The Real Scandal Over Climate Change Isn't About Hacked Emails But the Media's Coverage

There's been a lot of talk recently about the "hacked climate emails." But a much bigger scandal is just waiting to break.

There's been a lot of talk recently about the "hacked climate emails." Long story, short: Hacker steals email, posts. Wingnuts take some lines out of context, claim they show a cover-up, cry conspiracy. Scientists refute, in detail. Media covers "controversy." Driven by talk radio and oil money, the whole thing escalates into a scandal.

But a much bigger scandal is just waiting to break.

That scandal?

1) Climate change is real, it's here, we're causing it, and it's worse than we thought it was.

2) There is no "debate" about #1; the completely massively overwhelming majority of all the scientists studying this issue, from nearly every angle, agree. Indeed, they agree in such a total majority that we might as well say all scientists agree that climate change is real, is here, is caused by people and is worse than we thought it was.

3) We know what causes climate change, therefore we know how to stop it.

4) The actions we need to take to stop it will cut into some companies' profits (such as oil and coal companies); therefore they have funded a well-documented, three-decade propaganda campaign to distort the science, vilify the scientists and dupe the American people into thinking they're being lied to.

5) There is no credible institutional opposition to climate action that isn't directly or indirectly funded by these companies and their political allies. The entire "skeptic" movement is an astroturf creation: the fact that some regular guys believe it and parrot its talking points just makes it sadder, not more credible.

6) There is no good reason, ever, to repeat those talking points, or to allow them to be repeated without challenge in your presence. They are lies, and their effectiveness depends on educated people's natural tendency to try to give all the "sides" in a debate a hearing; the validation that comes from being presented as a credible position -- even if only to refute that position -- helps perpetuate the lie.

7) The American media is particularly guilt of a collapse of journalistic ethics when it comes to climate change, seizing on every opportunity to portray a given talking point as a "controversy" and therefore important news. We've seen several hundred different climate lies become "climate controversy" stories; we've seen professional climate denialists like Bjorn Lomborg be treated as serious opposing experts; we've seen the characters of serious climate scientists and leaders -- from Jim Hansen and Al Gore to the University of East Anglia (the source of the hacked email) -- assassinated through repeated innuendo and quoted slander in print and broadcast media.

8) The lies will eventually be pointed out, and people will know the truth. That's happened, and continues to happen. In the meantime, though, more and more people are convinced that with this much "controversy," there must actually be some kind of a debate. Support for climate action weakens. Progress slows. The liars win, the oil and coal companies continue to make record profits.

9) And meanwhile, altogether elsewhere, ice sheets melt, deserts grow, forests burn, crops fail, hunger deepens, storms intensify, diseases spread and the prospects of our children, grandchildren and generations to come grow dimmer, and hotter, by the day.

That, my friends, is the real scandal. Surely it'll break soon, and get massive coverage in print, radio, TV and on the Net; surely the media will be flabbergasted to know they're been had, and will respond with prolonged investigative reports and round-the-clock scandal coverage, right? Surely.

PS: If you want the full, detailed story of the manufactured opposition to climate science and climate action, look no further than James Hoggan's comprehensive and compelling Climate Cover-Up: The Crusade to Deny Global Warming (Greystone, 2009). It's the real story on climate change and the media, with footnotes.

PPS: Don't even bother leaving a denialist comment. Since this is a site dedicated to solutions to the planetary crisis we face, and denialism is a dishonest effort to block progress towards those solutions, we delete denialist comments on principle.

PPPS: Yeah, I'm tired of this crap.

Alex Steffen is the executive editor of Worldchanging.
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