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Hundreds of journalists are in Paris for the next two weeks to cover high-profile United Nations climate talks. The big story: negotiations to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change.

Yet there’s another story in the wings — the emerging question of how societies will prepare for climate impacts that are coming despite even the steepest cuts.

The new Reporter’s Guide to Climate Adaptation, produced by the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute, promises to help journalists tell this often under-covered story.

Most countries attending the Paris summit are expected to commit to national plans that would cut back greenhouse gases to less dangerous levels.

But experts believe the effects of climate change are already happening and will worsen in the not-too-distant future, bringing rising sea levels and greater flooding, more storms, heat waves and drought, heavier rains, and spreading wildfires.

The need to prepare is on the Paris agenda in the form of complex discussions around the Green Climate Fund, which proposes richer nations pool $100 billion-per-year in large part to help less developed countries adapt to impending climate risks.

But adaptation will only become increasingly important in the wake of Paris, as more communities, governments and businesses begin to recognize climate risk and ready themselves for the possibility of disastrous changes.

Finding adaptation resources

RJI created the guide to foster improved coverage of this developing story. The free, mobile-friendly resource provides an animated explainer and backgrounders on adaptation, plus suggested story angles and reporting case studies.

But the heart of the guide is an extensive database of resources for journalists to research and report the story. More than 200 sources — from government reports and datasets to industry and nonprofit sources — are carefully annotated, with overview information and ideas on how journalists might use it.

Each source is then sorted into one or more of 30 categories covering six specific types of climate risks, 18 areas of policy responses and 11 global regions.

For example, journalists can click a link to find more than 20 sources that address public sector investment, as well as organizations providing database maps that profile on-the-ground adaptation investments across the globe.

Another set of resource links yields dozens of sources on floods, storms and sea-level rise. Resources include a set of NOAA climate maps that can be re-used by news organizations for their audiences, climate tools from FEMA, and an EPA stormwater calculator.

More than 100 sources deal with adaptation in the United States, including regional breakdowns for the Northeast, South, West and Midwest. Global sources number more than 60, with breakdowns for Asia and Oceania, Africa, Europe, and Latin America and the Caribbean.

Sorting, searching, sharing

A secondary level of sorting is also possible. If a journalist wants to consider the type of source, they can check government-issued reports, or information from academic institutes, advocacy groups or media. How recent the source is also sortable, starting with 2015 and going back seven years.

The free-form search function is another way to sort through the resources. For instance, search for “United Nations” and find 10 distinct UN-related sources dealing with varied aspects of the adaptation issue, as well as references to the agency elsewhere in the Reporting Guide. Searches for “New York” draw 18 more, many dealing with the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy.

Since available resources about adaptation are so voluminous and varied, the guide also provides a way for reporters to share additional resources for consideration, as well as to tell us how they used it.

Learn more about the Reporter’s Guide.

A. Adam Glenn  


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