A few weeks back Florida’s biggest newspapers announced they were setting aside their usual rivalry to unite in covering climate change. The project, dubbed the Florida Climate Reporting Network, initially was to focus on the effects of rising seas - a vital concern for a state bordered by a pair of oceans and with the lowest high point in the U.S., sitting just 345 feet above sea level.
Yet looking at “effects” would seem to inevitably lead to wonder about causes, which should matter to readers whether or not they reside in Florida. These papers serve big metro communities represented in Congress by Democrats, whose leaders have backed the dopey Green New Deal, which would cost a ton, dramatically change how we live and yet have little effect on slowing warming.
And here’s how this project would benefit readers in Florida and beyond: if the papers avoid the environmental groupthink that afflicts so much of the climate debate, and at least attempt to seek sources skeptical of the proposition that we’re all doomed.
Consider an example.
It’s puzzling, but many climate-change activists oppose the cleanest form of renewable energy available: nuclear power. Michael Shellenberger, once a Time magazine “hero of the environment” who has worked with the Sierra Club and Earthjustice, also was once a leading anti-nuke activist. Now, he is one of nuclear power’s biggest proponents, and routinely criticizes renewable energy initiatives as ineffective and counterproductive. Shellenberger can help these papers explain how more nuclear power can help reverse warming.
In February NASA touted a study that showed the world is actually 5% greener now than it was two decades ago. That equates to 2 million square miles of new greenspace. Originally NASA scientists thought global warming, through heightened levels of carbon dioxide, caused this greening. Turns out, though, it’s “human activity.” The biggest polluters on Earth - China and India - are responsible through aggressive tree-planting programs and updated farming techniques. Noting this kind of development, these journalists can remind us that America’s emission levels have declined in recent years, that “global” warming is often caused by sources beyond America’s shores and control, and that sometimes, as NASA did, scientists jump to a wrong conclusion.
Here’s one more example.
The Al Gore-ish consensus for Florida is that rising sea levels, left unchecked, eventually will create oceanfront property for folks across the state line in Alabama and Georgia. In December The Washington Times reported on new research by Judith Curry, once chairwoman of Georgia Tech’s School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences. She thinks, according to the Times, “rising sea levels are not abnormal, nor can they be pinned on human-caused climate change” and that “sea levels were actually higher in some regions … about 5,000 to 7,000 years ago.” Curry attributes this to “geologic processes,” meaning some places on the Earth are actually sinking rather than the seas rising. One cause she identified for the Chesapeake Bay region is wholly familiar to those of us in sinkhole-prone Florida: groundwater withdrawals. Perhaps Curry’s theory to rising seas can help the papers become curious about others’ outside-the-box thinking on climate matters.
Here’s one more example to explain why that is critical.
Writing on June 30 at Realclearpolitics.com, Peter Schwartz pointed to a recent New York Times story about the U.S. Geological Survey changing computer models. The agency wants to track warming trends over the next 20 years rather than 80 because scientists doubt the models’ accuracy eight decades out. Instead of thoroughly reviewing the models, Schwartz notes, the Times focused on politics and President Donald Trump’s supposed “attack on climate science.”
Schwartz noted that some on the left, “abetted by much of the news media,” want to impose an “intellectual orthodoxy” wherein “certain viewpoints are forbidden — not simply regarded as wrong, but not permitted to be considered.” And this is “most entrenched in discussions about global warming.”
Schwartz concluded, “The standard view on global warming is considered unchallengeable. There is a ‘consensus’ and no further investigation is justified. There is no concern for the facts - there is simply a party line and no dissenters are given a hearing.”
Against that backdrop, let’s hope the Florida Climate Reporting Network will be unorthodox in its approach.
Bill Thompson (firstname.lastname@example.org) is the editorial page editor of The Ledger in Lakeland, Florida.