How to write a letter-to-the-editor about climate

Writing a letter to the editor is far easier today than in the past.

By Anthony Watts

We cover many climate topics on WUWT, and we often cover topics touted by the media that are exaggerated, misleading, or flat-wrong wrong. When those rebuttals we write are published on WUWT, they can be used in your own community to educate not only the local readership, but help the editors and writers at the newspaper to be more critical of some of the wildest claims crossing their newsfeed.

A few points about newspapers that you should understand:

  1. They are short of staff, overworked, and generally underpaid. Newspapers have lost huge amounts of advertising revenue in the last decade, and staffs have been slashed dramatically. Best practice – don’t make them work to get your letter published, they don’t have the time. Make sure spelling and punctuation are both correct.
  2. Newspapers almost never have a science-fluent staff member. Consider that when writing – complex claims may get rejected because they have no idea what you are talking about..
  3. Because they have little time, they often run stories from wire services like Associated Press (AP). Be sure to cite the source of the story and title if writing a rebuttal.
  4. Newspaper editors have a national interactive network, they can spot letter writing campaigns a mile away. Therefore – don’t use a form letter, don’t copy and paste sections from WUWT – make your letter unique.
  5. Every newspaper has a posted policy on letters-to-the editor. Many are different, ranging from 100 words up to 300 words in my experience. Be sure to look up the local newspaper policy (often listed on the editorial page) and make your letter fit that policy.
  6. If someone gets a local newspaper to offer a “guest column” slot on climate, ask for equal column space.

Some guidelines for writing an effective letter about climate issues.

  1. Grab the reader’s attention. Explain what the letter is about at the start.
  2. Explain why the issue you are writing about is right or wrong.
  3. Give evidence for your position. Better yet, state facts with citations. Example: “NASA published a paper in 2019 that said…”
  4. State your opinion about what should be done, or not.
  5. Keep it brief, within the max words policy for that newspaper. Most word processors have a word count feature you can use (hint: word count the body only). Work on keeping sentences short and to the point.
  6. Don’t use big words or equations, the newspaper can’t publish equations, and the general public won’t understand terms like “transient climate sensitivity” or “blackbody radiation”.
  7. Don’t insult other letter writers, or the editor/writers of the newspaper. Educate, point out where claims are wrong, or unsupportable. Unless you are responding to a direct insult or challenge, there’s no need to name names.

That’s it. If you want some examples of how I write letters, see a few here at the Chico Enterprise-Record which has a 250 word limit.

Letter: Climate history shows this isn’t abnormal

Letter: Climate emergency? Looks more like hype

Letter: Flying-unicorn solutions to the ‘climate crisis’

Letter: A great decade for the human race

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