MSNBC Likens Paris Climate Deal to 'NASA Moonshot Kind of Moment'

MSNBC's Tony Dokoupil acted more like a left-wing environmentalist than a journalist on Saturday's Weekends With Alex Witt, as he reported on the Paris climate change talks. Dokoupil trumpeted how "it's really like a Mars lander kind of moment — a NASA moonshot moment." The correspondent later touted how "history will be made" if the talks conclude successfully, and added, "I can't wait to see how it turns out, because there's going to be celebration if it's successful; and there could really be rioting in the streets here if it fails." [video below]

Host Alex Witt also revealed her own liberal slant during the two segments with Dokoupil. Just after the top of the 12 pm Eastern hour, Witt underlined that the journalist had been "passionately covering all of this," and asked, "Tell me what you think the biggest hurdle is to putting this into implementation phase?" Dokoupil replied with his comparison of the meeting to the Apollo missions.

The anchor followed up by wondering if the representatives from most of the countries in the world had voted on the agreement yet. The MSNBC correspondent went out of his way to cite President Obama and the French foreign minister regarding the apparent stakes of the talks:

TONY DOKOUPIL: ...[T]hey're working through the agreement one last time; and then, there will be a dramatic final moment. It's got to be consensus. The French foreign minister will come to the podium — and keep in mind, when he unveiled this agreement earlier today, he put it in the context of future generations. He says, if we fail now, our children will not understand, and they will not forgive us. And President Obama, he put it in similar terms in the run-up to Paris. He said, we are at risk of giving our children a planet that they cannot repair. So, those are the stakes that diplomats are talking about, and any time now — this hour or, maybe, as late as tomorrow morning, they're going to have vote — a consensus vote. The foreign minister will say, do we have an agreement? If no one speaks; if it's silent in that room; he'll bang the gavel, and history will be made, Alex.

ALEX WITT: That's pretty extraordinary.

Dokoupil also mouthed the talking points of the radical environmentalist who wanted the agreement to go much further: "The activist community feels that this agreement goes nowhere near far enough to stave off what scientists say could be catastrophic and irreversible climate change. It doesn't do anything to rein in the burning of oil, gas, and coal — which is the primary driver. And it also doesn't deal with the inequalities. America and Europe — we've grown very rich burning these fuels; India and China have not; and yet, we're asking them to do as much as we are." Witt replied, "Okay, but at least it is a step in the right direction."

An hour later, Witt brought back the correspondent. He repeated many of the same points, but added something that revealed more of his blatant bias: "So, high-pressure situation, and — but optimism remains — a lot of momentum, and a lot of optimism. I can't wait to see how it turns out, because there's going to be celebration if it's successful; and there could really be rioting in the streets here if it fails...we're on a razor's edge here in Paris." The anchor responded, "Yeah. That's why it seems like you're, kind of, with this — holding your breath sort of anticipation there."

This isn't the first time that MSNBC has gone overboard in comparing something to the Apollo 11 moon landing. Former host Keith Olbermann compared the election of President Obama in 2008 to the 1969 milestone: "You've seen those videotapes of Walter Cronkite, the night that man landed on the moon for the first time, when Neil Armstrong stepped out, and he could just barely get out monosyllables. Politically, that's what this is. This is man on the moon."

The transcripts of the relevant portions of the two Tony Dokoupil segments from the December 12, 2015 edition of MSNBC's Weekends With Alex Witt:

12:04 pm EST

ALEX WITT: Let's bring in MSNBC national reporter Tony Dokoupil. He is in Paris — that's where the protests are growing over the climate agreement, even before it's been officially adopted. So, with a welcome to you, Tony — before I get to what's happening on the ground there — I know you've been passionately covering all of this — tell me what you think the biggest hurdle is to putting this into implementation phase?

[MSNBC Graphic: "Paris Climate Talks Target Global Warming; Protests in Paris Over New Climate Agreement"]

TONY DOKOUPIL: I want to get to that, Alex, but first, I got tell you that — you see the flashing lights behind me — the Eiffel Tower is totally lit up — right now, all of the nations of the world have entered the plenary hall for this final vote, and I'm told the mood in that room is about as — as excited as the Eiffel Tower looks behind me this moment. There's incredible optimism; incredible momentum to get this deal done. It's really like a Mars lander kind of moment — a NASA moonshot moment. For 25 years, the nations of the world have been trying to hammer out an agreement that is global; that is universal; that brings everyone to the table, unlike Kyoto. They failed in 2009 in Copenhagen. It broke down at just about this moment. This time, they think it can get done.

[MSNBC Graphic: "World Leaders Release New Climate Agreement"]

(...)

WITT: So Tony, the difference between now and Copenhagen in '09 — it broke down — this is going through. When you talked about the mood in that room that — right now, have they officially voted?

DOKOUPIL: They are in the room where they will take the vote, and it could be one hour; it could be two hours; it could take all the way til tomorrow morning. They're in the final room. They're going to have a vote before they leave. That's what we are told. So, they're working through the agreement one last time; and then, there will be a dramatic final moment. It's got to be consensus. The French foreign minister will come to the — to the podium — and keep in mind, when he unveiled this agreement earlier today, he put it in the context of future generations. He says, if we fail now, our children will not understand, and they will not forgive us. And President Obama, he put — he put it in similar terms in the run-up to Paris. He said, we are at risk of giving our children a planet that they cannot repair. So, those are the stakes that diplomats are talking about, and any time now — this hour or, maybe, as late as tomorrow morning, they're going to have vote — a consensus vote. The foreign minister will say, do we have an agreement? If no one speaks; if it's silent in that room; he'll bang the gavel, and history will be made, Alex.

[MSNBC Graphic: "Leaders Prepare For Vote On New Climate Rules; Climate Protesters Take To The Streets In Paris"]

WITT: That's pretty extraordinary. Those protests that we saw with you earlier on the broadcast, what's the status of those right now?

(...)

DOKOUPIL: It was relatively peaceful, but still very angry, because the activist community feels that this agreement goes nowhere near far enough to stave off what scientists say could be catastrophic and irreversible climate change. It doesn't do anything to rein in the burning of oil, gas, and coal — which is the primary driver. And it also doesn't deal with the inequalities. America and Europe — we've grown very rich burning these fuels; India and China have not; and yet, we're asking them to do as much as we are. That's the message from the activist community, Alex.

WITT: Okay, but at least it is a step in the right direction. Tony Dokoupil, thank you so much — good to see you in Paris—

DOKOUPIL: 'In the right direction' — it's not quite done. You'll have to send me back to Paris, I think in a few years.

WITT: Oh, okay — happy to do that. I agree — there you go. Thank you. (Dokoupil laughs)

Well, for more on those Paris talks, and investigating the effects of climate change in the U.S. and across the world, in fact, you can go to MSNBC.com. Check out our in-depth multimedia feature, 'Our Old Familiar Globe is Gone.'


01:04 pm EST

WITT: Let's go to Paris — of course, the site of the climate talks there. Tony Dokoupil is standing by for us. So, with the beautiful sparkling Eiffel Tower behind you — it's got those lights back on — what's happening there right now?

[MSNBC Graphic: "World Leaders Release New Climate Agreement; Paris Climate Talks Target Global Warming"]

DOKOUPIL: Well, the nations of the world — it sounds so grandiose to say it — but the nations of the world are gathered about 10 miles from here, and they are going over the draft one more time and line by line, in anticipation of a vote tonight. So, we're going to get — this is a culmination of not only a two-week negotiation process here in Paris, but a 25-year political process, going all the way back to 1992 in Rio. The world has been trying to find a solution to this problem of global warming. They think they've now got what could be a balanced approach. But there are very, very big questions that remain.

[MSNBC Graphic: "Leaders Prepare For Vote On New Climate Rules; COP21 Climate Agreement: -Keeps Rise In Global Temps Below 2 Degree Celsius; Involves Negotiators From 196 Countries; -Would Be Legally Binding If Adopted"]

Kelly [Cobiella] mentioned that goal of 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit. The problem with that goal is the current pledges — the current pledges that the countries of the world have made — don't put us anywhere near staying within that boundary. We're going to be blow way past it, and that's frightening, for many people, because scientists say that that it is a red line; that if we cross it, that could be catastrophic — and, in the words of the United Nations — irreversible effects. So obviously, we want to limit that.

(...)

WITT: Okay, Tony, I got to ask you, though, about this vote. So literally, is this just a up or down vote — and who would deem to put forth a down vote, after two weeks of negotiations; getting through all of these hurdles — because you don't want a repeat of 2009 in Copenhagen?

DOKOUPIL: We would not. There is a lot of pressure to get something done here. The French foreign minister, in unveiling the draft, said, if we fail here, our children will not understand or forgive us — so, extremely powerful; extremely emotional language.

(...)

And it only takes one country — it only takes on Saudi Arabian hand or one Venezuelan hand — one delegate to say, we're not going to be do it, and the whole thing is off, and five more years go by before we're at this moment again. So, high-pressure situation, and — but optimism remains — a lot of momentum, and a lot of optimism. I can't wait to see how it turns out, because there's going to be celebration if it's successful; and there could really be rioting in the streets here if it fails. There's that kind of — we're on a razor's edge here in Paris.

WITT: Yeah. That's why it seems like you're, kind of, with this — holding your breath sort of anticipation there, so — all right. Tony Dokoupil, thank you so much.

[H/t: @Soopermexican at The Right Scoop blog]

NB Daily Regulation Environment Global Warming Pollution Foreign Policy Labeling Liberals & Democrats Protesters MSNBC Other MSNBC Alex Witt Tony Dokoupil
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