talks about natural cycles as the responsibility for the “.74 degrees Celsius” change over the last hundred years.

The various beliefs on global warming and climate change were expressed throughout the examined period. From 1998-2006, articles ranged from belief to skepticism to denial. The same can be said about the following period of 2006-2010. Articles ranged in coverage from opinion and editorial pieces to event coverage. The DN represented not only student opinions, but faculty as well. Ken Dewey has played a role in the climate conversation for over 20 years and has held a consistent voice. As time went on, the articles became more specific and from a more passionate point of view. The opinion pieces reflected more hardline stances following the premier of “An Inconvenient Truth.”



Articles in the Daily Nebraskan from 1998 - 2010 Relating to Global Warming and Climate Change