environment Politics: denialism false equivalency media irresponsibility scientific consensus
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The Arizona Daily Star reprints Eugene Robinson’s column from the Washington Post, in which he wonders:
We’ve had two once-in-a-century storms within the span of a decade. Hurricane Sandy seems likely to be the second-costliest storm in U.S. history, behind Hurricane Katrina. Lower Manhattan is struggling to recover from an unprecedented flood and the New Jersey coast is smashed beyond recognition.
Will we finally get the message?
How, at this point, can anyone deny the scientific consensus about climate change? The traditional dodge – that no one weather event can definitively be attributed to global warming – doesn’t work anymore. If something looks, walks and quacks like a duck, it’s a duck. Especially if the waterfowl in question is floating through your living room.
For decades now, researchers have been telling us that one of the effects of climate change would be to make the weather more volatile and violent. Well, here we are.
And here we will remain, perhaps for the rest of our lives. Since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, when humans began burning fossil fuels in earnest, the concentration of heat-trapping carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has increased by an incredible 40 percent. We have altered the composition of the air.
Rupert Murdoch has a lot to answer for. He’s not the only one, but he’s a biggie on the list of climate criminals. Sent November 3:
Hurricane Sandy’s devastation has indeed brought the metastasizing greenhouse effect back in the national spotlight. But is our chronically distracted American media up to the challenge of addressing a long-term issue fraught with compounded interdependencies and complex variables? Because this country’s politicians are for the most part creatures of the media, taking their cues from the opinions of well-paid professional pundits, this is a crucial question.
Any scientist who’s experienced media coverage of his or her work can attest that the standard of scientific literacy in our print and broadcast media is shockingly low. Statistics are misunderstood, misrepresented and misreported; tentative conclusions are broadcast as breathless fact; robust correlations are dismissed; false equivalencies are rampant.
Can an accelerating planetary crisis motivate our news establishment to handle climate change with higher standards of reportorial accuracy and integrity? Far beyond Tuesday’s election, this is the crucial question of our time.