The Media May Be Starting to Take Global Warming Seriously

Bad Astronomy
The entire universe in blog form
Aug. 30 2013 8:00 AM

Climate Change: Rare Medium Is Well-Done

As the world warms, and the environment changes around us, it’s good—for a sufficiently broad definition of “good”—to see the media starting, just barely starting, to take the issue seriously.

Phil Plait Phil Plait

Phil Plait writes Slate’s Bad Astronomy blog and is an astronomer, public speaker, science evangelizer, and author of Death From the Skies!  

For example, MSNBC’s “Hardball with Chris Matthews” ran a segment where he had climate scientist Michael Mann as a guest, as well as Republican strategist Chip Saltsman. Matthews repeatedly hammered Saltsman on Republican denial of climate change, which was refreshing; usually a denier is brought in for false balance, not to show how out-of-touch the party is on this particular piece of reality.

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Also on MSNBC, Chris Hayes had a special about this called “Politics of Power”, which unfortunately is not online for viewing, but he did a Google+ Hangout with some environmental bloggers which discusses how to get the word out about climate change.

I don’t get Al Jazeera America, but they apparently spent a half hour covering climate change, which, according to Media Matters for America, is about half as much as other stations gave it in the entire year of 2012. A few minutes of video are available on the MMfA site. Apparently, they also didn’t give any time at all to denial, which is the way to go.

If you have a segment about global navigation, you don’t give time to flat Earthers.

flat Earth cartoon
This would make climate computer models easier, I'd think.

Illustration by Teach The Controversy t-shirts

This comes on the heels the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change draft report that was leaked saying that global warming is “very likely” caused by humans—in other words, 95 percent certain. That’s a pretty good bet, especially when the stakes are so high. The final IPCC report will be out soon.

So of course the deniers will be trying to get even louder. On the website CFACT, there’s an interview with former NASA astronaut Walt Cunningham who, like his Apollo compatriot Harrison Schmitt, makes ridiculous and easily-disproven claims about global warming. He even trots out the widely-debunked letter signed by 49 ex-NASA employees, including some astronauts… not one of whom is actually a climate scientist.

Hold on to your irony gland: The title of the Cunningham interview is, “Walt Cunningham: Restore climate science integrity, please!”

The reality of climate change is threatening all of us. It’s cute, perhaps, to claim planets will do better with more CO2 in the air, or that frigid countries farther north will be warmer. But that’s a crock. The reality is that weather patterns will change. We’ll get more floods in some areas, more droughts in others, more powerful storms, more forest fires (at a time when the U. S. Forest Service is out of money), and worse.

I look out my window, and to my west the Rocky Mountains are bare; the amount of snow and ice I can see at their peaks is very small—just like it was last year, and the year before. But usually, even in the height of summer, the tops of those mountains are dazzlingly white with snow. Colorado supplies water to many other states in the U.S., and this decade-long drought is starting to have real impact on other regions. It’s likely to get worse, not better.

Am I being alarmist? I don’t think so; I’m being realistic, in the true sense of the word. The problem is, the reality is alarming.