Texas Climate News, overseen by former Houston Chronicle environmental reporter Bill Dawson, features a newly expanded format with more original coverage by staff and contributors. Above, photo of the People's Climate March in New York City in September. Courtesy of Earth Justice.

June 30, 2015 

Who knew there’s an independent, thorough-going online news journal on climate change and sustainability, based in Texas? In Houston, Texas Climate News publishes news and analysis on climate and related issues, helmed by veteran environmental reporter Bill Dawson.

Opinion leaders and influencers in various fields subscribe to TCN. Now, with a new look, expanded coverage and reorganization with its own independent non-profit organization to drive its funding, TCN is targeting a wider audience.

Texas Climate News began in 2008 as a collaboration between Dawson and the respected Houston Advanced Research Center. HARC is a non-advocacy, non-partisan source of science research, such as the Urban Heat Island study that Texas cities are now using to address the dilemma of heat-trapping, dense urban development, with its rising infrastructure costs and health hazards. TCN followed its funders’ charter, as well as Dawson’s life-long journalistic principles, in maintaining editorial independence.

Dawson has covered the environment for more than 30 years for various outlets, joining the Houston Chronicle in 1984 and assigned full-time to environmental news in 1987. After a 17-year stint with the Chronicle, he worked as investigative reporter for the Center for Public Integrity, and thereafter as a freelance journalist and part-time environmental studies professor at Rice University.

Texas Climate News is backed by an advisory board that includes such knowledgeable environmental authorities as Randy Lee Loftis, longtime environmental reporter for the Dallas Morning News.

Left, Randy Lee Loftis, longtime environmental reporter for The Dallas Morning News, serves on the TCN board.

Is there public interest to support a news source devoted to climate and the array of associated issues?  

Dawson assesses the indicators from his vantage as a news veteran with a resounding “yes.”

“Look at the Peoples’ Climate March last fall, with marches around the world. In New York City, the march drew an estimated 400,000 people – unprecedented numbers.”

Polling over a number of years indicates a growth in public concern over climate, says Dawson. “When people are polled on their overall political priorities, environmental issues in general don’t rank high, compared to jobs, the economy…”  

But polls focused on climate tell a different story.

“The Kinder Institute at Rice polls annually…and the 2015 poll shows a continuing significant increase in people in Harris County who state that ‘climate change is real and human-caused,’” Dawson cites.  “Asked ‘how serious is climate change?’ a total of more than 70 percent rated climate change as ‘very serious’ or ‘serious.’  And this is in Houston, the hub of the U. S. oil and gas industry.”

Texas Climate News’ newly expanded format includes more original coverage by staff and contributors. Its TCN Journal section offers a mix of original reporting, analysis and summaries to explain news and trends.

“Our initial plan is for two to three new, original Texas stories weekly,” says Dawson, “with expanded coverage as our funding grows.”

The current TCN Journal displays six short pieces on news such as the increase of historically heavy downpours in Texas and 39 other states, a trend predicted by climate scientists.   (Remember Memorial Day weekend?)  

 The Features section offers several full-length pieces, including election analysis, a report on Texas’ “ban on fracking bans” and a review of whether Denton’s ban on fracking may be a harbinger of local resistance to state overrule of local control elsewhere.

This month, a Poll Roundup collects various surveys that show a 59 percent support for presidential action to address climate change, and 67 percent support for a tax on carbon emissions.

Left, mock headstone following passage of Texas HB 40, aka the Denton Fracking Bill. Courtesy of LocalControlTexas.org.

TCN also hosts Reports by Others, which Dawson describes as “only articles from reputable, non-profit, independent news sources that allow republication.”  

These may include Climate Central, the Texas Tribune and the UK’s Climate News Network.

How is the future looking for TCN? Dawson is “very encouraged by a recent jump in readership… and in the numbers of subscribers in response to the relaunch.” In the past week alone, Facebook followers increased by 12 percent.

Subscribers, those signed up for news alerts, “are a group with a large percentage of opinion leaders” and influencers in various fields, says Dawson:  “local, state and federal government; universities and research institutes; law and the health professions;  prominent Texas, national and international news media; plus environmental, faith-based and community organizations.”  

He notes that most readers are in Texas. However, amazingly, since TCN has no promotion budget, “people in all but a few nations of the world have also visited the website.”

Climate change is a world-wide phenomenon. Texas is a world leader of the oil and gas industry behind a large portion of the greenhouse gas emissions driving climate change. A news hub at the oil-and-gas hub makes sense.

See Texas Climate News.

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