Climate Change: Calling for honest media coverage in Cancun

Attribution of climate change, based on Meehl ...
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With the Cancun Climate Summit set to begin, let’s hope that the mainstream press provides honest coverage.

Unfortunately, Canada’s national newspaper, the Globe and Mail, has started a little sluggishly. After asking Canadians what we should be discussing next in an online poll – with respondents voting climate change at the top of their list (22 per cent) – the Globe has yet to take their advice.

A search of the paper’s online stories on climate change finds only ‘cursory’ coverage of this important topic. So far, we get articles long on political blabbing, and often from pundits with no scientific credentials (stand up Margaret Wente, Can environmentalism be saved from itself?) Many of these articles are vastly short on real analysis of the science behind climate change.

Sure, the Globe reported that the Tory-dominated Senate has undercut democracy to overturn Bill C-311 – Canada’s Climate Change Accountability Act. But it’s only more of the same: political pundits and political opportunists glossing over the vast and, yes, rock-solid scientific consensus that still persists on the issue.

After all the phony scandals (Climategate, for example) and the endless stream of oil-fueled denial coming from a few lone-wolf scientists and political spin doctors, the worldwide scientific consensus on climate can be summarized with a few obvious examples, indicating clearly where scientists stand on the issue:

NASA: Global Climate Change – How do we know?
World Meteorological Organization: Causes of Global Warming
Union of Concerned Scientists: The Weight of Evidence
Scientific American’s Global Warming coverage
National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy: “One of the most pressing issues of our time”

Any journalist writing about climate change should obviously consult at least some of the major, reputable scientific organizations in the world today in order to get the real story behind all the political arguments and maneuvering. Sadly, this seems to be lacking in much of the mainstream coverage.

For a happy exception, you have to take a trip across the pond. The UK’s Guardian has a comprehensive Environment page that actually reports facts as they transpire, and as scientists report them based on years of committed research.

For example, a story reporting the UK’s Met Office contention that 2010 could be the hottest year on record, and that the world is warming quicker than thought in the last decade; a story about British scientists who are warning that a billion people could lose their homes due to climate-induced flooding; a story on the current effects of climate change – from the mountains of Peru to the jungles of the Amazon; and another on the accelerated effects of climate change in the Arctic.

I realize that the Globe and Mail has published similar stories in the past. But right now, such stories are being drowned out by people and writers with a political axe to grind, rather than with scientific evidence to offer. I’m all for debate, but the debaters have to provide evidence.

Anyone who actually consults with reputable climate scientists and world science organizations, and still argues against the reality of human-induced climate change is being disingenuous at best (say hello National Post). If the mainstream press is weighted toward such pundits, I can only wonder the reasons why.

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