What makes good reporting on climate change?

When considering the reporting on Climate Change, there is a real problem. Is this a “science” or a “policy”/”political” issue? If the first, then there is a different approach than if the second. “Science” reporting will have respect for fact and truth, with “objective” being associated with truth, with the more serious effort to pay attention to the substance over the style (even if the style of reporting might be done in a way to attract/keep readers … most important is not necessarily reported over (perceived) most interesting). “Policy”/”political” will have more cautious wording to provide “objective” reporting that seems not to take sides. There will be a search, an effort to provide “balanced” reporting, even if that balance leads to distortion against objective facts and what science tells us about Global Warming.

Sadly, when it comes to Global Warming, too much of the reporting is driven from the “policy”/”political” angle, with “fair and balanced” seeming to be the motto, rather than true and truthful. And, we see that in press reporting on George W Bush’s mockery of a speech related to Global Warming earlier this week. Such as in the Washington Post article that seemed to go out of its way in caution. For example, Bush’s “target fell well short of what most leading scientists say is needed …” Well, quite simply, which “leading scientist” believes that George Bush’s is even near to what is required? Silence is the response, because there is none.

William Douglas at McClatchy seems to have navigated this with greater ease. The title captures the article’s substance:

Bush sets climate change goal; scientists say it’s too little

How does the opening paragraph read?

President Bush set a new target date Wednesday for stopping the growth of U.S. greenhouse-gas emissions by 2025, presenting a strategy that the scientific community says is too little, too late, to prevent dangerous global warming.

Bush sets a target that has even less substance in reality as his claims that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. And, the result would be an even worse disaster …

Oops, this isn’t about Iraq, but about substance in reporting Climate Change issues. That opening paragraph about captures the reality. Bush tries to make splash by saying something should be done re Global Warming, but what he suggests is a mockery of what is required according to scientists.

Douglas makes sure to use material from scientists to point out the significant gap between Bush’s proposal and what scientists say is necessary.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said that to prevent average global temperatures from rising more than 3.5 degrees Fahrenheit — the level it set as a danger zone — global emissions would have to peak by 2015 and decline to as little as 15 percent of 2000 levels by 2050. The panel is affiliated with the United Nations.

To keep temperatures from rising above 3.5 degrees, the panel said, industrialized countries would need to reduce emissions by 25 percent to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2020. The European Union has recommended doing that.

Bush’s goal would allow emissions to be 28 percent above 1990 levels in 2025,

Douglas, in other words, does not simply rely on some words, but actually provides data (numbers, sourced and substantive numbers) that provide a clear window into the inadequacy of Bush’s comments and attempts to confuse the nation even further into disaster.

Now Douglas’ piece, as with all word-limited pieces, is not perfect. For example, there is the line that creates the appearance of equivalency across the Presidential candidates:

All three top presidential candidates — Sens. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., Barack Obama, D-Ill., and John McCain, R-Ariz. — have climate-change proposals that go beyond Bush’s.

What Douglas doesn’t say (or doesn’t have room to say) is that scientists would also say that McCain’s path is inadequate, too little, and too late to prevent catastrophic global warming. There would be disagreement about Obama’s/Hillary’s plans as to whether they are adequate or simply a good start, but it is clear that McCain’s concepts (and his previously introduced legislation) falls far (FAR) short of what is required and has been outlined by the scientific community as required.


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