“There is no hope, but we might be wrong.”
Earth Day 2012 Edition
|The Strip | By Brian McFadden published in The New York Times, 4.22.12.
Happy Earth Day!
Since the first Earth Day, the environmental threats facing our country and planet have worsened, growing exponentially in number and complexity. Even as we learn more about these crises, already-anemic media coverage continues to decrease.
Here is an example of bad news not well covered:
The 112th Congress is the most anti-environmental Congress ever, making it responsible for the worst legislative assault on key safeguards for the environment and our health in U.S. history.
Since Republicans regained control of the House in 2010, the body has voted more than 190 times to block, delay or weaken the common sense safeguards that defend our water, wildlife, air and lands. And the onslaught continues.
According to information compiled by the Energy and Commerce Committee, the total anti-environment votes in 2011 included:
- 77 votes to dismantle the Clean Air Act;
- 27 votes to block actions that address climate change;
- 26 votes to defund or repeal clean energy initiatives;
- 84 votes to block actions that prevent pollution;
- 114 votes targeted at the EPA;
- 18 votes to dismantle the National Environmental Policy Act; and
- 28 votes to dismantle the Clean Water Act.
(Source: Legislative Database: The Most Anti-Environment House in History.)
Similarly, here is an example of negative biase of climate change in the media:
“Frozen Planet,” the seven-hour series that has attracted millions of viewers to the Discovery Channel in recent weeks, shows Earth in extremis. On this planet, the poles are violently cold, yet atypically vulnerable to the warming trends that are endangering polar bear populations and causing huge chunks of ice to break off Greenland and Antarctica.
What the series never assesses, however, is why.
As we know, scientists agree that human activities are influencing changes to the climate (especially at the poles) and believe that the situation requires serious attention. That scientific consensus is largely absent from “Frozen Planet,” an omission that sheds light on the dilemma of commercial television: the pursuit of ratings sometimes clashes with the quest for environmental and scientific education, particularly on issues like global warming.
Including the scientific theories “would have undermined the strength of an objective documentary, and would then have become utilized by people with political agendas,” Vanessa Berlowitz, the series producer, said in an interview.
Discovery Channel is not alone, but perhaps representative of a growing trend.“Many organizations, and it sounds like Discovery is one of them, appear to be more afraid of being criticized by climate change ‘dismissives’ than they are willing to provide information about climate change to the large majority of Americans who want to know more about it,” said Anthony Leiserowitz, the director of the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication.
Those dismissing the human effect on climate change make up only about 10 percent of the American population, according to Dr. Leiserowitz’s research. However, by drowning out the broader conversation about the subject, they seem more numerous than they actually are.
(Source: No Place for Heated Opinions, The New York Times.)
Here is the good news:
The public seems to get it.
Researchers at Yale’s Environmental Studies Department just released new data indicating, by a 2-1 margin, that Americans believe weather in their communities is getting worse, not better. A strong majority is beginning to link extreme weather events to evidence of climate change.
Another poll released last Wednesday, shows that a large majority of Americans believe that this year’s unusually warm winter, last year’s blistering summer and some other weather disasters were probably made worse by global warming. Again, by a 2-to-1 margin, the public says the weather has been getting worse, rather than better, in recent years.
The survey, the most detailed to date on the public response to weather extremes, comes atop other polling showing a recent uptick in concern about climate change. Read together, the polls suggest that direct experience of erratic weather may be convincing some people that the problem is no longer just a vague and distant threat.
“Most people in the country are looking at everything that’s happened; it just seems to be one disaster after another after another,” said Anthony A. Leiserowitz of Yale University, one of the researchers who commissioned the new poll. “People are starting to connect the dots.”
The poll suggests that a solid majority of the public feels that global warming is real, a result consistent with other polls that have asked the question in various ways. When invited to agree or disagree with the statement, “global warming is affecting the weather in the United States,” 69 percent of respondents in the new poll said they agreed, while 30 percent disagreed.
It seems there are some things the Congress and the “deniers” are finding they can’t control. You can’t fool mother nature – or the public.
Peter Bahouth, Executive Director, US Climate Action Network.