Beware The Comment Section

The comment section for any article about climate change is always full of fervent naysayers, perhaps unaware they are parroting scripts from a well paid denial and confusion machine.  Sadly, this editorial in the Star was treated no differently.  A casual observer could be forgiven for thinking there is a legitimate debate; but that is simply not the case.

click for original article

Of 13,950 relevant peer-reviewed scientific articles from 1991 to 2012, only 24 rejected human-caused global warming (0.17%).  In 2013, the incidence of dissent was even less: of 2,238 relevant peer-reviewed scientific articles written by 9,136 authors, only 1 author rejected human-caused global warming (0.01%).  Legitimate dissent, such as it ever was, might be in precipitous decline.

And, for the many collateral casualties of the denial machine: climate change is a predicted and observed consequence of global warming.

Given the vast resources and influence of the carbon lobby, it should go without saying that any and all legitimate scientific research debunking human-caused global warming would be aggressively sought out and generously supported.  If any of the — almost non-existent — dissent in peer-reviewed research were conclusive or even compelling, slick PR campaigns would be saturating the broadcast media with those findings and those researchers would be on every talk circuit.  This would be news of Rob Ford-like proportions, by which I mean that even mainstream news media would cover it.

The near-total silence of dissent in peer-reviewed scientific research should be deafening.  Instead it is the noise from the denial machine that is deafening.

While I congratulate the Star for recent editorials calling for action on climate change, the Star is part of our collective inertia.  Of the top 25 Canadian newspapers by circulation, not one has an environment section.  No Canadian television news has an environment segment.  The environment news section was recently retired from the CBC website due to “redesign.”  Imagine if the business section were retired due to “redesign.”

We are treated to daily news about cars, celebrities, and Toronto’s tragicomic mayor; for daily news about the environment we have to look elsewhere.  The IPCC assessment reports are rarely more than one-day-wonders in mainstream news media and they are routinely contextualized in a false, lazy journalistic “balance” as being one side of this manufactured “debate” about the very existence of human-caused climate change.

As there is no authentic environmental discourse in our mainstream news media, it is not surprising there is no authentic environmental discourse among our policy makers.  The IPCC has stated we have a remaining budget of burnable carbon that is at most 20% of proven reserves.  Exceeding this budget would virtually guarantee passing the threshold of dangerous climate change.  I am unaware that any reporter or interviewer has ever asked any of Stephen Harper’s ministers to contextualize any of Stephen Harper’s policies in terms of this budget — not even to refute that such a budget exists.

Either we have a carbon budget or we do not.  The Star, and all mainstream news media, must either include this concept in our mainstream discourse or explain why they are ignoring it.  Ignoring climate change on issues of policy is an editorial decision by omission when the case for climate change has been made to any reasonable standard of scientific certainty.

If Canada must get serious about climate change then so must the Star.  Let us be done with the paid denial machine and have the only legitimate debate about climate change; namely what, if anything, we are going to do about it.

Kevin Farmer

April 22, 2014



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