Month 7, Day 31: Grrrrrrrrr.

Newsweek ran an article on the “biggest losers” from the Deepwater Horizon debacle. This approach is typical of the horserace-obsessed journalistic establishment, and it’s part and parcel of our national ADD. Among the “losers” was a climate bill:

Who could have predicted that a landmark environmental disaster would make a comprehensive energy bill even less likely? Yet before the Deepwater Horizon explosion, offshore oil and gas drilling was actually a point of compromise between Democrats and Republicans in Congress. Obama had lifted the moratorium on exploration off the East Coast, which seemed like a gesture to win support from “Drill, Baby, Drill” Republicans for more far-reaching proposals, including a cap-and-trade scheme to curb greenhouse emissions. Now, opposition to offshore drilling has increased in the wake of the spill. In fact, Obama has imposed a six-month moratorium on deep-water drilling permits. MSN’s Jim Jubak observed, “Without increased drilling as a bargaining chip to offer, there’s no way to build the coalition necessary to pass an energy bill that focuses on fighting global climate change.” His words were prescient–with little support from the White House, leading Democrats finally pronounced cap-and-trade dead in the Senate last week.

This analysis has a modicum of short-term political factuality to it, but it’s also a way for Newsweek to avoid confronting the truth about their role in shaping the discussion.

Yes, by taking offshore drilling off the table, the disaster in the Gulf of Mexico counterintuitively played a role in making climate/energy legislation less likely to pass the Senate. But our continuing failure to confront climate change can’t be blamed on BP’s malfeasance. Rather, the responsibility rests with those who have fostered a culture of denial which has made it possible for our policy-makers to ignore decades of increasingly urgent warnings. By perpetuating a policy of false equivalence in which every statement from a qualified scientist is balanced by a dismissal from an industry-funded denialist, our media conveys the impression of an unresolved controversy. If the “debate” over climate change were represented accurately, we’d hear forty-eight climatologists for every “skeptic.” Our print and broadcast media have abdicated their responsibility to the truth, and their failure is going to have painful consequences for us all.

Warren Senders

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