Let’s frame the issue properly.
A small band of mostly European and American advocates, bureaucrats, politicians, and scientists proclaim that, because of their boundless greed, the industrial nations are destroying the earth. To prevent the death and dislocation of millions, we must embark on a revolutionary transformation which will cost, by one estimate, $100 trillion. Everything, from our economic system to the food we eat, must change. Further, it must happen now. There’s no time for discussion or politics. To wait is to invite an ever worse disaster.
Now, you are the owners, editors, and writers of the NYT. Your job is to maintain the paper’s reputation as the place of record, disseminating “all the news that’s fit to print.” Your civic duty is to act as the public’s watchdog, challenging those in positions of power to account for their policies and behavior.
On both accounts, one would expect the NYT to throw every available resource at the factual claims and political demands of the privileged group described above: the global warming elites. Documents would be minutely parsed, footnotes double-checked. Investigative reporters would sniff for conflict of interest.
Pointed questions would be asked. Who are these people, making such colossal demands on the rest of us? How are they accountable? What is their agenda? What are their public relations tactics? Who pays their salaries? How can their assertions be tested? How reliable are their predictive models? Why do they insist on bypassing critical discussion and the give-and-take of democratic decision-making?
None of this happened. Driven by its own elitist fantasies, the paper chose to become a mouthpiece of climate advocacy.
Global warming politics collapsed from its own contradictions last December at the climate summit in Copenhagen. Since then, blogging amateurs have undermined large tracts of the science behind global warming, and called attention to the conflicts of interest of the maximum leader of climate politics, IPCC chief R. J. Pachauri.
Regarding these developments, the public’s watchdog maintained a sullen silence. Since the fiasco at Copenhagen, it has devoted more space to the writing on Sarah Palin’s hands than to the disintegration of the once-formidable clout of the climate elites.
The author is Elizabeth Rosenthal, who trained as a medical doctor in New York Hospital’s emergency unit. That qualifies her to deal with broken bones and trauma, less so with the uncertainties of climate science. The headline, “Skeptics Find Fault With UN Climate Panel,” sets the squishy tone for everything that follows.
Is there fault to be assigned to Pachauri and the IPCC? Well, “climate skeptics, right-leaning politicians, and” – one can hear Rosenthal gulping – “even some mainstream scientists” say so. Most of those witnesses sound disreputable. No sane person would listen to “right-leaning politicians.”
So is Pachauri at fault?
Well, some of the accusations lodged against him have turned out to be “half truths.” How do we know this? Because Pachauri assured Rosenthal that, while a lot of his activities may smack of conflict of interest, he makes no money on them. “My conscience is clear,” he added during a “lengthy telephone interview” – which, to all appearances, was the only original research conducted by the public’s watchdog.
What’s the fuss, then? Pachauri seems in the clear – at least, his conscience is. His accusers are rightwingers. Where’s the problem?
Well, a scientist from the University of Colorado finds “obvious and egregious problems.” He’s not a rightwinger, so far as we are told. What are these problems? We are not told those, either – but we do hear from Pachauri again, who blames it all on “lies” and “distortions.” “These guys want me to resign, but I won’t,” he proclaims.
So is that good or bad?
Well, someone called Hal Harvey tells Rosenthal, “Anyone who is qualified to chair the IPCC will have interests in academics, science, politics or business” – meh, who can say what conflict of interest is anymore? He goes on to note that some US Government agencies tolerate conflict of interest to obtain expert advice. So it’s okay. Except that most agencies don’t, Rosenthal recalls. So it’s confusing.
Now, who is Hal Harvey? He’s the chief executive of Climateworks, “an international philanthropic network dedicated to achieving low-carbon prosperity.” Hal Harvey runs a pressure group. His biography makes him out to be a creature of the foundations: William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, Rockefeller Foundation, Energy Foundation, MacArthur Foundation, and so on and on – a man who has never held a productive job in his life, but who wants to help the world achieve “low-carbon prosperity.”
Why was Hal Harvey interviewed? Unclear. Why the professor from Colorado? Unexplained. Their names just pop up, then they spout contradictory opinions.
As for the IPCC, it has been “sullied” by “accusations of errors . . . most originating from two right-leaning British papers, The Sunday Telegraph and The Times of London.” But why should one be sullied by an accusation from a rightwinger? Are the accusations true? Rosenthal doesn’t venture to guess. And why that “most” – would this be because the Guardian, that ultimate not-rightwinger newspaper, has launched a few accusations of its own?
So where do we stand on the fault-finding?
Well, Pachauri admits that an energy institute he runs owns stock in oil companies. That is really faulty, right? Except Pachauri is Indian. He comes from a poor country, and has to make ends meet.
“We have to generate our own resources from our work,” he said. “This is an institute that has pulled itself up by its bootstraps.”
So it’s like the American dream, only for an Indian functionary of the United Nations. What’s the problem here?
After all the back and forth, at the hind end of the story, the Colorado guy complains, “This has become so polarized.”
There you have it. The public’s watchdog has interviewed the IPCC head and two random people, conducted no research on the facts of the matter and omitted quite a few, repeatedly noted the rightwingness of Pachauri’s critics, skimmed lightly over the actual issues at stake, then blamed the whole thing – indirectly, though someone else’s words – on polarization.
I have posted before, with no regrets, on the coming death of news. This article demontrates that in many ways, for many subjects, the news is dead already.