For the last six months, major newspapers and news-magazines have completely misrepresented climate science to the detriment of our public discourse and our planet.
Newsweek argued that climate scientists are playing fast and loose with facts. The New York Times reported a controversy raging in the field of climate science. And countless other news outlets, blogs, pundits and writers followed these leaders.
As in the case of evolution, anti-scientific activists are demanding 'both sides' of a one-sided issue. By “teaching the controversy” of climate science, newspapers, magazines, blogs and tv personalities damage society's ability to deal with climate crisis.
The University of Anglia's Climate Research Unit (CRU) and its leader, Phil Jones have been the subject of a hacking attack that revealed unprofessional, improper emails sent between researchers. The content of these emails revealed the scientists to be, over the course of six years, occasionally spiteful. They were revealed to be concerned with the perception of their research. Spite and pride are hardly unique to CRU, and the actual content of their scientific output has never been challenged.
Even if the entire output been ignored, the international scientific consensus on climate science would remain.
Consider that CRU retained one of four major temperature records (the other three are based in the US, Japan, and China). Wherever one looks, one finds rising average temperatures and increasing bizarre weather events.
Similarly, the most recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report has been found on all subjects too conservative. From 2006 to 2009 ice melting, temperature increase, and greenhouse gas emissions have exceeded IPCC expectations, which were explicitly conservative. Yet mistakes about Himalyan glaciers and Dutch topography have been widely reported as threatening the validity of the report.
Last year, the Texas Board of Education adopted language requiring that teachers present all sides of the evidence on evolution and global warming and similar requirements exist in Kentucky, Louisiana, and soon, South Dakota.
Even the New York Times acknowledges that there is “no credible challenge to evolutionary theory” just as “there is wide agreement among scientists that global warming is occurring and that human activities are probably driving it.”
Yet the media continues to give the radical fringe, who deny the overwhelming majority of evidence, equal print space to a near-universal consensus of experts. This appearance of controversy becomes newsworthy, as the media begins to report on its own doings. Joe Romm, has done a service by not only debunking some ridiculous claims, but also explaining this process. He's pretty mad about all this.
But here's the thing: it doesn't matter.
While global inequality and access to information is a huge problem, most Americans can go to a public library and rent An Inconvenient Truth. They can use a public computer to go to www.realclimate.org or www.climateprogress.com/and learn the science themselves. People so disadvantaged that they cannot do this are probably not reading the Times or Newsweek anyway. This is unfortunate, but inequality and access to information are separate issues from climate politics.
What will it take for the media to awake from denial and repression to consciousness of change?
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