Screen Shot 2018-04-25 at 10.11.55 PMIn a world of “fake news” why did a respected institution such as Florida International University invite a popular climate change denier to speak at a conference where students and journalists are being trained about how to report on the subject?

Avid climate change denier James Taylor was given a platform to sit side-by-side Greg Hamra, of Citizens’ Climate Lobby, to discuss “opposing views” on climate change. The conversation was masked as a discussion on the formation of public policy. However, to the outside spectator hearing the words “climate change conference” and “James Taylor” in the same sentence brought an uproar and certainly, publicity to the event.

News first came out as an indignant response by respected South Florida meteorologist, John Morales, who said he refused to be moderating the talk in which keynote speaker Taylor would be debating with a scientist on the subject.

After the tweet, several local news outlets also chimed into the story. As well as people on twitter. How can FIU invite such a character as Taylor to reach students based on the “fairness” of reporting on opposing views?

Alejandro Alvarado, an associate professor at Florida International University and co-organizer of the event, told the Miami Herald not inviting Taylor is “like having a debate on gun control and not inviting the NRA,” said Alvarado. “The key word here is workshop. This is not a science forum. It is a workshop.” He also told the Herald Taylor was invited so students and journalists can learn how to ask the right questions and “predict the counterarguments” from influencers like Taylor.

Surprisingly the Hamra v. Taylor conversation had one consensus: Climate change is real. However, it is how Hamra and Taylor want people to act on it to prevent it how it differs in their views.

Hamra, on one hand, wants Americans to do a 180-degree change. As citizens of the world, need to look into alternative power sources such as wind and solar. For Taylor, his steps are more modest, such as looking into natural gas, but still using fossil fuel.

Taylor’s views, though, are tied to big money corporations. His interests are those of these companies, seemingly. Hamra seemed to want the changes for the conservation of the environment and being continuous to leave future generations place where kids can grow up and enjoy a healthy planet.

The discussion left many of the students perplexed and slightly a bit confused. Despite the workshop being an educational resource, Solangi Sosa, a graduate student says that she felt that Taylor might be right in questioning and opposing alternative energy sources because: “What if the sun doesn’t come out then solar energy might not be a viable way to provide energy for all part of the country.” Although this is something she considers possible thanks to Taylor, she says that it prompted her to look into facts to learn more about solar and wind energy. “Will wind power still work for places that are dry or inland?” Sosa questions and says she will research to be better informed as a future journalist.

The invitation of Taylor was controversial. But the rest of the conference was promising and informative with tools given by season journalists to young journalists. Like how to ask for a grant from Nat Geo and how to cover natural disasters.

John Morales offered a workshop on how to report climate change based on the scientific method. Biggest takeaway — People are allowed opinions but they must be attributed as unsupported by reporters if they are.

 

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