08 February 2007

Fox News, is global warming non-existent or unstoppable?

As you may know, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released the first part of its Fourth Assessment Report, which is a "Summary for Policymakers," on February 4, 2007. This has received significant coverage in the media, but different outlets have covered it in very different ways.

The headline from CNN.com emphasized the summary's conclusion that humans are "very likely" to be causing global warming. The Fox News headline states that the report says that global warming is "man-made" and "basically unstoppable," which is a more certain and more dire perspective than CNN. However, a commentary by regular "Junk Science" columnist Steven Milloy, attacked the report by claiming that it and the "alarmists" who wrote it are part of the "the global warming carnival." He also claims that the existence of global warming (a.k.a. global climate change) is the subject of "a raging debate."

Milloy's comments come as no surprise to me, but I was surprised to see Fox simultaneously featuring two polar opposite reactions to the report. The two poles have one thing in common: they provide no motivation for the reader to change behavior. If humans are causing global warming, maybe we are obligated to change our individual and collective behavior so that we stop causing it. Conversely, if we are not causing global warming, we have no reason to change the status quo. If we are causing it but it cannot be stopped, any changes would be futile and pointless. Personally, I think our home planet is a good Creation of God; therefore, we should make some effort to cultivate it and keep it.

1 comment:

Steve Sekula said...

Ever feel like spin in a magnetic field? These attempts to collapse us into two states, in each case where inaction is the choice-du-jour, is a real disservice to the public. The real point has been missed: that being good stewards and maintaining a growing and healthy society are not exclusive. What amazes me is that there is a fundamental goodness out there that we could all tap into, a sense of responsibility and a sense of ownership about our world. Even little changes - compact fluorescent lights, modern appliances, responsible electrical usage, cycling or walking to work, public transportation - can have a huge aggregate effect. Many of them, such as research into and use of alternative energies in addition to traditional energy, could be used as a means to develop new economies of responsibility, providing both a moral and financial incentive. Commentaries like these are too common, although I am pleased to see the wider mainstream media changin the dialogue from "Junk science makes more waves" to "Scientific consensus teaches us the Consequences of our actions." I look forward to the day when the media puts out in front talking heads with actual credentials in their field (in this case, an understanding of the process of science used to arrive at a conclusion), rather than pseudo-skeptics -- those who disregard the methods used to draw a conclusion so that they can simply play "devil's advocate" or stump for the status quo.