From "journalism" to "annalism"

A suggestion to media which report issues of science, technology and environment

a scientist who studies the atmosphere and the hydrosphere

A Japanese version of this text was published in the December 2007 issue of the Journal of the Energy Conservation published by the Energy Conservation Center, Japan ( If you would like to cite it, please show the following as the reference.

It is needless to say that fossil fuels are limited resources. In addition, considering the outlook of global warming which has become more and more likely, it is now clear that saving of energy resources and transition to renewable energy sources are the tasks for the human society to start working with immediately. Global warming is not the only environmental issue, however. In order to conserve the ecosystems, we also must reduce our impacts by land use change related to agriculture and other activities.

To achieve this, while personal life-styles are also relevant, we must influence policies at both national and community levels. But no one can have expert knowledge of the whole of such a complex issue. Also few people can visit and see the localities where the issue has become very visible. (Even if it is technically possible, resource consumption would be prohibitive for everyone to travel around the world.) Efforts by media, including text, video and electronic communications, are crucial for us all to know what is happening, what is likely to happen, and what measure we can take to deal with that.

Media are useful with their current state. But I am somewhat discontent with the current state. Daily news papers and television channels chase something new every day. It may be very natural for journalism, since the word etymologically mean the attitude focusing on daily affairs. It is difficult, however, to have scientific findings understood by the audience by introducing a single scientific article. Even if the reported research is really a ground-breaking one, it will take some time for its reputation to settle. Though it is true that nowadays scientists tend to seek ever new results, they are "new" in the time scale of (order of magnitude of) one year. Similar things can be said for environmental change. Sometimes we really have rapid changes associated with explosive accidents or with landslides caused by heavy rain events, etc.. But more often, environmental changes are such things we recognize with observations lasting in the time scale of decades. I hope journalism to become something more aptly called "annalism" when it deals with science, technology or environment. I hope journalists to discuss what is new progress in this year on the base of knowledge of the developments in the past several decades.

[Note added in the English version: I find that the word "annalist" that should logically mean the person who conducts "annalism" has the same pronunciation as "analyst". This inconvenience may make my suggestion of the new term impractical. Please take my idea about the substance, not about the form.]

By the way, recently when I watch the shelves of bookstores, there are many books about climate change. But more eye-catching of them tend to be such books that tell either of the two extreme outlooks: "global warming will not happen" on one hand and "global warming will cause catastrophe of the whole human society" on the other hand. The thoughts of expert scientists are not actually very uniform, but, as they have continued research and discussion, the range of affairs which are likely to happen has gradually become finer. For example, I think that doubling of CO2 content in the atmosphere will raise the global mean surface air temperature by approximately 3 degrees Celsius. Estimates by other experts of the value of the same variable may be double or half of mine, but they are unlikely to be ten times larger or as small as one tenth of mine.

The majority opinion is not always correct. We have freedom of speech which allows telling extreme opinions. But the media should not concentrate in two extreme positions to see the current state either "no problem" or "no remedy". There are many people who think that there is hope but that we need to have appropriate policies to realize the hope.

Japanese HTML version 2007-12-07; English HTML version 2010-02-03, minor revision 2010-03-07, 2011-03-24
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