Sunday, 24 March 2013

Media and climate delusion

In my March 15, 2013 op-ed in the Vancouver Sun I described how promoters of carbon polluting investments and their allies avoid mentioning global warming when trumpeting the benefits of their favorite new coal mine, oil pipeline, tar sands project, coal port expansion, shale gas development, or natural gas liquification plant. My suggestion was that a paper like the Sun should provide a public health disclaimer underneath such articles that says: “The author has declined to explain that, according to scientists, this project would contribute to a climate catastrophe for you and your children.”

I was going to say that surely this is what the paper would do when publishing an op-ed by a tobacco company executive who was encouraging children to smoke. But then I realized that the paper would simply refuse to publish such an article. It would claim that it was not in the business of helping people profit at the expense of public health, especially of the vulnerable.

Some day papers like the Sun will also take this approach to article submissions by promoters of carbon polluting projects. Unfortunately, it is likely to be much too late for a lot of people and other living things, especially the vulnerable – unless, that is, more of us start to demand more from the Sun and other mainstream media.

The Sun editorial of March 21 is a good place to start. In an article entitled “Open port crucial to a healthy economy,” the Sun’s editorial board chastises Vancouver mayor Gregor Robertson for opposing expanding coal and oil exports from Vancouver’s harbor with the facile argument that this will hurt our economy. Note that they never ask what is being exported. All that seems to matter is the volume of exports. Presumably if the exports were cigarettes destined for children, or landmines, or heroin, or plutonium, or carbon-laced fossil fuels like coal, oil and gas, it would not matter. In fact, never do the Sun’s editors even try to explain why Gregor Robertson might oppose coal and oil exports, except to ridicule him for promoting Vancouver as a green city. They avoid mentioning global warming, but make a big deal about Vancouver losing trade to other ports.

In my March 15 op-ed I deconstructed this “climate delusional” strategy, and this March 21 editorial provides a perfect illustration. No doubt there will be many more like it. But if you agree with me that this is an incredibly harmful and irresponsible bias of this newspaper, there are things you can do. For one thing, you can write a letter to the editor explaining that you will soon drop your subscription and will encourage others to do the same if the paper is unwilling to qualify its carbon pollution jingoism with an honest and consistent depiction of the scientifically-determined global health implications of continuing on this path. And you might ask for similar action from the people who are nearest and dearest to you – the very ones you would personally discourage from smoking.

1 comment:

  1. You might even go so far as to call it "newsvertising", as this blogger does in reference to the real estate section of the Vancouver Sun/Province.