Turning Porter Ranch into a climate teachable moment

Turning Porter Ranch into a climate teachable moment

Since Christmas, California’s Porter Ranch methane leak has been making headlines across the United States. We spoke to Dan Cohen of Full Court Press Communications, an Oakland-based public affairs firm, about ways to amplify the full story around this disaster and spur a larger discussion about climate change.

Sutton Eaves: Long before the Porter Ranch leak, climate advocates were raising concerns about the risks of natural gas including the way it’s extracted (fracking), related emissions (methane) and the misperception around its role as a clean or renewable resource (compared to solar and wind). Now that Porter Ranch is making headlines, what are the pros and cons of using the event to raise awareness/concern about the climate risks related to natural gas and methane? 

Dan Cohen: This is an important opportunity to do exactly that and the risks are minimal. Unlike fights over building pipelines, this is happening, this is a real-time disaster, and this is (for now) unsolvable. This is also so visceral. The infrared visuals are haunting and essential to making this invisible tragedy real. Those videos can and should be utilized to make the case that this “invisible” danger is all too real. This is also an item built for social media dissemination.

SE: Much of the coverage to date has been focused on human health impacts. How can communicators connect climate issues to the prevailing health narrative? 

DC: There are lots of lessons to be learned from how asthma advocates have leveraged and changed the conversation about air quality. The key is making the story as human, as granular, and as personal as possible. And then setting out very specific and measureable ways to solve the problem. In the case of Porter Ranch, having as many unique and different voices cataloguing the health impact might be powerful, but then also sharing a series of common sense solutions to guard against future accidents would be helpful. 

Climate Access members can read the full interview.

Photo credit: Environmental Defense Fund blog.