Backgrounders

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Issue Backgrounders are a monthly SEJournal Online feature to help journalists better cover emerging environmental issues, especially challenging or under-reported topics. Each Issue Backgrounder focuses on a specific environmental topic, offering key questions, basic answers, source contacts and other resources. For questions and comments, or to suggest future Issue Backgrounders, email Backgrounder editor Joseph A. Davis at sejournaleditor@sej.org.

 

May 18, 2022

  • A milestone legal challenge soon to be decided by the U.S. high court could severely limit how the U.S. government regulates the greenhouse gasses that cause climate change. The new Issue Backgrounder takes a look at West Virginia v. EPA, its legal implications, the politics behind it and what it would mean for efforts to curb future impacts of global warming.

April 20, 2022

  • A new ban is to be imposed on the last kind of asbestos still imported into the United States for use in commerce. But as the Issue Backgrounder explains, the regulatory back-and-forth over the substance by recent administrations won’t alleviate the biggest U.S. problem, which is the long history of its use in a wide range of building materials and other uses raising ongoing occupational risks.

March 23, 2022

February 23, 2022

  • The climate-security nexus has drawn attention from the Biden administration, but less so elsewhere, even as security experts worry about climate change as a threat multiplier that can exacerbate other causes of conflict. Our new Backgrounder explores these concerns, with a look at how the issue has played out in recent U.S. politics. Plus, seven global regions where climate change may worsen ongoing conflict.

February 2, 2022

  • The hype on hydrogen — and it’s various “hues” or forms — suggests environmental reporters should clearly understand how this energy source is produced, as well as the politics and industry PR behind its claims to be clean and climate-friendly. Our latest Issue Backgrounder provides the basics of hydrogen science, while cautioning about the industry’s “color game.”

January 19, 2022

  • With billions of infrastructure dollars now on the table to clean up orphan oil wells, states are already elbowing their way in for a taste. But as our new Backgrounder explains, the process to ensure they cannot pollute the environment or spew climate-change gasses is a complex one. And the sheer (and largely unknown) number of orphaned wells adds to the complications.

December 1, 2021

  • The history of environmental racism is a long one in the United States, far longer than the efforts to address the problem. But reporting on environmental justice continues to tick upwards, and an analysis in the latest Backgrounder points to promising progress, explaining why for journalists the year ahead may yield important stories, whether about future footholds or new missteps.

November 3, 2021

  • The COVID-19 outbreak has left little unchanged — including how environment reporters do their jobs, given that many experts believe the disruption of the human-wild interface could be the source of the next deadly virus. The new Backgrounder makes the case in this analysis, looking at how societies — and journalists — handled this pandemic and must prepare for possible future outbreaks.

October 6, 2021

  • It sometimes feels like journalists lurch from one catastrophe (or hurricane, flood, wildfire, heat wave) to the next. But that can mean missing the bigger story: Disasters, increasingly linked to climate extremes, are often interlocking events, in which one system failure causes the next and the next. The latest Backgrounder explores three case studies, and how news media can focus attention on steps toward resilience.

September 8, 2021

  • Carbon capture and storage technology has been around for years, but is being repositioned as a way to continue using fossil fuels in the face of climate change. Backgrounder takes a close look at how it works, its history and its politics. But even as the technology is taken up by Congress, the question is: Does the math add up?

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