Saturday, January 2, 2010

NY Times Says: No Coverage on Global Warming... What!?

Apparently, Andrew Revkin at the New York Times believes that we haven't gotten enough news stories about Global Warming in 2009...

From his article, today; "The Greatest Story Rarely Told":

"The crew at, which is run by the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism, had already noted in a year-end wrapup that environmental coverage, including climate, was down somewhat from 2007 and 2008, representing 1.5 percent of overall coverage. (An important note: That analysis used data through Dec. 6, capturing the burst of news about the stolen climate files but missing the tumultuous climate talks in Copenhagen. Also, the weekly analysis for Dec. 14-20 showed a climate spike.) The picture has been very different online, with the same analysts noting sustained heat around climate on blogs.

There are many out there who blame the news media — either for ignoring global warming or mishandling it — for the failure of the public to engage in an energy revolution to limit climate risks. But my sense is such critics have inflated expectations of what media coverage, without a direct punch from nature, can accomplish. Mind you, media coverage of incremental, yet important, issues remains vital, to my mind; it’s just not sufficient (which is one reason I’m branching out).

There are many out there who blame the news media — either for ignoring global warming or mishandling it — for the failure of the public to engage in an energy revolution to limit climate risks."

So first off... Global Warming is a story that's "rarely" told!??

That's absurd! There are piles of media coverage on Global Warming... It was basically beaten into my head since I was a kid. I'd be hard pressed to think of a topic that I *haven't* heard more about or which has had more hysterical coverage over the last 10 years... It's not always about the sheer number of times stories come up either, but about the style, tone and delivery as well (which aren't mentioned in Revkin's article).

As graphical evidence (taken from the data, of course), Revkin points to the following chart...

Revkin whines that this is terrible because people are now underestimating the dangers of global warming and are prone to ignoring it... He even brings in Dr. Robert Brule to discuss the matter further.

From Dr. Brule:

"I think there is a danger that we can get used to global warming. Individuals 17 or under have grown up in a world where global climate change has always existed as a public concern. (The first climate treaty was negotiated in 1992.) So they don’t find the ideas of global warming unusual or outside of the norm. We can get used to a degraded environment. This process is known as normalization."
He's mostly right, but it's not individuals "17 or under". I'm approaching 27... When Fern Gully (which was the most ridiculously blatant "environmentalist" movie I can remember from my youth) was made - also and probably not coincidentally in 1992 - I was 9 years old. If Dr. Brule honestly thinks that people from my generation weren't affected by the same kinds of messages from the time they were 9 or 10 that the kids now are affected by from birth, he's nuts. Everyone from the age of 1-30 has spent effectively their entire lives having fears of pollution, deforestation, overpopulation and yes, global warming, pounded into our skulls.

So Revkin points out that the news media isn't doing great job promoting even more hysteria, but if anything, I think that chart might give credence to a different point entirely: That because of a few black-eye issues on global warming science (i.e. "ClimateGate") and because the models that predicted the Earth would be at it's warmest evar (ZOMG!) by now having failed miserably to predict record cold and a leveling off/gradual decline in global temperature in the past decade - news sources have deliberately avoided it as a topic this year.

I know people in news, I know tons of people in entertainment production... And while they are often dumb in the conventional sense, all the good ones are extremely savvy. They're also extremely ideological much of the time, deliberately in news to "change the world", and overwhelmingly "liberal" in the most stereotypical and uninformed senses possible. And they know that pushing global warming stories right now would be counter productive if the ultimate goal is to push environmental messages (which is all the rage, don't you know?)... So what are they going to say in 2009 Global Warming coverage? "Well, oops, the earth hasn't been warming nearly as much as we thought" or "Wow, those scientists really screwed up over at the CRU".

Of course not.

The point is not to just flood the airwaves with stories about *anything* related to global warming, it's to flood the airwaves with specific types of global warming stories: crazy weather events (caused by global warming), famines (caused by droughts, caused by global warming), greedy oil companies trying to manipulate us, "green" energy schemes creating new jobs or saving the planet... etc. etc. etc. But 2009 has been a pretty terrible year for most of those types of stories since we've seen record colds, a major scandal and are in general a little more concerned with bigger, more tangible issues...

You know... Like that whole economy problem that people seem to be a little more worried about at the moment.

At any rate, the idea that there hasn't been very much coverage of global warming is insane... And while Revkin admits that the chart was produced prior to the Copenhagen climate conference (funny how he asks us to find the words "Copenhagen" on it), I bet the chart or Pew's research doesn't factor in all the tangential coverage either - say on fuel emissions, Al Gore, or on Cap & Trade, carbon taxes and the like - ALL of which have to do with global warming, even if the story itself isn't. What's more, so much of the global warming stuff doesn't come in the form of "news", so much as it comes to people in the form of environmentalist-type movies such as Avatar.

It was Fern Gully and movies like it that first brought fears of environmental destruction to my attention. So let's be honest with ourselves here... 20th Century Fox' "Ice Age 2: The Meltdown" grossed almost $200,000,000 from box office revenue in the United States alone, and most of its audience was obviously children. I've got nothing against the film (in fact I think all the Ice Age movies are pretty cute), but when people like Revkin whine about lack of "news" coverage - they tend to omit the totality of global warming fear as a message in mainstream media & culture.

Most people don't actually get their ideas about the state of the world from "news" at all... They get it from the total sum of all the media they consume and the ideas presented to them by friends and family. News is only a small (though yes, influential) piece of that sum.

It's frankly about time for the news to shut up about global warming - we've got bigger things to talk about right now than what some scientists postulate will happen 100 years from now based on mediocre data and epistemologically impossible models. People are actually suffering right now, so maybe we should deal with that instead of making it worse by artificially jacking up the price of goods across the world.

Revkin's points fall flat for me as I hope they will with anyone who's not been living under a rock the last 3 decades... In the end though, it was kind of his reference of Dr. Brule that made the whole thing a joke for me, since Revkin notes that the good doctor...
"...has joined with Paul Ehrlich of Stanford University and many [he means... a few] other researchers in what they’re calling a “Millennium Assessment of Human Behavior.”"
Hanging out with Malthusian failure Paul Ehrlich pretty much says it all, doesn't it?

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