Here are excerpts from two erroneous and contradictory pieces in today’s dreadful NY Times special section on energy:
NYT 1: According to the most recent estimates of the Energy Department, world energy demand is going to increase by 50 percent by 2035, largely because of increased consumption in China, India and the rest of the developing world. Renewable energy will rise as a percentage of energy used, to 15 percent from 10 percent [by 2035], but that will not provide for the growing demand. “The fossil fuel age will be extended for decades,” said Ivan Sandrea, president of the Energy Intelligence Group, a research publisher. “Unconventional oil and gas are at the beginning of a technological cycle that can last 60 years. They are really in their infancy.”
NYT 2: And as for the jobs [solar] creates, there may be a price elsewhere, Dr. Axelrod said. He described the energy world as being like a child’s squeeze toy: “You squeeze it and the eyes pop out. If you push in one area, something else is going to happen.” … Build enough solar plants and some coal plants will shut down; that would amount to firing Peter to hire Paul…. Solar panel fabrication was intended as an export industry….
I think it is now worth seriously contemplating canceling your subscriptions to the one-time paper of record [see further discussion of this at the end]. While there are 1 or 2 reporters at the New York Times who get climate and energy, it’s obvious that most don’t and, more importantly, the editorial staff simply don’t know what they’re doing. The Matt Wald piece, #2, is so biased and self-contradictory as to be simply unpublishable.
Are there even editors who oversee reporters any more or try to give coherence to special sections and the paper’s larger coverage — or who write headlines that reflect the content of the stories? Apparently not. Apparently the paper can simultaneously assert that energy demand is growing, that renewables’ share of the market will grow — and thus its absolute growth rate will be very fast — but that U.S. solar jobs will come at the expense of U.S. jobs elsewhere, even though the paper says it’s an export industry.
Seriously NY Times editors and reporters, if you’re going to publish self-contradictory attacks on some energy technology, couldn’t you at least pick on one your size, one that also happens to threaten civilization? Or wait a few years, until the solar industry surprises you and actually is your size.
The future of humanity is being written now — but you just won’t find very many of the stories in the Gray Lady. That is painfully clear from their uninformed, self-contradictory, and virtually climate-free special section on energy.
I have been bombarded with e-mails from people baffled by just how dreadful these stories are. Here is one from a leading expert who works with environmentally responsible businesses:
Please tell me if I’m missing something here:
You may have seen the NYT special section today on energy. The lead story, maybe 60-65 paragraphs, devotes exactly one paragraph to saying that the unleashing of numerous new forms of fossil fuels worldwide “is a devil’s bargain, probably making solutions to climate change … even more difficult.”
Nary another word in that story, and only tiny passing mentions in others in the special section, about the climate threat.
So, I ask you this question dead seriously: Am I stupid — am I actually missing something about climate change that these knowledgeable reporters get? Can we have serious talk in the NYT – from many, many industry and other sources – about these new fossil discoveries extending the fossil fuel for decades WITHOUT taking into account my understanding that we can’t do that without unleashing the worst of climate change?
I’m serious — the reporting is so oblivious that it leads me to ask if I myself am missing something about climate change’s severity and onset. Can you explain this to me?
Or is this just almost breathtakingly lame reporting?
The latter, I’m afraid.
You are plenty smart, and the science couldn’t be clearer about climate change’s severity and onset — see my review of 50 recent studies “An Illustrated Guide to the Science of Global Warming Impacts: How We Know Inaction Is the Gravest Threat Humanity Faces” or my new Nature piece on Dust-Bowlification.
The threat of climate change isn’t “news” to the Times. There is one tireless climate reporter who keeps reporting on the increasingly dire picture of the science, Justin Gillis. You can see his recent articles here. He writes articles explaining things like “Why Climate Scientists Are So Perturbed: Society has put off the task of reducing carbon dioxide and other emissions for so long that it is on the verge of running out of time, a report argues” and “Food Supply Under Strain on a Warming Planet” and “Global Warming Hinders Crop Yields, Study Finds” and “Even as the situation in the world’s forests starts to look precarious, scientists do not really have the capability they need to monitor the problems” and the like. Individually, the pieces are worrisome and cumulatively they are pretty good picture of the gravest threat to human civilization.
But for the rest of the people at the paper, I guess Gillis is just that guy who keeps reporting all that dreary science stuff. He probably gets the same readership internally at the paper that the obituaries do. The rest of the paper goes on as if every major climate scientist, science journal, national academy, and indeed most governments weren’t screaming at the top of their lungs “We are in big trouble and business as usual is suicidal” (see Lonnie Thompson on why climatologists are speaking out: “Virtually all of us are now convinced that global warming poses a clear and present danger to civilization”).
And so we get the special section on energy, pieces which, individually, are worrisome indicators about the Times editorial judgment but cumulatively are a pretty good picture of how modern journalism has collapsed in its coverage of the story of the century (see Silence of the Lambs: Media herd’s coverage of climate change “fell off the map” in 2010).
As I noted above, it is obvious that solar is becoming a massive job creator and has a huge potential upside (see “National Solar Jobs Census: Over 100,000 Americans Work in Fast-Growing Solar Industry“).
But Wald wants to find a downside since who really wants to read a sappy “good news” story even if it fits the facts. What sells, apparently even to NY Times editors, is bullshit contrarianism, a headline like, “Solar Power Industry Falls Short of Hopes in Job Creation.”
Yes, the industry is undeniably doing well, even in the face of the greatest recession since the Great Depression — oh, but it isn’t doing as well as people had hoped. Who are these people? Not Wald or the NY Times, that’s for sure. But people. You know them. Those hopeful folks who are always hoping things will get better, including the paper’s hopeless coverage.
You’d better know who the heck these hopers are because Wald doesn’t name a single person who said we would get more a lot more solar jobs than we have. Nor does he even point to one study that said we would get more solar jobs. So this is yet another BS headline from the editors at the Times (see “Crappy Headline” Ruins New York Times Story on Link Between Climate Change and Extreme Weather).
The correct headline would be “Solar Power Industry Job Growth Greatly Exceeds that of the Rest of the Economy,” as Wald himself admits in a couple of sentences buried in the article, far, far past the headline and thus far, far past the point most people will read: