The New York Times' coverage of the international climate change summit in Paris remained on an aggressive boil, as Coral Davenport and Gardiner Harris' report from France Tuesday, "Citing Urgency, World Leaders Converge on France for Climate Meeting," hit the same set of alarmist notes Davenport did in her previous story from Paris. And Justin Gillis, the paper's most alarmist environmental reporter, accused conservatives of bad faith, taking funding from Big Oil, and "cherry-picking" data under the headline "Why do people question climate change? -- Hint: ideology."
Participants are trying to hammer out an agreement (bypassing the U.S. Congress) that would limit "global warming" to 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit from pre-industrial levels, but the Times says that might not be enough to forestall catastrophe. Yet they urge citizens to rise up and demand that their governments do it anyway.
One of the largest gatherings of world leaders in history began a multinational effort Monday toward forging what many called the planet’s last, best hope to stave off the worst consequences of climate change.
New scientific reports show that the destructive effects of climate change have already begun to sweep the planet, with the global economy firmly on track to produce a level of emissions that would lock in a future of rising sea levels, intense droughts and food shortages, more destructive storms and floods, and other catastrophic effects.
President Obama blamed America, naturally:
Mr. Obama said that the United States was at least partly to blame for the life-threatening damage that environmental change has wrought.
“I’ve come here personally, as the leader of the world’s largest economy and the second-largest emitter,” Mr. Obama said, “to say that the United States of America not only recognizes our role in creating this problem, we embrace our responsibility to do something about it.”
Mr. Obama also repeated an argument, lampooned by some Republicans, that the climate conference was a fitting response to the terrorist attacks that cost the lives of 130 people in and around Paris on Nov. 13.
But the Times really went full activist in the back of the Science section with a report from Justin Gillis, who is more of advocate than a journalist: "Short Answers to Hard Climate Questions."
The issue can be overwhelming. The science is complicated. Predictions about the fate of the planet carry endless caveats and asterisks.
We get it.
The First World will certainly "get it" if Gillis's recommendations are put through. Some highlights from the Q's and A's (note that not all segments appeared in Tuesday's truncated print version):
1. How much is the planet heating up? -- 1.7 degrees is actually a significant amount.
As of this October, the Earth had warmed by about 1.7 degrees Fahrenheit since 1880, when tracking began at a global scale. That figure includes the surface of the ocean. The warming is greater over land, and greater still in the Arctic and parts of Antarctica.
The number may sound low, but as an average over the surface of an entire planet, it is actually high, which explains why much of the land ice on the planet is starting to melt and the oceans are rising at an accelerating pace. The heat accumulating in the Earth because of human emissions is roughly equal to the heat that would be released by 400,000 Hiroshima atomic bombs exploding across the planet every day.
Scientists believe most and probably all of the warming since 1950 was caused by the human release of greenhouse gases. If emissions continue unchecked, they say the global warming could ultimately exceed 8 degrees Fahrenheit, which would transform the planet and undermine its capacity to support a large human population.
2. How much trouble are we in? --For future generations, big trouble.
Longer term, if emissions continue to rise unchecked, the risks are profound. Scientists fear climate effects so severe that they might destabilize governments, produce waves of refugees, precipitate the sixth mass extinction of plants and animals in Earth’s history, and melt the polar ice caps, causing the seas to rise high enough to flood most of the world’s coastal cities.
But what will the paper's jet-setting international bureaus (and limousine liberal ownership) make of these next suggestions?
3. Is there anything I can do? -- Fly less, drive less, waste less.
There are lots of simple ways to reduce your own carbon footprint, and most of them will save you money. You can plug leaks in your home insulation to save power, install a smart thermostat, switch to more efficient light bulbs, turn off the lights in any room where you are not using them, drive fewer miles by consolidating trips or taking public transit, waste less food, and eat less meat.
Perhaps the biggest single thing individuals can do on their own is to take fewer airplane trips; just one or two fewer plane rides per year can save as much in emissions as all the other actions combined. If you want to be at the cutting edge, you can look at buying an electric or hybrid car, putting solar panels on your roof, or both.
But Gillis strongly suggests you rely on the federal government to save you.
In the end, though, experts do not believe the needed transformation in the energy system can happen without strong state and national policies. So speaking up and exercising your rights as a citizen matters as much as anything else you can do.
Gillis unveiled his usual clichéd science-fiction scare-mongering scenarios.
5. What’s the worst-case scenario? -- There are many.
That is actually hard to say, which is one reason scientists are urging that emissions be cut; they want to limit the possibility of any worst-case scenario coming to pass. Perhaps the greatest fear is a collapse of food production, accompanied by escalating prices and mass starvation....
Gillis, one of the paper's most politicized reporters, accused conservatives of bad faith in the battle of ideas regarding climate change.
9. Why do people question climate change? -- Hint: ideology.
Most of the attacks on climate science are coming from libertarians and other political conservatives who do not like the policies that have been proposed to fight global warming. Instead of negotiating over those policies and trying to make them more subject to free-market principles, they have taken the approach of blocking them by trying to undermine the science.
This ideological position has been propped up by money from fossil-fuel interests, which have paid to create organizations, fund conferences and the like. The scientific arguments made by these groups usually involve cherry-picking data, such as focusing on short-term blips in the temperature record or in sea ice, while ignoring the long-term trends.
Speaking of "focusing on short-term blips in the temperature record," here's Gillis himself has made a habit of establishing "historic" warming levels and pollution records that turn out to be rather less than they initially appear.
Throwing off any attempt at objectivity, he concluded with a call for activism, straight from the alleged news pages of the New York Times:
12. Is there any reason for hope? -- If you share this with 50 friends, maybe.
Scientists have been warning since the 1980s that strong policies were needed to limit emissions. Those warnings were ignored, and greenhouse gases in the atmosphere have since built up to potentially dangerous levels. So the hour is late.
Amazing what humans can ruin in just 30 years!
Gillis made one last plea for the people to "rise up" and throw off the shackles of prosperous, energy-using lifestyles.
What is still largely missing in all this are the voices of ordinary citizens. Because politicians have a hard time thinking beyond the next election, they tend to tackle hard problems only when the public rises up and demands it.