ABC News global warming reporter to be science writer in residence

April 6, 2011

by Chris Barncard

Bill Blakemore, who leads coverage of global warming for ABC News, is the spring science writer in residence at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Blakemore will bring decades of international reporting experience to campus the week of April 11 to work closely with students, staff and faculty on news gathering and production, and to share his experiences at the leading edge of climate change science and policymaking.

Blakemore will also deliver a free public lecture — in conjunction with the Weston Roundtable Series hosted by the Nelson Institute's Center for Sustainability and the Global Environment — on Wednesday, April 13 at 4:15 p.m. in Room 2650 of Mosse Humanities Building.

The talk, "The Many Psychologies of Global Warming, from Poe's Imp and Lovelock's Apocalypse to What Sanity Would Look Like and Salvation Through Play Behavior," will turn the focus of global warming away from how the planet is reacting to human beings and back onto how the humans will respond.

Blakemore's work has taken in "courage-formation, play-deficit, animal intelligence studies, self-creation, humor, animal intelligence studies, instinctive learning and leadership techniques, hunter-gatherer survival traits, subconscious risk-assessment, denial and reactions to it, inter-generational bonding and group psychologies" and more an the way to understanding the impact of warming on the people who are causing it.

"There's five years of reporting in this, and none of those are a stretch at all," Blakemore said. "It's an incredibly complicated aspect to this that has just recently become a substantive part of our understanding of global warming."

It was the quickening pace of extinction that drew Blakemore to climate science after decades covering the Vatican during the papacy of John Paul II and assignments that included a dozen wars and political assassinations, hostage sieges, earthquakes, plane crashes and volcanic eruptions.

While working on a story about the disappearance of high-altitude amphibians he was introduced to the depth and breadth of data on man-made global warming.

"I was shocked about how much of the science had been established, how well-known this is," he said. "And how we — the journalists who should have known better — had been spun to a fair-thee-well by a campaign of disinformation and intimidation."

The UW-Madison Science Writer in Residence Program is sponsored by the School of Journalism and Mass Communication and University Communications. Blakemore's visit is also sponsored by the Nelson Institute and its Center for Sustainability and the Global Environment.

Now in its 25th year, the Science Writer in Residence Program was established with the help of the Brittingham Trust and continues with support from the UW Foundation. Past visiting writers include many of the nation's leading science writers, including three whose work subsequently earned Pulitzer Prizes.