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Is that stuff snow?

08 May 2019 | OP ED Watch

It’s revealing that Ottawa saw freezing rain and snow on rooftops on May 1. May 1! Calgary and southern Alberta had something like 15 cm of snow the previous weekend. Yet not one journalist asked Prime Minister Trudeau or Environment and Climate Change Minister McKenna whether the long cold spring with this strange end did not call into question simplistic claims of a linear relationship between CO2 and temperature or a steady, obvious rise in the latter. Remember when the media covered debates instead of taking sides?

There’s an old newsroom slogan that “If your mother says she loves you, check it out.” And journalists have been famous since press-card-in-the-porkpie-hat-and-flask-in-the-hip-pocket days for distrusting the word of government officials. Mostly they still do. But on this one issue, not just opinion writers but reporters (and producers) leap with a snarl on anyone who dares question the official line. Where is the skepticism? When did the watchdogs become part of the parade?

Many journalists apparently believe the matter is settled, and that listening to skeptics is akin to listening to people who think the moon landing was faked. But do they know that such figures as Apollo astronaut Buzz Aldrin, who was once acquitted by a judge of punching a moon landing conspiracy freak on the grounds basically that the guy deserved it, publicly question man-made global warming? Where did journalists get this idea if not from listening to politicians and other journalists in a cozy, closed, buzzing hive of conformity?

In any case doubt is not treason. One could simply ask the PM, or Minister of Environment and Climate Change, whether the matter wasn’t superficially more complex than it seemed, given that 2015 also saw record cold in places including Trudeau’s home city of Montreal. But you know what would happen if they did. They’d be sneered at by the target of their questions and the reporters around them. They’d be confronted, pestered and sniped at by their own colleagues back at the office. They wouldn’t get invited out for beer or assigned to cover the next press conference. It’s weird.

It’s not as though we have a Soviet-style tame government press. Not even at the state-funded CBC. Ask a question on almost any other subject that leaves the Prime Minister slack-jawed and stupid-looking and you’ll get high fives. (Maybe; one about a supposedly diverse and tolerant party freezing out pro-lifers wouldn’t, of course.) And maybe on this one they’d get an eloquent, informed and persuasive answer suitable for printing. But if not, why don’t they ask? Why, indeed, not ask and see?

Isn’t that what the press does?

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