The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) Opinion page has long had a conservative skew, and unfortunately that has extended to politicizing climate change with biased and factually inaccurate editorials.
Over the past several weeks, the WSJ’s attacks on climate science have gone into overdrive. On May 15th, the Opinion page published a self-contradictory editorial from the lifelong contrarian and fossil fuel-funded Fred Singer that so badly rejected basic physics, it prompted one researcher to remark, “If this were an essay in one of my undergraduate classes, he would fail.”
The WSJ did publish a letter to the editor (LTE) from real climate scientists Andrea Dutton and Michael Mann rebutting Singer’s editorial. However, it gave the last word to science deniers in an LTE response rejecting the well-established facts that sea level rise is accelerating and Antarctic is loss is contributing to it.
A few days later, the WSJ opinion page was at it again, publishing an editorial by Stephen F. Hayward, who describes himself as having “spent most of my adult life in conservative think tanks in Washington, D.C.,” and it shows. Hayward has a long history as a climate naysayer, spanning over a decade back to his days with the fossil fuel-funded American Enterprise Institute.
Playing Whack-a-Mole with Hayward’s Gish Gallop
Hayward’s arguments of course deserve to be judged on their own merits. I devoted my first-ever Tweetstorm to doing just that:
Hayward falls into the category some describe as “Lukewarmers.” This group consists of people who think that – contrary to the body of available evidence – global warming will be slow and we don’t have to worry much about it. I prefer the term “Luckwarmer,” since they’re betting that Earth’s climate sensitivity is at the very low end or lower than the range of values supported by scientific evidence. In that sense, they’re gambling we’ll be very lucky that the climate dice will come up snake eyes.
Throughout his career, Hayward has spilled a lot of ink trolling those who are concerned about climate change. In this latest opinion piece, he argues that “climate change has run its course” because nobody is doing anything serious to solve it, and nobody cares about climate change anymore.
Hayward’s evidence to support this thesis is flimsy, to put it charitably. For example, when pressed on the fact that every country save America has agreed to implement policies to curb climate change, Hayward cited Japan as a counter-example that’s building more coal power plants since the Fukushima nuclear plant disaster. Indeed, Japan’s climate policies are highly insufficient to meet the Paris goals. But Japan has nevertheless signed onto the Paris agreement, whose framework allows signatory countries to periodically strengthen their policies and commitments and thus eventually meet the targets. And Japan’s per person carbon pollution is already about 40% lower than America’s.
Hayward also cites polling data that shows Americans consider climate change a low priority, but neglects to mention that the vast majority (including Trump voters) support climate policies like taxing and/or regulating carbon pollution. He compares the issue to a car alarm whose blaring noise everybody soon tunes out. However, unlike a triggered car alarm, climate change poses ever-increasing risks. It won’t just go away if we ignore it. It’s much more like a fire alarm sounding off in a building whose occupants have been locked in.
Worst of all, Hayward claims that “the left politicized the issue,” which is beyond absurd. Those on the American ‘left’ generally accept the consensus of 97% of climate science experts and have proposed bipartisan solutions to this existential problem that, with a few exceptions, have been almost universally rejected by those on the American right for purely political reasons.
Misinformation passed off as “opinion”
The WSJ is of course far from the only media outlet guilty of peddling fossil fuel industry propaganda. Last Friday, The Hill published a very similar editorial by Fred Singer, whose second sentence included two very easily fact-checked falsehoods: “sea level has been rising at a steady rate, between 1 and 2 millimeters per year.” In reality, sea level rise has been accelerating, now up to about 3.3 millimeters per year.
It’s telling that deniers don’t even bother to get such simple facts right, and that the media outlets printing their propaganda don’t bother to do even the most basic fact checking. The editors justify misinforming their readers by arguing these are just “opinion” pieces, but they masquerade as science and in some cases have even been entered into the congressional record by the House Science, Space and Technology Committee. Some newspapers like the New York Times do fact check their editorials (although they hold their own staff opinion writers to a much lower standard), but others like the WSJ and The Hill apparently couldn’t care less if their op-eds are full of falsehoods.
Some people are of the opinion that the Earth is flat, but the WSJ and The Hill probably wouldn’t publish Flat Earthers’ editorials. Of course, the Flat Earth Society doesn’t have the financial and political clout of the fossil fuel industry.
|The Guardian (UK) 11-06-2018|