Letter: The media’s fault
The opinion columns of Hal Sundin in the Nov. 5 PI and of Timothy Egan in the Nov. 13 New York Times are relevant to the upcoming Climate Conference in Paris, which is projected by most scientists and economists to fall short of the goals needed to reverse climate change. Mr. Sundin espouses respectful, rational discussion. Mr. Egan bemoans the “crash of traditional [journalism] business models” which have “impoverished the practitioners of daily journalism.” He states that real reporters have been replaced by “fake reporters.”
I think the national 42 percent decrease in newsroom personnel and the fewer resources given to “traditional” and investigative journalists has led to failure to cover man-made global warming, or AGW, in a professional manner. Journalism has been derelict in its public duty, witness the lack of meaningful climate change questions during the presidential debates.
Traditional journalism has presented the issues as a “debate” between two “groups of scientists,” permitting the public to envision a 50/50 proposition. The fact is, more than 99 percent of climate researchers (who have published in peer-reviewed journals in the last decade) agree with the proposition that humans are responsible for global warming. Even Exxon climate scientists reported in the 1970s that AGW was a real threat to the world; their bosses buried the report and embarked on a crusade of disinformation.
I think human psychology is the cause of most climate change indifference or denial. Humans, when facing a distant risk with disastrous consequences and a current risk of lesser consequence tend to magnify and concentrate on the lesser problem, e.g., ISIS versus AGW. Psychology is at play again when one’s core beliefs conflict with indisputable facts requiring ideologically “unacceptable” solutions. Keeping one’s beliefs then requires denying or ignoring the facts.
This psychology may explain the reluctance of journalists to accept that a fair presentation of the climate change science “debate” would be 99 to 1. It may explain their not taking a stand to promote global actions against climate change. Journalists, neither being climate scientists nor perhaps trusting the processes of scientific discovery, may have failed to recognize the dangers of AGW so clearly presented by climatologists. Another possibility, sadly, is that journalists are too highly constrained by the views of their corporate bosses.
Fortunately, there are things we can do to address the issue of AGW without a pointless argument about irrelevant scientific details. These actions need not conflict with the mythical American ideologic ideal of rugged individualism held by so many of us. These actions can provide stimulus to the economy. The key, according to most economists, is placing a price on the negative effects of carbon, allowing the free market to work its wonders. According to the experts, we need to act, not now, but “yesterday.”
The participation of a traditional, knowledgeable press corps, reporting with integrity, will be necessary to create the public support for these actions.
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