The Silence Of The Climate Lambs

The Fourth Estate’s failure to address the clearest and most present danger of the century continues, enabling the failure of politicians in turn – they’d be as well serving us all up grilled with fava beans and a nice glass of Chianti.

Widespread drought, Superstorm Sandy, and a melting ice cap failed  to revive the media’s interest in climate change in 2012, with worldwide  coverage continuing its three-year slide, according to a media database  maintained by the nonprofit journalism site The Daily Climate.

The decline in the number of stories published on the topic – 2.4  percent fewer than 2011 – was the smallest since the United Nations  climate talks collapsed in Copenhagen in 2009.

Coverage of climate impacts – extreme weather, melting glaciers and  Arctic ice, warming temperatures and more – dominated climate news,  accounting for almost one of every three stories written on the topic in  2012. That is the highest proportion in the five years that the website  has been tracking coverage.

…Last year 7,194 reporters and commentators filed 18,546 stories,  compared to  7,166 reporters who filed 18,995 stories in 2011, according  to The Daily Climate.

The numbers remain far from 2009′s peak, when roughly 11,000  reporters and commentators published 32,400 items on climate change,  based on the news site’s archive.

Bill McKibben’s empassioned plea this week is worth a read in full. He has this to say about Obama’s stance on climate change, one that is enabled by the mainstream media’s ignoring the issue.

Only at the very end of the campaign, when Hurricane Sandy seemed to present a political opening, did he even hint at seizing it — his people letting reporters know on background that climate change would now be one of his top three priorities (or maybe, post-Newtown, top four) for a second term. That’s a start, I suppose, but it’s a long way from telling the car companies they better retool to start churning out wind turbines.

And anyway, he took it back at the first opportunity. At his post-election press conference, he announced that climate change was “real,” thus marking his agreement with, say, President George H.W. Bush in 1988. In deference to “future generations,” he also agreed that we should “do more.” But addressing climate change, he added, would involve “tough political choices.” Indeed, too tough, it seems, for here were his key lines:

“I think the American people right now have been so focused, and will continue to be focused on our economy and jobs and growth, that if the message is somehow we’re going to ignore jobs and growth simply to address climate change, I don’t think anybody is going to go for that. I won’t go for that.”

It’s as if World War II British Prime Minister Winston Churchill had declared, “I have nothing to offer except blood, toil, tears, and sweat. And God knows that polls badly, so just forget about it.”

The utter disaster that is coming is not going to happen this news cycle or this election cycle, so we can safely ignore it until it does, and anyways we ourselves will probably be minimally affected because we’re rich in a rich land. That’s a dangerous mindset, but it’s the mindset of the bulk of our leadership and opinionmakers.

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Steve Hynd

Most recently I was Editor in Chief of The Agonist from Feb 2012 to Feb 2013. My blogging began at Newshoggers and I’ve had the immense pleasure of working with some great writers there and around the web ever since, including at Crooks & Liars. I'm a late 40′s, Scottish ex-pat, now married to a wonderful Texan, with Honours in Philosophy from Univ. of Stirling, UK 1986. I worked most of life in business insurance industry (fire, accident, liability) including 12 years as a broker/underwriter/correspondent at Lloyd’s of London. Being from the other side of the pond, my political interests tend to focus on how US foreign policy affects the rest of the planet. Other interests include early and dark-ages British history, literature and cognitive philosophy/science.

2 CommentsLeave a comment

  • we ourselves will probably be minimally affected because we’re rich in a rich land.

    Climate change adversely affects the rich. Who lives on all that expensive oceanfront and waterfront property?

    Drive that message home and there will be action.

    • No, they’ll just move to one of their homes further inland. They can afford to lose the home in the Hamptons better than the middle class folks who got hammered by hurricane Sandy, which homes often constituted most of their assets. The rich are okay with 90% of the human race being devastated, because they believe they will always be the other 10%.
      Besides, they collect the insurance, take a tax write-off on any shortfall and get a gov’t bailout to rebuild the shoreline.
      Am I cynical? Yeah, but as Lily Tomlin says, “No matter how cynical you become, it’s never enough to keep up.”

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