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The facts on climate change — and what to do about it

April 1, 2017 at 5:07 PM EDT
In advance of Earth Day on April 22, National Geographic Magazine released its latest edition this week featuring the guide, “Seven Things You Need to Know about Climate Change.” It includes facts from scientists about the causes of climate change and how humans can help mitigate its consequences. For more, the magazine’s editor in chief Susan Goldberg joins Hari Sreenivasan.

HARI SREENIVASAN, PBS NEWSHOUR WEEKEND ANCHOR: 2014 was the hottest year on Earth since modern record-keeping began in 1880. That is, until 2015. And then that was replaced by the hottest year on record, 2016.

In advance of Earth Day, which occurs three weeks from today, on Saturday, April 22nd, the new edition of “National Geographic” magazine out this week, and the website,, have published “Seven Things You Need to Know About Climate Change.”

To discuss that guide and related issues, I’m joined from Washington by “National Geographic” editor-in-chief Susan Goldberg.

First, why does “National Geographic” feel it’s necessary to do this type of a story?

SUSAN GOLDBERG, EDITOR IN CHIEF, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC: We want to do stories about climate change because “National Geographic” has been doing this kind of coverage for our — really, the entirety of our 129-year history. We’ve been writing about the planet and the health of the planet, animals, the environment, history, and cultures. And all of these topics are affected by what we’re seeing with climate change

You’re not a partisan organization. You’re not trying to take sides in the political debate, though, are you strongly pro-science and pro-fact.

GOLDBERG: Well, what we always say is we’re on the side of science, we’re on the side of the facts, and we’re on the side of the planet. And I think you can be on the side of the planet and not be partisan. We are a proudly and strongly nonpartisan organization, but what we are trying to do is give policymakers and the public the facts so they can make informed decisions about things like climate change, the Environmental Protection Agency, and how to keep the planet healthy

SREENIVASAN: All right. Let’s take a look at the cover the piece. It rattles off some of these seven reasons that the world is warming, number two, it’s because of us, and three, we’re sure. Those are usually the topics that are the most challenged by climate-change skeptics or deniers?

GOLDBERG: People almost view how they view climate change as part of their identity. The way I think we can play a role here is to help people understand by presenting stories through pictures, through amazing graphics, and, also, dishing up a healthy dose of the facts, but doing so in a way that will draw people in, rather than put them off

SREENIVASAN: One of the sections in your magazine is the ice is melting fast. We have heard several different stories just in the last few months about ice shelves breaking off. How significant is this?

GOLDBERG: Well, it’s really significant in two ways. If you took Alaska and California’s land mass together, that’s how much sea ice didn’t form this year in the Arctic. And then what– and so, that’s one aspect of the story. The other is the melting of the ice sheets and glaciers in Greenland and in the Antarctic and the melting of those is what’s causing the sea level rise that we’re already starting to see.

SREENIVASAN: We’re also seeing wildlife being impacted around the world. I mean, there were stories just in the last few weeks about huge chunks of the Great Barrier Reef that are dead.

GOLDBERG: Exactly. And the coral is just one aspect of what’s happening with the rise of sea temperatures and the rising acidification of the seas. So, we’re seeing animals showing up in place where’s they never really have before, whether you’re talking about what happens underneath the water or on the land

SREENIVASAN: You know, and this is at a time when you have new leadership at the White House and also the Environmental Protection Agency, and they’re making fairly significant policy judgments right now.

GOLDBERG: The administration has proposed a 31 percent cutback in the EPA, and while, this of course, has to go through Congress, and it could look different on the end, the president’s budget is always a good indication of his agenda. So, he wants to cut back the EPA 31 percent, dismantle programs to clean up the Great Lakes, clean up Chesapeake Bay, clean up Puget Sound and any number of other areas.

So, it’s our job at “National Geographic,” not to comment on the policy change, but to explain how that could affect people and wildlife

SREENIVASAN: Susan Goldberg, editor in chief of “National Geographic” — joining us from Washington today. Thanks so much.

GOLDBERG: Thank you, Hari. Appreciate it.