Dissent dwindles on climate change
I have yet to notice the balancing qualifiers so prevalent in the climate coverage of the past. Balance is not balance if it’s simply wrong.
President Obama, Chinese leader Xi Jinping, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan don’t see eye to eye on a lot of things. But they don’t differ on this: Humankind is warming the planet, and we need to do something about it.
As for climate scientists, it’s not too much to say that virtually all of them are on board with the idea that man-made fossil fuels caused by burning coal, oil and gas are heating planet Earth.
It wasn’t ever thus, this overwhelming feeling that those who would deny man’s influence on rising temperatures are simply wrong and not part of the conversation, whether in the negotiating rooms at Le Bourget, where United Nations climate talks are taking place through Dec. 11, or the wider debate around the world.
In Copenhagen in 2009, the last time world leaders congregated on this scale — 150 of them were in Le Bourget on Monday, a record outside the U.N. Assembly in New York — to try to forge a global plan to limit greenhouse gas emissions, the “deniers” were hardly a majority. They were on the margins. But they still loomed large over the proceedings in a way that filtered down to how the event was portrayed by the international news media, myself included.
I recall making the journalistic effort to inject “balance” into the stories I wrote by pointedly stating that there were individuals and groups that disputed the human contribution to cli- mate change. They were vastly outnumbered and outgunned, but the dissent seemed to deserve some recognition in the interest of journalistic balance.
About a month before the summit in Copenhagen, the Climate Research Unit email controversy, or inevitably “Climategate,” concentrated the minds of these dissenters.
A cadre of deniers had hacked into a database belonging to Britain’s University of East Anglia and claimed to have uncovered evidence showing that some scientists made up data to prove global warming existed. That evidence never fully materialized, but the alleged revelation cast a mini-shadow over those talks, at least in the public imagination.
It’s early days for the twoweek conference in Paris, but it seems obvious that six years and a lot of hand-wringing later, climate change skepticism has been further relegated to the shadows. The evidence, scientists agree, is that clear.
Unless, of course, you are one of the leading contenders for the Republican Party’s nomination to be the next president of the United States. “I consider it to be not a big problem at all,” front-runner Donald Trump has said. Ben Carson, another top candidate, has said, “There is no overwhelming science that the things that are going on are man-caused and not naturally caused.”
Still, this time around, I have yet to notice the balancing qualifiers so prevalent in the climate coverage of the past. Balance is not balance if it’s simply wrong. It’s faux balance.
The global scientific community says human-fueled climate change exists. The world’s governments say it exists. The case seems clear, and decisive.
Although not to everyone. One group is showcasing its global warming doubting wares in Le Bourget’s exhibition halls. The Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow, or CFACT, will debut this week in Paris a documentary called Climate Hustle, billed ( by CFACT) as the most important take on climate change since Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth in 2006. David Rothbard, the film’s executive producer, also the president of the organization, says in a news release that the documentary “debunks the (global warming) scare and clears the way for a return to sound science and rational debate.”
In the face of near unanimity from scientists and world leaders, his is a lonely crusade.
President Obama talks with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the U.N. conference on climate change.