Memo to Wall Street Journal: You can do better than “greenhouse gases, which are believed to contribute to climate change”
"Memo to Wall Street Journal: You can do better than “greenhouse gases, which are believed to contribute to climate change”"
[You might try sending emails to the reporters below. My guess is they didn't put a lot of thought into what they were writing and might be open to writing it differently in the future -- since this isn't the WSJ editorial page.]
The media misinforms the public about climate science in many different ways. One, as we’ve just seen, is by publishing long-debunked disinformation over and over again.
But misinformation can be as damaging as disinformation. Consider this March 27 Wall Street Journal piece, “Climate Talks Look to U.S. Role,” by Leila Abboud at email@example.com and Stephen Power at firstname.lastname@example.org (emailed me by a sharp-eyed reader). It contains this pointlessly hedged sentence:
The U.S., under the Bush administration, didn’t ratify the Kyoto treaty, and China and other developing countries such as India and Brazil aren’t obligated under the treaty to restrict emissions of greenhouse gases, which are believed to contribute to climate change.
I think we are at least one decade, if not two decades, passed a time when the words “are believed to” are justified.
Note to Abboud and Power: Why exactly do you think they are called greenhouse gases?
This hedge is especially pointless and misinforming because of the second hedge — “contribute to.”
Back in 2001, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) — the world’s top climate scientists who periodically review the scientific literature and publish reports that every major government signs off on word for word — wrote:
An increasing body of observations gives a collective picture of a warming world and other changes in the climate system… There is new and stronger evidence that most of the warming observed over the last 50 years is attributable to human activities.
Based on increasingly strong scientific evidence, the IPCC strengthened its conclusion in 2007, as the NYT explained:
The world’s leading climate scientists said global warming has begun, is very likely caused by man, and will be unstoppable for centuries…. The phrase very likely translates to a more than 90 percent certainty that global warming is caused by man’s burning of fossil fuels. That was the strongest conclusion to date, making it nearly impossible to say natural forces are to blame.
So perhaps the WSJ might catch up with the scientific understanding and write some variation of:
… emissions of greenhouse gases, which cause climate change.