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NYT Editorial: “One would think that by now most people would have figured out that climate change represents a grave threat to the planet.”

By Joe Romm on August 22, 2009 at 7:12 am

"NYT Editorial: “One would think that by now most people would have figured out that climate change represents a grave threat to the planet.”"

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One would think that by now most people would have figured out that climate change represents a grave threat to the planet. One would also have expected from Congress a plausible strategy for reducing the greenhouse gas emissions that lie at the root of the problem.

That has not happened. The House has passed a climate bill that is not as strong as needed, but is a start. There are doubts about whether the Senate will pass any bill, given the reflexive opposition of most Republicans and unfounded fears among many Democrats that rising energy costs will cripple local industries.

So begins a very good New York Times editorial, “The Climate and National Security.”  The piece goes on to explain one reason why we are in this political mess and one message that may have some traction in the Senate:

The problem, when it comes to motivating politicians, is that the dangers from global warming — drought, famine, rising seas – appear to be decades off. But the only way to prevent them is with sacrifices in the here and now: with smaller cars, bigger investments in new energy sources, higher electricity bills that will inevitably result once we put a price on carbon.

Mainstream scientists warn that the longer the world waits, the sooner it will reach a tipping point beyond which even draconian measures may not be enough. Under one scenario, atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases, now about 380 parts per million, should not be allowed to exceed 450 parts per million. But keeping emissions below that threshold will require stabilizing them by 2015 or 2020, and actually reducing them by at least 60 percent by 2050.

That is why Rajendra Pachauri, the head of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change – no alarmist – has warned that “what we do in the next two or three years will determine our future.” And he said that two years ago.

Advocates of early action have talked about green jobs, about keeping America competitive in the quest for new technologies, and about one generation’s moral obligation to the next. Those are all sound arguments. They have not been enough to fully engage the public, or overcome the lobbying efforts of the fossil fuel industry.

Proponents of climate change legislation have now settled on a new strategy: warning that global warming poses a serious threat to national security. Climate- induced crises like drought, starvation, disease and mass migration, they argue, could unleash regional conflicts and draw in America’s armed forces, either to help keep the peace or to defend allies or supply routes.

This is increasingly the accepted wisdom among the national security establishment. A 2007 report published by the CNA Corporation, a Pentagon-funded think tank, spoke ominously of climate change as a “threat multiplier” that could lead to wide conflict over resources.

This line of argument could also be pretty good politics – especially on Capitol Hill, where many politicians will do anything for the Pentagon. Both Senator John Kerry, an advocate of strong climate change legislation, and former Senator John Warner, a former chairman of the Armed Services Committee, say they have begun to stress the national security argument to senators who are still undecided about how they will vote on climate change legislation.

One can only hope that these arguments turn the tide in the Senate. Mr. Kerry, Mr. Warner and like- minded military leaders must keep pressing their case, with help from the Pentagon and the White House. National security is hardly the only reason to address global warming, but at this point anything that advances the cause is welcome.

I’ll be writing a great deal more about messaging in the coming weeks.  As I’ve said, this is a necessary message, but not sufficient (see here).

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31 Responses to NYT Editorial: “One would think that by now most people would have figured out that climate change represents a grave threat to the planet.”

  1. Rick Covert says:

    I guess that means that the American Chemistry Council’s new green washing campaign is a threat to our national security then. They’ve launched a campaign called “A Smarter Future” http://www.asmarterfuture.com/VA and they have a series of loaded questions, like, “It’s important that any effort to lower greenhouse gas emissions doesn’t over-burden our children’s future by putting economic recovery and U.S. jobs at risk,” or “Congress needs to develop an energy and climate policy that encourages energy efficiency, conservation, and energy diversity using lower emission sources such as nuclear, renewable and alternatives.” So they like nuclear power. The campaign seems to be calibrated towards a reasonable person selecting agree with all their points. Just check out the link http://www.asmarterfuture.com/VA and you’ll see what I mean.

  2. ken levenson says:

    why have most not yet figured it out? they need look no further than their own news pages.

    Where’s the Pine Island story? Arctic methane? Pine beetles? Population explosion? Thinning of arctic ice? Where are the articles on the updated MET and MIT projections?

    Given there is at least one “big” climate change story every week – their news reporting efforts are falling disasterously short.

  3. john says:

    As I read the Times editorial, I had the same response as Ken — the Times own coverage of global warming has been so abysmal; so full of the faux “balance” that has marked the media’s treatment of this issue, that their editorial amounts to an unwitting self-rebuke.

  4. Jeff Huggins says:

    To The New York Times: Wake Up!!

    You are not only a major contributor to the problem you complain about, but you are also losing credibility right and left as time goes forward, especially because of the gravity of the issue and because you apparently don’t even realize your own role in the problem.

    When I read the editorial in the paper, I had the same response as Ken (2) and John (3). How can anyone familiar with the issue who has also followed the Times’ coverage of the matter (including what isn’t covered and amidst all the double-page and front-page ads from ExxonMobil) come to any different conclusion?

    The Times’ editorial gets close to expressing the importance, reality, and urgency of the matter. But, the Times’ news coverage is nowhere close to presenting the climate change and energy issues with the prominence, accuracy, focus on fact, placement, frequency, depth, and clarity that the situation warrants. Not even close.

    So, it is very “painful” and indeed laughable (except that the problem is not funny!) when I read the Times pointing the finger at everyone else, pointing out that politicians must make sacrifices, and pointing out the urgency of the matter, when the Times itself can’t seem to self-examine, deserves a large finger pointed at ITSELF, must also make sacrifices, and should be demonstrating the urgency through the prominence, accuracy, focus on fact, placement, frequency, depth, and clarity of its NEWS coverage of the matter.

    The gap between what the situation warrants and what the Times publishes (in the news) is so huge and glaring — and this has certainly been pointed out many times — that the Times is being either incredibly and irresponsibly negligent or downright unethical. Which is it?

    One matter (of many) on which the Times has been silent is ExxonMobil, who runs huge and confusing advertorials in the Times. The Times doesn’t provide the public with the straight story on those matters that ExxonMobil confuses and on those where ExxonMobil misleads; nor does the Times write about ExxonMobil itself in any way that sheds intelligent and real light on the problem.

    A few days ago, I mailed out a packet of information (on DVD) containing an analysis and evaluation of ExxonMobil, aimed at helping the media understand the “whole elephant” in a number of relevant dimensions. I sent about 40 packets out. Four of them went to folks at The New York Times: Andrew Revkin, Jad Mouawad, Thomas Friedman, and (at Princeton) Paul Krugman. While the columnists often write great stuff that rises to the occasion (thank goodness!), the news coverage in the paper itself has been terrible, and terribly insufficient.

    So, with Copenhagen less than four months away, and with the Senate about to consider climate legislation, and with ExxonMobil continuing to advertise, confuse, and mislead, and with the API doing its thing, and with the clock ticking, we will soon see whether The New York Times begins to do what it should be doing, won’t we?

    There is a very disruptive, huge, irresponsible, damaging, arrogant, selfish, and stubborn elephant dancing in the middle of the table. It tells you that you WILL keep using oil and gas for decades to come. It confuses, denies, and delays. And, The New York Times is NOT shedding any light on it. At this point, there is a narrowing window of time to see if The Times can remember its supposed role in the world. And, the results will be clear, in print, for all to see.

    Be Well,

    Jeff

  5. Oxnardprof says:

    The battle to enact effective climate change response will be a reflection of the battle to enact effective health insurance (health care) reform. The perception is that political posturing is more important than the health of the country. Given the level of the debate as well as the level of coverage of this issue, I despair of effective action on climate change.

    I don’t know how we can get politicians and the public to react effectively.

  6. Jeff Huggins says:

    To Oxnardprof (5),

    I share much of your concern. But . . .

    You raise a question when you write: “I don’t know how we can get politicians and the public to react effectively.”

    I have a thought on that: Although normally, under normal circumstances, I don’t get into naming names, and I (usually) don’t like to be “pushy”, and I’ve never put 40 information packets in the mail that analyze the actions of a specific company, and I’m not normally “into” calling boycotts, the stakes on this issue are BIG ones, and the media are dropping the ball on this (with only a small number of exceptions), and large companies are violating responsibility, SO, it seems to me that it’s time to get serious.

    In certain cases, I’m comfortable now naming names. If someone’s coverage of the matter is excellent, point that out and give them a “bravo!” If coverage of the matter in a specific newspaper is terrible, point it out, name names, and demand better. If a company is acting irresponsibly, point it out, name names, and stop buying its products.

    In my view, we should be boycotting ExxonMobil right now. Indeed, we should have started a year ago. And, I’m not talking about less than 1% of the population who are branded as “this” or “that”. Instead, I’m talking about LARGE numbers. If we want ExxonMobil to alter its tune, we should aim for 30%, 40%, or 50%-plus of the public to stop buying its products. No joking. And that will take communication, sharing information, organization, media coverage, and so forth.

    Also — and perhaps more easily, I hope — we should place a lot of attention on The New York Times. They are dropping the ball, big-time. At this point, people should be demanding that The New York Times provide the full, clear, prominent, intelligent, responsible story on these issues, to the degrees warranted by the huge importance of the issue. It won’t work if three, or five, or 10, or 50 people call the Times and demand better coverage. At this point, thousands of people should be doing so. Indeed, tens of thousands.

    By this time, the Deans of the leading schools of journalism, and of all schools of journalism, and the professors too, should be screaming out of their windows about the dismal state of American mainstream journalism/media when it comes to the matters of the climate change problem, the energy problem, and health care. Where are they? They should be speaking up now, or they should realize that the credibility of their profession as well as their own credibility will diminish, substantially, and perhaps to near zero.

    Those of us who normally try to improve things by writing memos, making a phone call or two, not naming names, and watching the time pass by, need to loosen our self-imposed chains. Spearhead or join responsible boycotts. Name names, where warranted. When McKibben or other responsible leaders say, “hit the streets”, be ready to do it, civilly of course.

    Be Well,

    Jeff

  7. SecularAnimist says:

    Joe quoted the New York Times: “One would think that by now most people would have figured out that climate change represents a grave threat to the planet.”

    The hypocrisy of the Times editorial is stunning.

    The consistently negligent, misleading and obfuscatory reporting on global warming by the Times (which has been well-documented on this blog), and their complicity in ExxonMobil’s campaign of deceit, denial and delay, have been instrumental in preventing a lot of people from “figuring out that climate change represents a grave threat to the planet.”

  8. Leland Palmer says:

    Anything from the NYT seems to me to carry a “payload” of conceptual and semantic frames that ends up promoting the monetary interests of the traditional Eastern financial establishment.

    In this case, the hidden conceptual frames “payload” may be that Waxman/Markey and the Senate version of it will be ineffective. Or, more likely it is the final line “National security is hardly the only reason to address global warming, but at this point anything that advances the cause is welcome.”

    We need to do more, but we need to pass Waxman/Markey and the Senate version of it first, IMO.

    No, increased support for a bloated “defense” industry at the expense of money to fight climate change is not “welcome”.

    The NYT is a deceptive source of information.

    My advice is to accept no information or conceptual frames from that source, even in articles that appear to support action on climate change.

  9. Jeff Huggins says:

    To Leland (8), SecularAnimist (7), Oxnardprof (5), John (3), and Ken (2),

    Thanks for the comments. Now, what can be done about the problem (with The New York Times and MSM coverage)?

    Although it’s not currently up to the task (not even close), it does matter, and we’ll all be better off if The Times and MSM get their acts together — hopefully soon, before the Senate gets back to climate legislation and before Copenhagen arrives.

    So, how do we civilly but firmly encourage — prompt — the Times and etc. to get it together and live up to their (supposed) role in society?

    Is there an existing organization that will do that? Or, how large is the audience here (on CP), and would many CP readers agree that The NY Times and MSM are dropping the ball? How can we actually activate ourselves, and The NY Times, and mainstream media?

    September 2009 and October 2009 are two months. They only come once. If the media don’t get it together, that’s bad news, for nearly everyone. So, how do we (the public) optimize the chances that the media get it together? That’s the concrete question.

    Cheers,

    Jeff

  10. dhogaza says:

    BTW, let’s give a shout-out to Leland Palmer for his very persistent – and patient- efforts to educate the idiots at WUWT as to what’s happening in the reality-based world.

  11. Bob Wright says:

    Sometimes I think almost nobody gets it. Whenever I see a car idling for 15 minutes to keep the A/C or heater running, or someone’s central air running full time when no one is home, or get passed by an SUV doing 85. Fox News/talk radio fans are starting in again on Cap and Trade… Now the state department has approved a pipeline from the Alberta tar sands to Wisconsin.

  12. Dan R says:

    “Under one scenario, atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases, now about 380 parts per million, should not be allowed to exceed 450 parts per million.” – NYT

    If only.

    “If humanity wishes to preserve a planet similar to that on which civilization developed and to which life on Earth is adapted, paleoclimate evidence and ongoing climate change suggest that CO2 will need to be reduced from its current 385 ppm to at most 350 ppm, but likely less than that. The largest uncertainty in the target arises from possible changes of non-CO2 forcings. An initial 350 ppm CO2 target may be achievable by phasing out coal use except where CO2 is captured and adopting agricultural and forestry
    practices that sequester carbon. If the present overshoot of this target CO2 is not brief, there is a possibility of seeding irreversible catastrophic effects.”

    “Equilibrium sea level rise for today’s 385 ppm CO2 is at least several meters, judging from paleoclimate history. Accelerating mass losses from Greenland and West Antarctica heighten concerns about ice sheet stability. An initial CO2 target of 350 ppm, to be reassessed as effects on ice sheet mass balance are observed, is suggested.”

    James Hansen, Makiko Sato, Pushker Kharecha, David Beerling, Robert Berner, Valerie Masson-Delmotte, Mark Pagani, Maureen Raymo, Dana L. Royer and James C. Zachos, “Target Atmospheric CO: Where Should Humanity Aim?” 2008.

    So: are the above authors wrong – or are we kidding ourselves? Has the above publication been soundly refuted in the literature?

  13. Bob Wright says:

    Dan: Its depressing, but with a target of 450 we are at least developing technology and starting conservation for the day things really get bad. The know-nothing far right would have us do nothing.

  14. J4zonian says:

    Step one: Begin the 12th year of your boycott against Exxon-Mobil. (You have been boycotting them, right? Because even before climate change was an issue they were a terrible company doing horrible damage to our world…)

    Step two: Write to the New York Times and say to them what’s been said here. Demand that they change their coverage to fit the facts and opinions they present in this editorial, as well as real world events.

    Step three: Do all the other things: If you’re not a vegetarian organic gardener, why not? If you’re not walking or bicycling everywhere you go, why not? If you don’t collect water and solar energy from your roof, why? If you’re still voting for Democrats, why?

    (I’m not saying every single person has to do all these. But were your answers reasons or excuses? If the people who understand and care enough about this problem to read this page don’t do these things, why would we expect the world to change? Someone who lives in a teepee in the district of a left-wing Democrat in Montana has good reason to be ignoring all of those; most of us don’t.)

    Policy aside, each of us who does believe needs to show it by making the kind of changes in our lives we are advocating by law, for all. Then there are all those letters to write…

  15. Leif says:

    I have boycotted EXXON since the oil spill in Alaska. I have written numerous letters to the NY Times.
    We just have to keep up the pressure. Admittitaly it looks hopeless at times but we have come a long way. “The only battle that is worth fighting is the one you lose and lose and lose and finally win!” Hopefully not too late…

  16. Sable says:

    Jeff, (#9)
    The MSM, NY Times included, is most definitely dropping the ball here. I wonder if anyone has a sense of what’s more effective – e-mail campaign, letters, petitions, or what? Anyone with experience organizing effective boycotts?

    Dan, (#12)
    Intuitively, the assessment of these authors looks on the money to me – why else would we already be seeing such widespread and dramatic changes?

  17. Chris Winter says:

    Bob Wright wrote: “Now the state department has approved a pipeline from the Alberta tar sands to Wisconsin.”

    For bringing oil in — or taking water out? ;-)

  18. Jeff Huggins says:

    It’s Too Bad We’re At This Stage, But . . .

    Of course, we (and millions of others) need to become visible. And of course, we need to speak out, write letters, and stop buying the products of the main offenders.

    But we also need to call for the media to rid themselves of another self-protecting and self-silencing dynamic.

    (Before I mention this dynamic, I should say that its existence might seem surprising to some people, because SOME media players are happy to criticize each other on SOME issues, to SOME degree, when it serves their own ratings to do so. Yet, there is still way too much silence on vital issues, involving the media themselves.)

    As I’ve mentioned before, I think it would be great if J. Stewart could interview and “do his thing with” Rex Tillerson. If Mr. Tillerson won’t show up, then Stewart should do his thing with a cardboard Tillerson. Whatever it takes to examine ExxonMobil and convey the straight story to the public.

    And Rachel Maddow should also describe the ExxonMobil “elephant” to the public, in all of its inglorious detail.

    But these are not the present point, which is this: After ExxonMobil, the next light-shining examination, or pointed criticism anyhow, should involve The New York Times itself. In other words, J. Stewart and Rachel Maddow and anyone else with guts should point the light at The New York Times. Is The Times doing its job on this vital matter? Hardly. Is The Times being incredibly hypocritical (e.g., its recent editorial)? You bet. Is The Times letting the public down when it refuses to clarify matters after ExxonMobil confuses matters and misleads in the paper itself? Yep.

    So, J. Stewart and Rachel Maddow and etc. should shine the light on the MEDIA NEWS PROBLEM, naming names and getting concrete.

    This is, of course, not an easy thing to do. As with almost any industry, there is (apparently) sort of an unspoken understanding that one shouldn’t go too far in criticizing another member of one’s own industry, I suppose. After all, when Rachel Maddow criticizes The Times (if she does), then The Times can ask why some units of General Electric are members of the API.

    But, although painful for some, that is just the sort of cross-cleansing criticism that we need on these vital problems, if it’s done by responsible people clearly, and if it leads to action. Why? Because both criticisms are warranted. The New York Times SHOULD dramatically improve its coverage, AND General Electric SHOULD resign from the API. Instead, what’s happening now — because the media too often stay silent about these things — is that neither of these things is happening. The relative silence and (misplaced sense of) “civility” leave the public with two problems: poor coverage from The Times, and a GE that participates in the API even as one or two of its networks correctly criticize other members of the API.

    Although it would be nice if we could avoid mudbaths, sometimes I guess they are the only way to clean things up.

    I’m curious to see if, after shining the light on ExxonMobil, people like J. Stewart and Rachel Maddow will shine some light on the very poor media coverage, naming names and getting as concrete as they get in appropriately criticizing other industries. Will Stewart and/or Maddow critique The New York Times, or ABC, or CBS, or even NBC? Will they do it as well, and as concretely, as they sometimes do with other industries?

    If you take a step back and consider all aspects of the climate and energy problems, the problem with dismal media coverage (of the climate and energy issues, in a way that is accurate and conveys genuine understanding to the public) is certainly one of the largest parts of those problems. What The New York Times is NOT doing is nearly just as bad, all things considered, as what ExxonMobil IS doing. In a democracy, the media matter, a lot! So, can the media critique themselves enough, and self-examine enough, to raise their own bar to a responsible level? That’s the question.

    But it takes guts. And it takes the willingness to sacrifice.

    Cheers,

    Jeff

  19. Chris Winter says:

    I’m not normally an advocate of street theater, but it can be an effective way to dramatize a cause.

    I’ve written here before about the large amounts of natural gas being flared off in oil fields. As Wikipedia notes, the wasteful process continues:

    “Flaring and venting of natural gas in oil wells is a significant source of greenhouse gas emissions. Its contribution to greenhouse gases has declined by three-quarters in absolute terms since a peak in the 1970s of approximately 110 million metric tons/year and now accounts for 0.5% of all anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions. The World Bank estimates that over 100 billion cubic metres of natural gas are flared or vented annually, an amount worth approximately 30.6 billion dollars, equivalent to the combined annual gas consumption of Germany and France, twice the annual gas consumption of Africa, three quarters of Russian gas exports, or enough to supply the entire world with gas for 20 days. This flaring is highly concentrated: 10 countries account for 75% of emissions, and twenty for 90%.”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gas_flare

    So: Imagine a release of a plume of natural gas in some urban environment, say Central Park in Manhattan, followed by ignition of same to produce a brief flame of 20 feet or so in height. Done correctly (with media in attendance, preferably on a weekday autumn evening) this would dramatically highlight (pun intended) the wastefulness of the standard practice of flaring, as well as methane being released from permafrost and undersea clathrates.

    I know such demonstrations carry some risk, and I’m not volunteering to run one. I just think they are something to keep in mind.

    See also: Global Gas Flaring Reduction Partnership.

    http://web.worldbank.org/WBSITE/EXTERNAL/TOPICS/EXTOGMC/EXTGGFR/0,,menuPK:578075~pagePK:64168427~piPK:64168435~theSitePK:578069,00.html

  20. paulm says:

    Things are changing…but guess what this article has been replaced by one which now makes no reference to GW. Very strange.

    Weather-rattled Ont residents wonder what’s next in wake of violent tornadoes
    file:///Users/sash/firefox_scrapbook_pvm/data/20090821224635/index.html

    …Marco Nicolosi, also taking in the damage in Vaughan, said he hoped not to see another storm like Thursday’s, adding he could only think to attribute it to global warming.

    “In 21 years I’ve lived in this country we never had such a thing, and we’ve seen so many crazy things this summer.”

  21. BBHY says:

    I was at the grocery store today and a lady was loading her stuff into an Excursion behemoth-class SUV. She had a bumper sticker that read “My carbon footprint is bigger than yours”. Since I was putting my stuff into my electric car that I charge from my solar panels, I certainly couldn’t question that.

    I didn’t confront her, but I guess the idea was that she was bragging about her fossil fuel intensive life style. I live in a pretty conservative area, but it just shows that there are a lot of people who are not only not accepting that we have a problem, but flaunting their own denialism.

    There is much work to do, and little time to do it.

  22. PeterW says:

    I’m not sure the NYT is the best target. Does it still influence the Washington “elite”? I doubt it has any sway with the average American. TV and radio seem to have passed newspapers by quite some time ago. But if you’re going to affect the Times, you have to go after how they make money. Nothing else will budge them.

    No you have to go after their ability to get advertisers. Advertisers will abandon the Times if people stop reading it. To me there seems to be two approaches that might work. First encourage people to stop buying the Times or subscribing to it. Second boycott the website.

    But again, the NYT is just a small part of the problem. The whole arrogant, narcissistic, corporate media needs to be targeted. The best way to do this would be to start a campaign for people to stop subscribing to cable and satellite companies. Even if 5 to 10 percent of people did this the media industry would be reeling.

    Anyway just an idea. Have a nice day.

  23. Leland Palmer says:

    Hi all-

    About the natural gas flaring- much better to flare it than to vent it, since it’s mostly the nasty greenhouse gas methane, much worse than CO2,as most all of us that post here know.

    Better is to burn it as a fuel. You’d think they could burn it to generate electricity, if nothing else. Or burn part of it, and use the resulting energy to produce liquified natural gas.

    Best might be to burn it using oxyfuel combustion and deep inject the resulting CO2 into any porous deep basalt deposits or deep saline aquifers that might be handy.

    To dhogaza- thanks. :)

    Those people would tick off a saint.

    We have to remember that most of them are victims of propaganda – authoritarian followers that have given their minds to their leaders, and who place way too much trust in them.

    What can we do about the New York Times, Rupert Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal, or Sun Myung Moon’s Washington Times and United Press International?

    Create our own media, is about all, and use it to get our messages out. Joe is doing a great job of that. Financially support our own media, with a few dollars each per month, when we can. Patronize the advertisers on the honest media, and boycott those on sites we think of as propaganda outlets. Short of nationalizing the major banks like JPMorgan/Chase and Citigroup, and nationalizing most of the major oil companies, major media like the NYT and Wall Street Journal is pretty much untouchable, maybe.

    Unless somebody has better ideas. It bears thinking about.

    Hmmm…maybe bring back the fairness doctrine?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fairness_Doctrine

  24. Alan C says:

    Indeed. This will be a bit of a ramble.
    I’ve been recently following this issue in greater detail over the past few months looking to further educate myself on it.
    I’d first like to agree with the person that stated that while it does add additional weight to the issue, I’m not overly enamoured with bloated over-funded military attention [in the same way I'd rather they didn't have key control over any new energy-generation technology].
    Second, I really do worry for you guys with the state of your major news sources being so inept, disingenuous or both. Add to that an electoral and governmental system that, to me, is influenced far too much by corporate interests.
    Also, as someone else highlighted, there is the profound selfishness inherent in those that drive around in mammoth SUVs living in equally mammoth houses [not always a direct correlation but often enough]. Sometimes I really do think there has to be some sort of restriction on such vehicles. Do you really need a hummer to drive down to the corner store? Do you really need a [ICE-powered] car capable of 200kph when you’re living in a sub/urban environment? Do you really need 5 bathrooms?
    I would hope that common sense now would dictate ‘no’ to those questions. Yet I still see people driving around in swanky SUVs that have clearly never remotely been off-road even here in New Zealand.
    I’m thinking about all this and what needs to be done. Clearly the public consensus has to for action and not business as usual. Somehow special interests must be muzzled and while I’ve only looked into this in detail recently I’m just about at stage where I would clearly state to [unrepentant] denialists; “Shut the F*&k up and get out of the way so things can get moving in a positive direction”. I realise there’s a notion of fair and equitable discourse, it just seems to me [as a layman] that the issue is sufficiently clarified to the point that we must be planning courses of action and not continue to prat on about whether it is happening and that it’s our fault.
    I’m sorry to say that, thus far, our recently elected conservative government is presently likely to go to Copenhagen trying to bargain down our reductions target. So you’re not alone in having dithering politicians.
    A boycott campaign was something I was thinking about; ‘Your services are no longer required’ for those companies/media outlets that are hurting progress in sorting this out.
    Anyway, this was all a bit random so hopefully some of it made sense.

  25. David Levy says:

    The national security bandwagon can be dangerous – I jumped on it along with some colleagues by participating in a National Intelligence Assessment. Yes, the final reports link climate change to huge problems of migration, droughts, etc. But the military is already using this to justify even more billions to control global water resources, stifle conflicts, etc.
    The military budget this year is almost $700 billion – this is diverting resources from investments in clean tech.
    Strategy is a tricky thing – are environmentalists using national security, or is national security using the environment?

  26. Jeff Huggins says:

    Interesting Point David (Comment 25) . . .

    And that’s just one more reason why the best solution (to the communication and political issues here) is probably the most straightforward one: Focus on the facts and problems of climate change; treat the issue with the urgency it deserves; communicate the matter clearly; and so forth.

    Every time I hear or sense something like, “oh goody, maybe THIS framing or hook or concern is the way to get the public’s attention”, it gets me concerned.

    First, the issue of climate change (in its totality, with ALL of its repercussions) SHOULD BE sufficient to get the public’s attention and gain the public’s will to act. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard of journalists seeking “the magic word” or “just the right framing” to finally get the public to understand and respond — even as those same journalists and their media organizations hardly cover important aspects of the matter, put most of the stories on page 12, strive to achieve some sort of confused “balance”, and so forth.

    Second, it feels condescending, to me, when I sense that people think, “oh, if we put this in national security terms, THEN people will finally care.”

    Is it REALLY that we think that at least 60% of people won’t care EVEN WHEN they are told the facts and story clearly, with the energy that the matter deserves? Or instead, is it that the media, politicians, and even scientists, have NOT gotten close to communicating the problem with the clarity, straightforwardness, and verve that it warrants?

    Pinning the “framing” or “argument” or “reason to act” on any SINGLE aspect of the problem, in a way that ignores other key aspects of the problem, and in a way that diminishes the biggest single reason to act (how about protecting the climate and environment for future generations, people?), seems dangerous, narrow, and condescending. And, it seems, such ideas often serve as excuses for the generally dismal and insufficient coverage in the media.

    Why can’t we just improve the clarity, focus on facts (and not on some confusing and misplaced version of “balance”), treat the matter with the urgency it deserves, use the front pages, call-out misleading statements and companies, and so forth?

    In searching for the “magic bullet” or the “perfect framing”, we are overlooking the obvious. People WILL care, IF the media treat the matter as if it is WORTH CARING ABOUT. The media haven’t really even tried that approach! It’s time to say this: Shame on them!

    Does one need a Ph.D. to come to this conclusion?

    (Sorry for the rambling. I agree with the essence of your concern, David.)

    Cheers,

    Jeff

  27. dhogaza says:

    Those people would tick off a saint.

    Leland, you do a remarkable job of keeping an even, patient tone in your posts there, even in the face of oh-so-pseudo-polite sneering by Watts and others.

    Keep up the good work.

  28. Anna Haynes says:

    > “People WILL care, IF the media treat the matter as if it is WORTH CARING ABOUT. ”

    Amen. As Tobis put it, there is no word for ‘urgent’ when that word appears on page A12.

    Who writes the editorials, at the Times? it sounds like we need to hold a dialog with them; if they’ll come out from behind the curtain. Likewise with Bill Keller. (This doesn’t mean “Bill answers screened questions”, as happens with their “ask the newsroom” feature)

    Another idea/small step toward a livable future: make sure every member of the Times’s board of directors gets a copy of Greg Craven’s book.

  29. Mike#22 says:

    very cool website Anna

  30. Dan says:

    Those interested in action on this matter, whether it be burning a huge amount of gas over Central Park or something tamer, should take a look at McKibbins website, http://www.350.org, which is coordinating actions on october 24.

  31. Jeff Huggins says:

    CARING and MORE, and the MEDIA

    Thanks, Anna, for noticing this line, which I’ve also been thinking about:

    “People WILL care, IF the media treat the matter as if it is WORTH CARING ABOUT.”

    As you and others know, I’ve been trying to express this point in all sorts of wordy, technical, and also tangential ways, referring to placement, frequency, clarity, focus on facts, use of graphics, use of the front page, avoidance of the need for false “balance”, and so forth and so on. But, this simple sentence says it much better.

    Yet, there’s another important point, a point that takes the matter one step further. Trying to convey this additional point using just one additional sentence tagged onto the original point, I think it’s something like this:

    “People WILL care, IF the media treat the matter as if it is WORTH CARING ABOUT. And, because the matter IS worth caring about, the media SHOULD treat it that way!”

    That says it, I think.

    There is no argument based on “balance” that overrides that second sentence: “And, because the matter IS worth caring about, the media SHOULD treat it that way!”

    Nobody (in his or her right mind) can argue in a factual and well-reasoned way against that point. “Balance” doesn’t void the point.

    Indeed — and here’s the rub — the only reasons why one might NOT want to treat the matter as if it’s worth caring about have to do with commercial matters — i.e., not wanting to upset certain advertisers, and so forth.

    How can the media argue with the two-sentence summary of the situation, above? What research can disprove it or even make it doubtful? What NON-commercial consideration trumps it?

    We need to get the media to face these questions. And, to do that, we need to pour these sorts of points onto the media, persistently.

    Cheers (and thanks again, Anna),

    Jeff