Canadian journalist Donna Laframboise. Former National Post & Toronto Star columnist, past vice president of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association. New posts: Mondays & Wednesdays.
The latest IPCC report was a setup – a cynical ploy to produce alarmist media headlines that succeeded beautifully.
It’s important to understand that the entire project was a setup – a cynical ploy to produce alarmist media headlines that succeeded beautifully. The fact that 90+ scientific minds from 40 countries – most of them academics on the public’s dime – spent months working on this is a disgrace.
Gee, says the IPCC. We believe we know what the future will look like decades hence if the planet warms by 2 degrees Celsius. So let’s re-crunch all those highly speculative numbers and see how much better things will be if the warming stops at 1.5 degrees.
If the IPCC was a truly impartial body, its press release would have said that aiming at the lower number would be beneficial, but since everything involves tradeoffs, elected politicians should decide what makes sense rather than taking orders from scientists. After all, the world is full of problems that require resources and attention.
Instead, the press release insists Scenario A is strongly preferable to Scenario B. Why? Well, for one thing, Scenario A will supposedly ensure a more “equitable society.”
If an equitable society is part of your argument, you’re having a political discussion – not a scientific one. Surely this is bleeping obvious.
The press release begins by declaring that “rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society” are required to achieve Scenario A. The media took that statement and ran with it – which was precisely the IPCC’s intent.
Journalists didn’t spend much time explaining to the public that the report is a wholly artificial comparison of two highly hypothetical scenarios. Nor did they highlight the dismal track record associated with similar apocalyptic predictions.
For example, this no tongue-in-cheek 2004 news story includes claims that “European cities will be sunk beneath rising seas” by 2020 while Britain is “plunged into a ‘Siberian’ climate.” Now that we’re just 14 months shy of 2020, it’s evident Europe is in no such danger.
Since reporters pay no price for getting these stories wrong, they predictably hype them. CNN told us we must heed the IPCC’s advice if we want to avoid “disastrous levels” of warming.
The BBC quoted an IPCC author, Natalie Mahowald, saying “huge changes” are necessary, while IPCC official Debra Roberts opined that it’s important to put “pressure on policymakers” to respond in a certain manner.
The Guardian further quoted Roberts declaring her hope that this new report “mobilises people and dents the mood of complacency.”
Take wholly contrived subject matter. Feed the media some dramatic language. Permit your personnel to make non-neutral, anything-but-dispassionate public statements.
Yes, that’s the IPCC I’ve written two books about. That’s the IPCC we know but don’t respect.
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