A message from Texas Climate News editor Bill Dawson

Saints, full-size

“When the Saints Come Marchin’ In,” a painting by Austin artist Jon Eric Narum, portrays a skyscape at the edge of the Texas Hill Country. Copyright 2006 Jon Eric Narum. Used by permission of the artist.

Welcome to the new (and improved!) Texas Climate News.

We’ve reorganized, introduced a new design and added new features. Most importantly, we’ll be regularly producing much more of our original reporting and analysis about climate and sustainability in Texas – and points beyond.

To do that, a new nonprofit organization has been established – also called Texas Climate News – with the sole mission of continuing this magazine’s publication.

One thing hasn’t changed – our commitment to public-interest journalism with the single goal of enhancing public knowledge and understanding of a range of interrelated and important issues.

A brief tour

The most obvious change at texasclimatenews.org is a beautiful, faster-loading and easy-to-navigate new design that showcases the original coverage by our staff and contributors and enhances readers’ access to it.

Beginning with the assortment of new articles that are being posted on the home page along with this message, you’ll find much more original coverage, published much more often, at TCN.

We’ve added a new section for some of our own articles. It’s called In Passing and provides a home for articles presenting our assorted gleanings and for our shorter reports.

Below the top four articles on the home page is a column presenting our latest original coverage. Here, you can display the most recent stories from all sections or articles in one section.

Some of the kinds of material in In Passing were previously posted in TCN Journal. TCN Journal continues as the section for a mix of our original reporting, analysis, and explanatory summarization and synthesis of news and trends. Features (formerly Feature Stories) remains the place for our longest, in-depth reporting and analysis.

Smaller changes: Reports by Others is the new name for Featured Reports, the section for full-length articles by other news outlets, republished here with their permission. And On Other Sites is now the name of our section with linked headlines to selected coverage elsewhere, formerly called Other Reports.

Looking ahead, we have more new features planned, including the introduction of occasional podcast conversations. If all goes well, we’ll start posting video mini-documentaries, too. Other ideas are percolating.

Now completely independent

TCN has enjoyed total editorial independence since its launch in late 2008. Our former publisher, the nonprofit Houston Advanced Research Center, provided fundraising, technical and other support. Neither I nor TCN’s other journalists were HARC employees.

I’ll always appreciate HARC’s leaders’ enthusiastic acceptance of my proposal that they sponsor this magazine. Over time, inspired by the success of freestanding nonprofit news organizations, I decided it would be in TCN’s longterm interest if it were freestanding too.  At the urging of family, friends and advisers, I began the long project of establishing a new nonprofit organization to be the publisher. With that accomplished, TCN is now institutionally, as well as editorially, independent.

Many thanks to all the people who helped with their invaluable advice and assistance. They include:

  • The two Houston attorneys who devoted many pro bono hours helping set up the new nonprofit and are members of its board of directors – Bob Etnyre and Steve Lee.
  • Everyone at our 501(c)(3) fiscal sponsor, the Institute for Journalism and Natural Resources, especially IJNR’s founder, Frank Allen, and CEO, Dave Spratt. IJNR is receiving and transferring donations to TCN until we have our own 501(c)(3) designation.
  • The two philanthropies that generously provided start-up funding – the Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation and the Jacob and Terese Hershey Foundation.
  • The volunteer members of TCN’s new advisory board – a prestigious list of respected individuals in science, journalism and other fields.
  • The three colleagues who have helped to propel TCN down this path and now appear on TCN’s first-ever staff list – Jim Simmon, Greg Harman and Krist Bender.
  • My wife, Glenna, without whose constant love, support and encouragement the new TCN wouldn’t exist. And our son, Will, a supremely talented designer who donated hours upon hours of work to create this new website.

The same mission

A lot has changed since 2008, when TCN first appeared. Just weeks earlier, both Democrat Barack Obama and Republican John McCain were campaigning with similar proposals for mandated reductions of climate-changing greenhouse gases. Climate change, of course, became a much more partisan and ideologically divisive issue since then.

Science has marched on, with a solidifying consensus among researchers in Texas and around the world that humans are harmfully altering the planet’s climate with pollution from fossil fuels. More extreme weather events consistent with climate scientists’ projections for a warming world have occurred – among them, the record-setting Texas heat wave and drought of 2011, the current California drought, and the catastrophic flooding in Texas just a few days ago.

Other things stayed much the same. Texas remains vulnerable to various impacts that a human-influenced climate system is projected to bring. Texas still leads the nation in emissions of greenhouse gases and is still the nation’s oil-and-gas capital. (It’s the wind-energy capital too.)

All of that – and more – means there’s ample need for a publication, produced in the public interest, that focuses exclusively on the interwoven subjects that we cover. Texas Climate News is not a breaking-news site. We don’t mainly tell you about events that just happened, as rapidly as possible. We report, analyze, synthesize and interpret what they mean and what they may portend. We try to produce what Mitchell Stephens, a journalism professor at New York University, calls “‘wisdom journalism'” in his 2014 book “Beyond News: The Future of Journalism.” He defines this “amalgam” of journalistic forms as “journalism that strengthens our understanding of the world.”

It’s admittedly a pretty lofty-sounding (and I hope not pretentious) mission, particularly in a journalistic universe with an accelerating news cycle, social media’s rapid-fire repostings, and plenty of clickbait headlines, slide shows, and lists of the “10 things you need to know now” … about something or other. (“You won’t believe No. 5!”)

Here’s part of what I wrote when I introduced TCN in 2008. It still applies:

Our goal is to enhance Texas citizens’ knowledge and understanding of important developments in science, government, business, citizen action and other areas. We want to help inform the public dialogue that’s unfolding as Texans confront a changing climate and work to build more sustainable futures for themselves and their descendants.

Please continue to visit Texas Climate News. You can follow us by subscribing to our alert services – our more-or-less weekly email newsletter and our Twitter, Facebook and RSS feeds. Tell your friends, relatives, colleagues and others about us. Consider helping out with a tax-deductible donation – all gifts, no matter how small, are greatly appreciated. Thanks for reading.


Jon Eric Narum, creator of the painting at the top of this article, is an Austin-based artist. One of his specialties is painting Texas skyscapes. His website biography: “Hopeless romantic, child of the ’60s, ex-jock, certified perfectionist, vegetarian, economic efficiency expert.” His “artist’s statement”: “I’ve never had the goal of trying to see how fast I can paint.”