Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Cheney's Prediction; The Media and Climate Change

Not much to report on from the home front.
Cheney has gone on record saying that the GOP is going to pick up quite a few seats and make some big gains in 2010. Unfortunately, unless we see some rapid improvement in the economy, I tend to agree. It's a situation which sucks, because Democrats pretty much inherited the current situation from the Republicans, and if Democrat recovery efforts do end up paying off, we may not see substantial positive effects until a new batch of Republicans are in office, ready to reap the reward of work done by the Democrats. Oh well. Such is the cyclical nature of politics, and the impulsive, reactionary voting tendency of the American public. The Democrats have benefitted before from economic downturns- the one which most vividly springs to mind in my memory was the advantage that was handed to Bill Clinton in his race against George H. Bush when the economy went south during Clinton's first run for office.
Anyway, let's all keep our fingers crossed that the economy continues to steadily improve. The country needs it, and it would really help out the Democratic Party as well.

And now for something that's really starting to annoy me. I'm getting really, really tired of the media spending more time covering public opinion polls about global warming than covering the science and the developments behind the phenomenon itself. Over and over again while watching CNN, I hear about how more and more Americans don't believe in climate change.
I'm not even sure what to do with this information, other than to confirm my belief that, on the whole, Americans must just be uninformed, uneducated, self interested clowns.
Whether Americans believe in climate change or not will have little or no bearing on whether it's actually occurring. Even more importantly, if CNN spent half as much time explaining the mechanics of climate change and providing covergae of the changes that our planet is already undergoing instead of conducting polls which reveal how ignorant our population is, then maybe people would know and understand enough about climate change to get behind some substantive plans that might slow or stop it.
Look, glaciers and mountain ice and snow that have been around for millions of years have begun to melt and dissipate, causing shortage of water in the Himalayas and other mountain regions. Some large percentage (I think I remember hearing around 40 or 50%) of the sea ice in the arctic has already melted, and we're predicted to lose the rest within the next 10 or so years. Sea levels are beginning to show measureable change. Trees in the American West have begun to die out in large numbers because of changes in temperatures and because diseases and pests which would normally be kept in check by freezing weather are now more virulent in the warmer temperatures. Intense storms have become more frequent, and temperature swings have become more wild and intense. Record drought conditions and extreme heat have effected numerous areas around the world, with areas of agriculture in various parts of Australia and Africa turning to desert. The signs of global climate change have become not only visible, but irrefutable (although Americans tend to see the rest of the world as somewhat fictitious, so I suppose many of us won't really believe in real climate change until its visible impact is at our own front door).
All of this on top of the irrefutable scientific explanation of how carbon emissions create a greenhouse effect which heats up the atmosphere.
I understand that people are mad and scared and freaked out. In some ways, the global warming situation has been a little bit like getting the diagnosis for a chronic, serious disease, so I guess it's not all that surprising that many people are just trying to deny that anything is happening at all (after all, isn't denial a classic reaction for a patient to have when they get news that they have a very serious medical condition?).
What I'm annoyed by is the media coverage that seems to suggest that public opinion on this issue is somehow more important than the phenomenon of global warming itself, as if it would be a viable option to simply ignore the problem if enough people decide that it doesn't exist. To me, arguing about whether global warming exists is a little like arguing about whether or not your ship is really sinking, even as it takes on more and more water and sinks further and further into the ocean.
Like I said before, if CNN and the other networks spent half as much time focusing on the causes, effects, impacts, and remedies for global warming as they do on covering public opinion about it, then maybe global warming wouldn't be surrounded by this air of pseudo controversy in the first place.
And in the end, even if global warming didn't exist (although all scientific evidence points to the contrary), does anyone really think it's a good thing that we're continuing to pump massive amounts of carbon gasses into our air, with this occurring at a continuously accelerated rate all over the globe? Shouldn't we just be trying to pollute less, anyway, so we have safer, healthier air? As the president keeps saying, we seem to have a need for a new industry that can help to reinvigorate our economy, and green energy would appear to provide many opportunities in this regard.
Anyway, do better, media. In an industry where ratings are God, I guess I shouldn't be surprised that public opinion always seems to take precedence, but sometimes, in some matters, it actually, really doesn't matter all that much what the public thinks. Or maybe, more correctly, some things just aren't really up for public debate. When people have the wrong "opinion" on something that's not really a matter of opinion, we just call that being poorly informed, ignorant, or wrong. The job of the media at that point needs to be the communication of genuine facts- not the continued propagation of false controversy.

*** (You know what's weird? I wrote this piece last night after watching some annoying coverage on CNN about the climate change "debate", and then this morning on the CNN page I found Al Gore talking about climate change denial and why it was ridiculous. Check it out. So weird. Some of his examples are even the ones I used. Clearly, I need to run for president.)

Well, that's done. I'm ranted out.
Hope you have a good one.

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