The WaPo Jumps the Shark on Climate Change Reporting


    Cross-posted at Daily Kos

    Just when you thought the media might be ready to report the facts on climate change – about which 99.9% of scientists who’ve studied the issue agree – we’re cursed with another story in the Washington Post that gets it very, very wrong: “How climate-change doubters lost a papal fight”.

    This piece starts with the story of Philippe de Larminat, a “French doubter who authored a book arguing that solar activity – not greenhouse gases – was driving global warming,” who – sacre bleu! – is denied an audience with Pope Francis before the issuance of the Pope’s historic encyclical.  The first problem here is that we are never given any information about de Larminat’s scientific credentials – or indeed whether he has any.  (Per LinkedIn, it appears that he has a bachelor’s in mechanical engineering and a doctorate in “the sciences,” dating from the sixties and seventies. Otherwise, he’s mostly a black hole on the Internet.)

    There are millions of scientists around the world, and tens of thousands in the climate field.  Why focus on this one?  What are his contributions to the field?

    The Post story then brings up the egregious Heartland Institute, which the writers generously describe as “a free-market group that serves as a hub of skepticism regarding the science of human-caused global warming.”  They give no background on Heartland, such as its history of being paid by tobacco companies to deny the science of their products causing cancer, or the hundreds of thousands of dollars it has received from the Koch brothers to support their oil investments with climate denial, or their infamous billboard campaign comparing climate scientists to figures like the Unabomber.  

    No, the WaPo just dutifully reports: “Seven scientists and other experts gave speeches at the Heartland event, raising doubts about various aspects of the scientific consensus on climate change.”  What interesting framing – “scientists and other experts”!

    So how many of the Heartland Seven are climate scientists?  Finding that out would require actual research, which is too much to expect of a “newspaper”.  So, do the Googling yourself and you can see the “scientists and other experts” here for yourself — of whom perhaps three have any scientific credentials, though even those three lack relevant backgrounds in climate science.  The rest are the usual fossil fuel-industry funded hacks, like former Sen. Inhofe aide Marc Morano, best known for posting actual climate scientists’ email addresses in his blog for his goon followers to send them death threats.  

    Dear Washington Post, what is the point of this story?  That the Pope was not as “fair and balanced” as the media has been in giving science deniers the same weight as scientists?  It’s sad to see that environmental reporter Chris Mooney was part of this piece of journalistic malpractice – doesn’t he known any better?

    Needless to say, the right wing blogs and media outlets have picked up on this careless story and are spreading it far and wide as proof that “even the liberal Washington Post” is aware of the vast conspiracy of evil scientists to steal your bodily fluids, or something.

    Media, you have one job – reporting facts.  Why can’t you get it straight?


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