Pulitzer Center Update

This Week: Climate Change Casualites

With an average height of just 2 meters above sea level, the islands of the Pacific nation of Kiribati are threatened by rising


Four weeks from today experts and government leaders from around the world will gather in Paris for a major climate change conference aimed at achieving a legally binding commitment to reduced carbon emissions. In the run-up to that potentially historic meeting, Pulitzer Center grantees are reporting on climate change issues from around the world.

Eli Kintisch, writing for National Geographic from the Russian and American sides of the Arctic, suggests that one harbinger of global warming may be the melting of ice cellars that Inuit fishermen have traditionally dug to store their stock of bowhead whale. Another is the rapid thawing of the region’s permafrost—and with that thawing the likely release of high concentrations of carbon that have long been trapped within.

Kenneth R. Weiss reports for Nature from the central Pacific atoll of Kiribati, the remote island nation that has become a poster child for climate change with its president’s prediction that within decades it will be submerged by rising seas. The science may be more complicated than that, Ken writes. “Although the sea presents an existential threat, the more immediate problem is not too much water, but too little—of the fresh, clean kind.”

Justin Catanoso, director of the journalism program at our Campus Consortium partner Wake Forest University, has reported from Peru for multiple outlets on the local impact of Pope Francis’s call for action on climate change. Justin’s latest dispatch, for Mongabay, cites the call for legally binding carbon-reduction standards by Catholic prelates representing bishops’ conferences from every continent.


When Francis visited Cuba in September he called for a “revolution of tenderness.” But even as Cuba and the United States take significant steps toward normalizing relations that had been frozen for decades, grantee Tracey Eaton reports, conditions for dissidents remain harsh. In a dispatch for Havana Times, citing data from the independent Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation, Tracey writes that arbitrary detentions during the month of Francis’s visit totaled 882, the highest number in over a year.


Claire Felter, a Pulitzer Center student fellow from Boston University, reports from Zanzibar for Global Health NOW on the success of local programs aimed at combating an under-reported global scourge—deaths by drowning that claim over 350,000 lives a year. Claire notes that in Zanzibar, a predominantly Muslim country, a special focus has been the provision of modest swim attire for girls so as to encourage their participation in the swim lessons.

Student fellows Rodrigue Ossebi (LaGuardia Community College) and Charlotte Bellomy (Wake Forest University) report on discrimination against African immigrants and Muslims in Paris. Priya Ramchandra (University of Pennsylvania) addresses the challenges of serving poor patients in Andhra Pradesh. John Soper (Davidson College) reports from Ghana on the oil boom that wasn’t.

Tweets, photos and quotes from these students and other fellows about our Washington Weekend are featured in this Storify, curated by social media editor Quinn Libson.

Until next week,

Jon Sawyer
Executive Director