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Tim McDonnell: Reporting from the Frontline

Semafor Climate & Energy Editor talks from Ukraine about his Net Zero newsletter

In this episode of Wicked Problems - Climate Tech Conversations, host Richard Delevan welcomes Tim McDonnell, the Climate and Energy Editor at Semafor, speaking from Kyiv, Ukraine. Tim shares his experiences and insights on covering a global beat, covering critical issues of climate and energy, amidst the backdrop of the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.

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Key Discussion Points:

  1. Reporting from Kyiv:

    • Tim discusses the challenges and realities of reporting on energy and climate issues from Kyiv, highlighting the severe power outages and the impact of Russia’s attacks on Ukraine's energy infrastructure.

    • He emphasises the resilience of the Ukrainian people and the strategic importance of energy in the conflict.

  2. Tim’s Journalism Journey:

    • Tim shares his journey from studying environmental science to becoming a prominent climate and energy reporter. He talks about his early career at Mother Jones, his work in Sub-Saharan Africa as a Fulbright fellow, and his freelancing experiences in Nigeria.

    • He explains how his perspective on covering environmental issues evolved, shifting from a science-focused approach to incorporating business and market dynamics.

  3. Energy Transition and Global Perspectives:

    • Tim reflects on the global energy transition, the role of traditional oil and gas industries, and the emerging importance of renewable energy sources.

    • He discusses his attendance at industry conferences, such as Baker Hughes’ annual meeting, and the evolving narratives within the energy sector, including the growing focus on hydrogen as a potential future fuel.

  4. Climate Finance and Legal Accountability:

    • The conversation covers the upcoming COP 29 summit, emphasising the critical need for increased climate finance from wealthy nations to support poorer countries in their climate mitigation and adaptation efforts.

    • Tim touches on the rising legal pressures on oil and gas companies to be held financially accountable for climate-related damages, a trend that could significantly impact the industry.

  5. US Election and Its Implications:

    • The episode also touches on the potential implications of the upcoming US elections on climate policy and global climate action, highlighting the stakes involved in political leadership changes.

Catalysts - Tim’s Recommendations:

  1. Personal Experience in Bangladesh:

    • Tim recounts a transformative month and a half in Southern Bangladesh, where he documented climate-related migration and displacement. This experience provided him with a visceral understanding of the stakes involved in climate inaction and deeply influenced his reporting.

  2. Fascination with Climate Tech:

    • Despite the challenges, Tim maintains his interest and enthusiasm for the technological advancements in the climate sector. The "gee whiz" aspect of innovative climate solutions keeps him engaged and hopeful for the future.

  3. Impactful Climate Journalism:

    • Tim encourages aspiring journalists to adopt a comprehensive approach, viewing climate stories through various lenses, including political, economic, and social perspectives. He underscores the importance of maintaining open communication channels with all stakeholders, including the oil and gas industry, to provide balanced and insightful coverage.

Call to Action:

  • Subscribe: Stay updated with Semafor’s Net Zero newsletter, where Tim McDonnell shares his latest insights and stories on climate and energy, published every Wednesday and Friday.

  • Support the Podcast: Consider becoming a paid subscriber to Wicked Problems for an ad-free experience, access to exclusive content, and the satisfaction of supporting independent climate journalism.

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A show about climate tech - the intersection of people, politics, technology, and capital that will help shape the future. And whether you'd want to live in it.