The Ethical Vacuum of Flat Earth Journalism

Tue, 2006-01-10 11:09Richard Littlemore
Richard Littlemore's picture

The Ethical Vacuum of Flat Earth Journalism

The Salem Oregon Statesman Journal ran an opinion piece today that declared, conclusively: “Global-Warming Fears Pointless.”

The article was a prescription for inaction, a recommendation that we should all throw our hands up in despair over our inability to understand or affect climate change.

It was also irresponsible journalism of the worst sort.

The writer, “a forestry consultant with 36 years' experience as a forester” posted exactly zero credentials as a climate analyst and made no effort to back up his fervent but vacuous “scientific” conclusion. No worries: it's his right to say what he thinks, no matter how poorly founded that opinion.

But the editor who chose to run the piece has a responsibility to exercise a little judgment about the accuracy and reliability of the content he puts in the paper. Presumably, he or she wouldn't run a story suggesting that his boss had been arrested for drunk driving without first checking the facts. Presumably, the Statesman Journal no longer carries reports of the Flat Earth Society as fact. Yet, the paper clearly feels it is acceptable to post the ungrounded blather of a thoroughly uninformed reader without, for example, checking that content with a single reputable source.

The problem, here, is that people assume newspaper proprietors care about their content. The bigger problem, apparently, is that the editors of the Statesman Journal clearly don't.

Comments

Mickey Bellman’s column is a classic effort to confuse readers about our changing climate.

While he is certainly correct that another eruption of Mt. St. Helens, a meteor attack or a pole shift could affect the climate, his statement that “we don’t know what controls the climate” ignores the findings, not of environmental alarmists, but of more than 2,000 scientists from 100 countries reporting to the UN in what is the largest and most rigorously peer-reviewed scientific collaboration in history.

We have known since the 19th century that carbon dioxide in the atmosphere traps in heat. We also know that for 10,000 years, the level of atmospheric CO2 held steady at about 280 ppm. Since the late 19th century, when the world began to industrialize using coal and oil, that level has jumped to 380 ppm – a level not experienced by the planet for at least 650,000 years.

Each year we are putting about 7 billion tons of carbon into the atmosphere – whose upper extent is about 10 miles overhead. As a consequence, the planet’s temperature is rising - 9 of the 10 hottest years on record have occurred since 1995.  The weather is also becoming increasingly unstable, with new extremes occurring on a regular basis.

Over and above changes in the weather, the warming that is resulting from our burning of fossil fuels is having very direct impacts on the planet. Sea levels are rising, glaciers are melting, the timing of the seasons is changing and, all over the world, fish, birds, insects, animals and plants are migrating toward the poles in search of temperature stability.

I hope, for the sake of our trees that Mickey Bellman know more about forestry than he does about the climate.