Canadian journalism: sublime; ridiculous

The Post gets one right;

the Globe chooses cowardice over context

Two recent newspaper pieces throw a peculiarly Canadian slant on the scandalously unprofessional job that many in mainstream media have been doing in covering climate change.

The most shocking - and wonderful - contribution came last week from the National Post, the home of some of Canada’s silliest and most beligerent climate change deniers, including Terence Corcoran, Peter Foster, Lawrence Solomon and Rex Murphy. In an excellent critique of blindly ideological climate change denial, Post Comment Pages Editor Jonathan Kay says flatly that, Global-warming deniers are a liability to the conservative cause. Kay then dismantles several laughable positions championed by journalists he does not name - but whom he will now have to avoid in the Post lunchroom.

The second article appeared last Saturday in the Globe, under the heading: The Endless Summer. Noting that it’s “the hottest year in recorded history, the Globe offers 659 mostly well-researched words on the details of our planetary fever without once mentioning the phrases “climate change” or “global warming.” At one point, the writers, Anna Mehler Paperny and Patrick White, say, “International climate experts are at a loss to explain why these local phenomena are happening all at once.”

Really? Have the folks at Canada’s leading national daily really not heard of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change? Were they so badly served by the Globe’s clearly inadequate coverage of the meeting in Copenhagen last December? (NB: This is no criticism of Globe reporter Eric Reguly who, unlike Paperny and White, CONNECTS THE DOTS.) Is no one on the Globe desk inclined to mention that the world’s best climate researchers have been predicting this result for more than two decades - and clamouring for a public policy response that is commensurate with the potential for global crisis?

The Globe’s real problem appears to be cowardice: they are perhaps afraid that if they mention climate change in a weather story, they will get shelled by the PR brigades that target any media outlet that makes the mistake of connecting weather events to a larger climate story - without providing some context. In this case, however, the story is about a pattern of global weather that perfectly reflects climatologists’ predictions. Failing to connect the dots is a scandal in a newspaper that counts itself as a thoughtful national opinion leader.

As for the issues at the Post, Jonathan Kay tries to explaint the epidemic of bad reporting by quoting from a recent journal article by Yale law professor Dan Kahan, et al: “… generally speaking, persons who subscribe to individualistic values tend to dismiss claims of environmental risks, because acceptance of such claims implies the need to regulate markets, commerce and other outlets for individual strivings.”

But Kay also warns that conservatives should resist that narrow-mindedness, saying, “Otherwise, the movement will come to be defined — and discredited — by its noisiest cranks and conspiracists.”

Against that good advice, the Globe today serves up a noisy crank, former Canadian Libertarian Party leader and Monday columnist Neil Reynolds, who promises that, whatever damage we humans happen to be doing today, “the Earth will heal itself” without any effort on our part.

If anyone’s around in 2,000 or two million years, I suspect they will find that Reynolds and his current favourite climate commentator, the Stanford physicist Robert Launghlin, are right. The Earth will still be here - robust as ever.

But if we humans keep taking policy guidance from the likes of Reynolds in the meantime, that healing process could be a little bruising for many species - perhaps especially those homo sapien free thinkers who are currently taking their own ticket on the good ship Earth a little too much for granted.


Keep an eye out for low-flying pigs.

The comments string following the piece is an interesting round-up of exactly the kind of ideological blindness Kay is targetting. Sigh … I like the way Suzuki puts it: that the people taking this position of denial “do not demonstrate the intellectual rigour” to call themselves sceptics. Nice turn of phrase, that.

Actually, I find it encouraging in a sort of “better (almost too) late than never” kind of way, when there is so little to be positive about in the news. Oh good, they’ve capped the well. So they only have to clean up – what? 245 MILLION gallons of oil. And what’s this I hear about methane now?