Skip to Content

Kendra Pierre-Louis, SM ’16

New York Times reporter expands public perception of climate change
February 26, 2020
Kendra Pierre-Louis
Courtesy Photo

“The number of Americans who are actually climate denialists is very small, about 10 to 15%,” says New York Times climate reporter Kendra Pierre-Louis, SM ’16, citing a 2015 study by the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication. “The far larger number accept the science but are still somewhat confused about the details of climate change. I’m writing in many ways for them.”

As one of the dozen Times reporters on the climate beat, Pierre-Louis says serving that audience begins with carefully choosing the stories she pitches to her editors.

“I used to joke that I had a policy of no coral reef or sea-level stories, because those are the stories that people hear over and over again, so then that becomes people’s perception of what climate change is,” she says. As a result, people who don’t live near oceans may conclude that climate change isn’t their problem. “I’m trying to get people to understand that climate change hits you where you live, regardless of where you live,” she says.

For example, Pierre-Louis has explored the links between wildfires and climate change—and explained the usefulness of small, controlled burns that “act as a kind of incendiary rake, clearing out grasses, shrubs, and other plant matter before they can overgrow to become fuel for bigger, more extreme fires.” She is always looking at all angles, she says, “constantly asking myself, what is the most important thing a reader needs to know, and how can I best communicate it?”

Pierre-Louis was pursuing a career focused on sustainable development when she authored Green Washed: Why We Can’t Buy Our Way to a Green Planet. That led to her earning a master’s at MIT in science writing, after which she landed a job covering the environment and climate change for Popular Science. Within eight months she’d written “This Is What America Looked Like Before the EPA,” a story that brought her to the attention of the Times. “I knew that the EPA had formed under Nixon with bipartisan support and had not always been this contentious agency,” she says.

At the Times, Pierre-Louis’s reporting has spanned such topics as buying longer-lasting and more sustainable clothing; why Duluth, Minnesota, is America’s most climate-proof city; and the effects of climate change on children’s health. She hopes to open her readers’ eyes to potential dangers before they’ve occurred. “We understand the science of climate change from a very macro perspective,” she says, “but there are many negative impacts that no one will be able to predict.”

Keep Reading

Most Popular

transplant surgery
transplant surgery

The gene-edited pig heart given to a dying patient was infected with a pig virus

The first transplant of a genetically-modified pig heart into a human may have ended prematurely because of a well-known—and avoidable—risk.

open sourcing language models concept
open sourcing language models concept

Meta has built a massive new language AI—and it’s giving it away for free

Facebook’s parent company is inviting researchers to pore over and pick apart the flaws in its version of GPT-3

Muhammad bin Salman funds anti-aging research
Muhammad bin Salman funds anti-aging research

Saudi Arabia plans to spend $1 billion a year discovering treatments to slow aging

The oil kingdom fears that its population is aging at an accelerated rate and hopes to test drugs to reverse the problem. First up might be the diabetes drug metformin.

images created by Google Imagen
images created by Google Imagen

The dark secret behind those cute AI-generated animal images

Google Brain has revealed its own image-making AI, called Imagen. But don't expect to see anything that isn't wholesome.

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose WongIllustration by Rose Wong

Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review

Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.

Thank you for submitting your email!

Explore more newsletters

It looks like something went wrong.

We’re having trouble saving your preferences. Try refreshing this page and updating them one more time. If you continue to get this message, reach out to us at with a list of newsletters you’d like to receive.