by David Roberts, in a Grist cross-post
Political reporter John Broder had a long piece in The New York Times [Thursday] chronicling Obama’s decision to delay a tighter national smog standard. I have no desire to relitigate that fight, but I do want to pluck out one particular bit of Broder’s piece to illustrate a point.
In a recent piece kvetching about media coverage of Solyndra, I said: “Republican talking points are delivered as first-order news. Liberal talking points are wrapped in meta-news about liberals and their talking points.” Let’s look at an example — not the biggest deal in the world, but quite illustrative.
Here’s the 11th paragraph of Broder’s piece:
The standard for ozone was last set in 2008 by the Bush administration at a level of 75 parts per billion, above the range of 60 to 70 recommended by the E.P.A.’s scientific advisory panel at the time, but never enacted. Environmental and public health groups challenged the Bush standard in court, saying it would endanger human health and had been tainted by political interference. Smog levels have declined sharply over the last 40 years, but each incremental improvement comes at a significant cost to business and government.
Look closely at those last two sentences. They contain four assertions:
- Bush’s ozone standard would harm public health.
- Bush’s ozone standard was subject to political interference.
- Smog levels have declined over the last 40 years.
- Each smog reduction imposes “significant costs” on “business.”
Now let’s re-order them based on how well they are supported by evidence: