Hyperbole much? The New York Times brought predictably alarmist and overheated coverage to the international climate talks in Paris, while lauding President Obama's attempt to make a legacy fighting "global warming." Environmental Reporter Coral Davenport gushed: "On Sunday night he arrives in Paris, hoping to make climate policy the signature environmental achievement of his, and perhaps any, presidency."
In a later story she warned "If the talks fail...then nations will continue on a trajectory that scientists say locks the planet into a future of rising sea levels, more frequent floods, worsening droughts, food and water shortages, destructive hurricanes and other catastrophic events."
That last quote is from a virtual op-ed Davenport wrote in the guise of a news story for Monday's front page, "As Climate Risks Rise, Talks In Paris Set Stage for Action."
President Obama and more than 100 world leaders will convene with thousands of diplomats on Monday on the outskirts of Paris to open two weeks of intense negotiations aimed at forging an accord that could begin to avert the most devastating effects of global warming and redefine the economy of the 21st century.
Here is a guide to what is at stake. If the talks fail -- as they did in two previous attempts to achieve such a deal -- then nations will continue on a trajectory that scientists say locks the planet into a future of rising sea levels, more frequent floods, worsening droughts, food and water shortages, destructive hurricanes and other catastrophic events.
Recent scientific reports have concluded that the first effects of human-caused climate change have already started to sweep across the Earth, from rising sea levels flooding Miami to savage heat waves in Australia. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration projects that 2015 will be the hottest global year on record, beating the record set in 2014.
Together the more than 170 national plans for Paris would still allow the planet to warm by as much as 6 degrees, according to several independent and academic analyses. Scientists say that that level of warming is still likely to cause food shortages and widespread extinctions of plant and animal life.
Still, that would count as progress. Without the Paris climate policies, scientists say, the planet is headed toward a far more destructive temperature increase of more than 8 degrees Fahrenheit.
Do all "scientists say" the same thing? Apparently so, in Times-world.
So the voluntary plans are taking the place of mandatory, top-down targets -- or what one negotiator called “legal jujitsu” that avoids the legal definition of a treaty.
"Reporter" Davenport seemed quite eager to sell a particular global warming plan:
Here’s another way to think about it: You are given a school assignment, but there won’t be any punishment if you don’t turn it in. However, you are required to attend an assembly with your peers and to show them your homework. The hope is that the “student leaders,” the largest economies, will create a dynamic of international peer pressure.
The paper's most alarmist environmental reporter, Justin Gillis, made Sunday's front page with "Pledges to Cut Emissions Lag As Climate Talks Get Underway." But he didn't seem to think it would make any difference.
After two decades of talks that failed to slow the relentless pace of global warming, negotiators from almost 200 countries are widely expected to sign a deal in the next two weeks to take concrete steps to cut emissions.
Yet the negotiators gathering in Paris will not be discussing any plan that comes close to meeting their own stated goal of limiting the increase of global temperatures to a reasonably safe level.
Like Davenport, Gillis adopted a loosey-goosey tone more appropriate for an opinion piece than a news story:
In effect, the countries are vowing to make changes that collectively still fall far short of the necessary goal, much like a patient who, upon hearing from his doctor that he must lose 50 pounds to avoid life-threatening health risks, takes pride in cutting out fries but not cake and ice cream.
The carbon budget will probably not get much attention in Paris for simple reasons.
Wrestling with a budget would, for instance, throw into stark relief the global inequities at the heart of the climate crisis. And it would underscore just how big the problem really is, how costly the delay in tackling it has been and how inadequate the plans being discussed in Paris are for limiting the risks.
Gillis outbid the politicians gathered in Paris by signing on to the left-wing, student-led idea of a "carbon budget."
Though it will be ignored in Paris, the idea of a carbon budget is gaining currency in the broader world of climate-change politics. For instance, the notion is at the heart of the student-led movement urging college endowment funds and other investors to shed their holdings in fossil-fuel companies. The students’ argument is not just that the companies are blocking needed change, but that they represent risky investments, given that much of the fossil fuels they hold as reserves cannot be burned if the world intends to stay within the carbon budget.
Davenport also appeared in Sunday's paper in "Obama's Climate Push Is Shaping Contours Of His Coming Legacy." She proved herself proudly unembarrassed about President Obama's silly sentiment:
At a joint news conference here Tuesday with President François Hollande of France, President Obama veered from his focus on the terrorist attacks in Paris to bring up the huge international gathering beginning in the French capital on Monday to hammer out a global response to climate change.
“What a powerful rebuke to the terrorists it will be when the world stands as one and shows that we will not be deterred from building a better future for our children,” Mr. Obama said of the climate conference.
Davenport saw nothing wrong with Obama's ridiculous statement -- only "the political right" did:
The segue brought mockery, even castigation, from the political right, but it was a reminder of the importance Mr. Obama places on climate change in shaping his legacy. During his 2012 re-election campaign, he barely mentioned global warming, but the issue has become a hallmark of his second term.
And on Sunday night he arrives in Paris, hoping to make climate policy the signature environmental achievement of his, and perhaps any, presidency.
“He comes to Paris with a moral authority that no other president has had on the issue of climate change,” said Douglas Brinkley, a presidential historian at Rice University who noted that Mr. Obama’s domestic climate efforts already stand alone in American history. “No other president has had a climate change policy. It makes him unique.”
For a more sober and long-view take on "climate change," there's this analysis, showing just how little scientists actually understand about what's going on.
The Times kept adding fuel to the fire, pinning new poll results to nytimes.com claiming that "Two-Thirds of Americans Want U.S. to Join Climate Change Pact." (Hat-tip NewsBusters colleague Tim Graham)
Reporter Giovanni Russonello emphasized the positive, as far as the liberals at the Times are concerned:
A solid majority of Americans say the United States should join an international treaty to limit the impact of global warming, but on this and other climate-related questions, opinion divides sharply along partisan lines, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll.
Still, the shift in public opinion has many advocates of strong climate change measures hopeful that the Paris talks could provide a turning point.
Russonello eventually admitted:
But just one in five Americans favored increasing taxes on electricity as a way to fight global warming; six in 10 were strongly opposed, including 49 percent of Democrats. And support was not much higher for increasing gasoline taxes, at 36 percent over all.
The reporter also skipped the fact that most of the public remain skeptical about the dangers of "global warming," as shown by the response to Question 6, "How much do you personally worry about global warming or climate change?"
The answers showed that most respondents carried either only a little or not at all:
Great deal 14%
Fair amount 34%
Only a little 32%
Not at all 24%