Two dreadful, tunnel-vision articles in the New York Times suggest the “paper of record” must rethink how it covers the most important issue of our time.
Yes, the NYT has the biggest climate team, but their reporting by stovepipe (rather than by team), renders that staff largely useless. Indeed, it may be less than useless, as these articles make clear.
Let’s start with today’s front-page story “Severe Drought Adds to Hardships in California” on the state’s record drop in snowpack and rainfall. Even though there is abundant science that both impacts are precisely what we would expect from human-caused climate change, reporter Jesse McKinley never mentions the subject at all. Quite the reverse, he opens the piece:
The country’s biggest agricultural engine, California’s sprawling Central Valley, is being battered by the recession like farmland most everywhere. But in an unlucky strike of nature, the downturn is being deepened by a severe drought that threatens to drive up joblessness, increase food prices and cripple farms and towns.
So not only does McKinley ignore a likely contributor to the drought and snowpack loss, he attributes the whole damn thing to “an unlucky strike of nature.”
No wonder the public is not terribly concerned about global warming and fails to understand that humans are changing the climate now. The only surprising thing is that the NYT itself is surprised that the public is underinformed (see “NYT‘s Revkin seems shocked by media’s own failure to explain climate threat“).
The NYT did not make this mistake when it reported on Australia’s drought — because it used team-based reporting (see CNN, ABC, WashPost, AP, blow Australian wildfire, drought, heatwave “Hell (and High Water) on Earth” story — never mention climate change). I will return to this point at the end.
Moreover, the impacts California is experiencing are not some obscure or distant prediction of climate change — they are so well-known and well accepted that even that bastion of climate denial, the Bush administration, not only acknowledged them in a December 2008 U.S. Geological Survey report, Abrupt Climate Change, but warned they may be just around the corner (see USGS stunner: SW faces “permanent drying” by 2050):