Year 1, Month 2, Day 1: Energy Secretary Chu

Go and read this post from DK Greenroots’ A Siegel, all about how Business Week practices gross deception on their readership with misleading reporting on climate-change issues. It made me pretty mad. Tomorrow’s letter may go to Business Week itself; tonight I wanted to write to them, but I just couldn’t wrap my head around all the facts in Siegel’s piece sufficiently to compose a letter that would make any sense.

So instead I thought I’d write to Energy Secretary Chu, and tell him that he and his Department would have to find some ways to edumacate the media about how to do accurate reporting.

I swear, if we could harness the Idiot Wind, all our problems would be solved.

This letter was pretty long and kind of sprawling. I was too tired to write concisely.

Dear Secretary Chu,

I write as a concerned citizen. I want my daughter to grow up in a world where the threat of environmental devastation on a planetary scale no longer hangs over humanity’s head.

I am not a climatologist, or even any kind of scientist. But I am scientifically literate to the point where it is obvious to me that the difficult truths of global climate change are constantly overwhelmed by corporate-funded denialism and misdirection. The steady rise of atmospheric CO2, the acidification of our oceans, and the newest and most troubling trend of melting Arctic methane all suggest that the most profound existential crisis humanity has ever faced is at hand — and is being resolutely ignored.

Obviously we need concrete and practical solutions, and equally obviously they have to pass political muster. I do not envy your job, for it is self-evident that you (as an administrator) have had to approve initiatives which you (as a scientist) know are foolish and almost certainly a waste of time. So-called “Clean Coal” is one such notion; the idea that capture and sequestration of carbon emissions from burning coal could ever be cost-effective is absurd.

What can you and your colleagues in the Department of Energy do to promote scientific literacy in the media? Perhaps you could announce a regular series of awards from the DoE for the highest-quality scientific reporting in print and broadcast areas — with a special “bottom-of-the-bucket” category to highlight the worst deceptions perpetrated on an uninformed public by our corporatized media establishment. Awards announcements could be made with great fanfare, providing positive reinforcement for journalists and media figures who actually make the effort to explain complex subjects without lapsing into caricature.

I recognize that this type of action would normally fall outside your purview as a working scientist. Alas, by accepting a Cabinet position in the Obama Administration, you have also accepted responsibility for making your department’s work make sense to the general population — a task which is all but impossible in today’s corrupt informational environment. You and your Department need to take the initiative strongly, and give the media what it needs: a circus. If you can give our ADD-affected punditocracy a better circus than that provided by corporate flacks, your message will have a chance of changing the minds of Americans.

Right now, with an increasing number of my compatriots believing that global climate change is illusory, it seems the voices funded by Big Oil and Big Coal are winning the battle. If the Venusian worst-case projections of Dr. James Hansen are accurate, it will be a Pyrrhic victory for the energy companies, for within a few centuries there won’t be a human customer base for them to lie to.

Good luck.

Yours sincerely,

Warren Senders

Here’s how to reach the Department of Energy.

1 Feb 2010, 11:51am
by steve r

Good idea, Warren! I’m wondering if the NSF gives some awards like that.


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