EPA Issues Breakthrough Carbon Pollution Rule, Media Stuck In Old Habits


Team Obama has taken the most serious step toward limiting carbon pollution of any Administration in history. Their proposed 25 percent cut in electric utility CO2 emissions by 2020 (vs 2005 levels) has broad implications for international climate talks and domestic politics.

Nontraditional media — such as Climate Progress or Vox — get the importance. Vox for instance, lead their site Monday morning with multiple stories on climate, including one by Yglesias headlined, “June 2 is the most important day of Obama’s second term.” Ezra Klein has an excellent context-setting piece, “Obama’s climate change regulations are less ambitious than what Republicans were proposing in 2008.”

You’d have trouble finding much mention of the rules in the entire first hour of the the premiere morning show of (left-leaning?) MSNBC, Morning Joe, or on the front page of the Washington Post’s website — though you’ll have no trouble finding the Post’s two “Game Of Thrones” articles. If you don’t feature a story, it’s unlikely to trend….

I guess it’s just too bad the EPA rule happened the same weekend so many other history-making stories broke, such as the death of the actress who played Alice on “The Brady Bunch” or another episode of “Game of Thrones” where (non-spoiler alert) bad guys triumphed and good guys got killed in an eye-poppingly gruesome way.


The release of POW Bowe Bergdahl — which pushed aside all other stories on the first segments of the “Today” show or “Good Morning America” Monday — is a big human-interest story. But it’s not close to one like the EPA rule that is historically important to all Americans and potentially all humans — if, as is possible, it finally enables international climate talks over the next 18 months that finally reverse the suicidal emissions trend the world is currently on. Plus ça change….

What climate coverage we saw on Monday was often lame. At Time magazine’s website — in a piece featured somewhere below “Yes, That Game of Thrones Exploding Head Thing Could Really Happen (Probably)” — was “New Carbon Rules the Next Step in Obama’s War on Coal”! And yes, that head-exploding climate story was really written by TIME’s senior national correspondent, Michael Grunwald.

In case you want to know what Obama’s war on coal looks like, here are job trends in the coal industry:

War is heck.

Strangely, we never hear about Reagan’s war on coal. Or George H. W. Bush’s war on coal. Note that employment in coal mines has been higher in Obama’s administration than it was the George W. Bush’s.


Perhaps this is why there’s so little climate coverage. Inside the DC beltway, a “war” is so bloodless, the other side actually sees healthy growth. In “Game of Thrones” combat, on the other hand (only hand?), the losing side never gets up again…. Guess that’s why the MSM prefers writing about the latter.

As for the Post, they did actually run a front-page story for their ever-shrinking print readership. Sadly, it contains lines like this:

The rule represents one of the most significant steps the federal government has ever taken to curb the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions, which are linked to climate change….

The “link” is causation. The phrase in bold type should simply read “which cause climate change.” There is no question that greenhouse gases heat the planet and change the climate. Heck, if there were no greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, the earth would on average be 60°F colder.

Still, the Post has better phrasing than the N.Y. Times in their lead EPA story:

Because burning coal is the largest source of the greenhouse gas emissions that scientists blame for trapping heat in the atmosphere and dangerously warming the planet, the rule is expected to have a powerful environmental impact.

This just a few days after Elizabeth Kolbert, one of the country’s top climate reporters, slammed the Times in a tweet for putting the phrase “scientists say” before the phrase “GHG’s are the chief cause of global warming?” The phrase “scientists blame” is as wimpy as “scientists say.”


In the Wall Street Journal’s story, the ever-redoubtable (ever-doubtable?) business newspaper explains that Obama is “casting the rule as needed to protect public health as well as to reduce the carbon emissions that scientists say contribute to climate change.”

That is a double hedge — it would far more scientifically accurate to drop “scientists say” and replace “contribute to” with “cause” so it reads, “casting the rule as needed to protect public health as well as to reduce the carbon emissions that cause climate change.”

A new study by the University of Colorado also released Monday finds, “The amount of “hedging” language — words that suggest room for doubt — used by prominent newspapers in articles about climate change has increased over time.” The lead author said:

“We were surprised to find newspapers increased their use of hedging language, since the scientific consensus that climate change is happening and that humans are contributing to it has substantially strengthened over time.”

We weren’t surprised.