Talk about tone deaf. The journalists at CBS This Morning on Wednesday celebrated Earth Day by finding the upside to a global pandemic killing hundreds of thousands and destroying the economy. Co-host Anthony Mason cheered, “Ahead on this Earth Day, we'll show you the rapid and amazing environmental improvements taking place during the pandemic. What it tells us about creating a healthier planet.”
With no sense that they are broadcasting to Americans who have lost their jobs and had their businesses go under, reporter Jamie Yuccas looked on the bright side: “From a shockingly smog-free New Delhi in India to unusually clear waters in the canals of Venice, the world is suddenly learning what can happen if humans stop polluting the environment.”
Stop polluting the earth? 180,000 people are dead worldwide. Two and a half million have been infected. The worldwide economy is in shambles. Yuccas talked to climate scientist Gabby Pfister who imagined removing all automobiles from the road: “Assume all passenger cars are taken off the roads, what would happen to our climate and air quality? I mean, this is typically something we can only test in our numerical models, but then we don't have observations. Now we do.”
ALL the cars? Well, one might imagine a global depression destroying life as we know it. But that didn’t seem to be her point. Pfister lectured, “It has shown us that there are ways that we can make a significant change in the human footprint in our atmosphere and our nature.”
Yes, at considerable, awful expense to humanity. Co-host Gayle King, however, saw this as all very profound: “Something to think about there. Many people see this as a major reset for humanity and the planet. I hope we're all listening and get the lesson. We'll see.”
On March 19, CBS This Morning’s Vladimir Duthiers touted a decrease in pollution in Italy: “This is a map, a satellite map showing you the level of pollution that has gone away the past three months because of the reduction of emissions across northern Italy.” Italy now has around 25,000 dead now. So perhaps that wasn’t quite the cheery story Duthiers thought it was.
On March 13, PBS’s Christiane Amanpour found the “environmental silver lining” to this all. On April 22, Hoda Kotb promoted, “Al [Roker] will explore the benefits of those shelter-in-place orders across the country and around the world. We have positive news on this Earth day 2020.” Also on Wednesday, CBS’s John Blackstone chided, “Nature seems to be saying, ‘We can get along fine without you.’"
To underline, 180,000 people are dead. The journalistic excitement over this COVID-19 “silver lining” is tacky at best and ghoulish at worst.
A transcript of the CBS This Morning segment is below. Click “expand” to read more.
CBS This Morning
7:35 AM ET
ANTHONY MASON: Ahead on this Earth Day, we'll show you the rapid and amazing environmental improvements taking place during the pandemic. What it tells us about creating a healthier planet.
GAYLE KING: In our "Eye on Earth" series, today is the 50th anniversary of Earth day. We're marking it in ways we never imagined because of this global pandemic that we're all living with right now. Satellite images show a dramatic decline in greenhouse gas emissions thanks to the drop-off in human activity. We're also seeing wild animals roam in very unexpected places. Take a look at that. Perhaps the most obvious environmental change is much cleaner air. That's a good thing as Jamie Yuccas shows. The big question for climatologists is what happens next?
CBS GRAPHIC: Coronavirus Climate Rebound? Global Lockdown Leads to Better Air Quality & Cleaner Environment
JAMIE YUCCAS: This is the new normal for runners in the time of coronavirus. What isn't normal especially here in Los Angeles, is this: Blue skies and clean air. Once the shelter-in-place went in in California, what did you see?
GLORY DOLPHIN HAMMES (CEO, IQAir North America): We saw that L.A. had some of the cleanest air quality in the world.
YUCCAS: Have you ever seen it this clear up here before?
HAMMES: No, no.
YUCCAS: Glory Dolphin Hammes is CEO of IQAir, a tech company that tracks global air quality. Two weeks ago, her sensors showed something almost unimaginable: L.A. had the cleanest air of any major city on Earth.
HAMMES: About a year ago, Los Angeles was ranked the worst air quality in the entire country. And now we're seeing some of the best air quality, not just in the country but in the world.
YUCCAS: By some estimates, the pandemic lockdown has taken about 80 percent of passenger cars off local roads. IQAir's data shows a resulting 31 percent reduction in air pollution compared to the same time frame last year. And it's not just Los Angeles. From a shockingly smog-free New Delhi in India to unusually clear waters in the canals of Venice, the world is suddenly learning what can happen if humans stop polluting the environment.
ROB JACKSON Environmental scientist, Stanford): But if things go back to normal a week from now, that will be a distant memory. The air will be just like it would have been.
YUCCAS: Stanford environmental scientist Rob Jackson says there's historic precedent for that. Global greenhouse gas emissions dropped about one and a half percent during the 2008 economic crisis. But within two years, they bounced back and kept growing. He fears the same thing could happen again.
JACKSON: What if when the economy's hurting we no longer care or care to safeguard the environments?
VOICE: The Senate will come to order.
YUCCAS: Although there are signs that's already happening in Washington, Jackson is optimistic about the number of people and companies learning how to telecommute.
JACKSON: If we drive less, it will save time and make things healthier. It doesn’t have to be shelter in home or clean air it can be clean air every day.
YUCCAS: In the meantime, while some crucial climate field science in places like Greenland is being disrupted, the unprecedented shutdown of major cities is also proving to be a boon for other science, as well.
GABBY PFISTER (Climate scientist): It has allowed us to really look at certain scenarios --
YUCCAS: Gabriele Pfister is a climate scientist studying our environment in conditions no one ever thought would occur.
PFISTER: Assume all passenger cars are taken off the roads, what would happen to our climate and air quality? I mean, this is typically something we can only test in our numerical models, but then we don't have observations. Now we do.
YUCCAS: Armed with this new data, scientists hope when we do return to our pre-pandemic lifestyles we'll do so with lessons learned during the crisis.
PFISTER: It has shown us that there are ways that we can make a significant change in the human footprint in our atmosphere and our nature.
YUCCAS: For CBS This Morning," Jamie yuccas, Los Angeles.
KING: Something to think about there. Many people see this as a major reset for humanity and the planet. I hope we're all listening and get the lesson. We'll see.