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Would you not shut up already?

19 Aug 2020 | OP ED Watch

On the CBC Don Pittis complains about climate change intruding into every imaginable story about energy. Before you say “Hear hear” you need to know that his actual complaint is that it’s not and should be, that we do not hear enough about climate change. And thus business executives are left in the dark about this man-made global warming thing, which Pittis feels is somehow confined to the media fringes, so industry executives understand the economics of their industry less well than crusading fringe journalists.

Evidently Pittis knows things entrepreneurs and business reporters don’t: “leaving the effects of fossil fuels on climate, even if just peripheral, out of any substantial report on the energy industry is simply bad economics. Anyone trying to make good investment decisions who repeatedly runs across articles that find the subject unmentionable should likely seek more complete sources.” Such as, shucks, him. “Nationalist cosmopolitan economic commentator. yay canada, etc. Thank god for science.” (And for the “you’re not a climate scientist” crowd, his training seems to have been as a forest firefighter.)

Now his objection is kind of dopey even from an alarmist point of view. For one thing, the reason most stories about energy don’t mention that it is used to warm, cook and transport is the same reason they don’t dwell on the tendency of the sun to rise every morning and set in the evening. We know it already. And by the same token, if there’s a business executive out there who hasn’t heard of the AGW hypothesis, and especially if there’s an energy executive who doesn’t know he or she is widely regarded as an evil villain destroying the planet and buying lies to conceal their misdeeds, they are obviously far too stupid to understand Pittis’s point anyway.

For another, anyone who reads the legacy media knows that it is in fact obsessed with climate change regardless of the actual topic. One gets endless variants on “I think there’s no bigger international news story in the years to come — except maybe the climate crisis — than this clash of superpowers” (which is New York Times “International Editor, Opinion” Max Strasser on rising tensions between the United States and China). The idea that the press are unable to change their minds and unwilling to change the subject on climate change is just weird.

From a less alarmist point of view Pittis’s complaint is if anything more obtuse. He doesn’t seem to grasp the possibility that people pretend to believe in man-made climate change so as not to get nagged, or cancelled. But in their everyday decisions, from the marketplace to the voting booth, they indicate that lip service is about all the tribute they’re willing to pay.

Possibly they resent being talked down to. And Pittis is of course alarmed that the councils of the great and good are being invaded by the great unwashed: “there is a danger if the divided nature of thinking evident in social media is perpetuated in respected sources of news.” But possibly he’s mistaken in thinking that outlets like the state-owned CBC are “respected sources of news”.

A major danger of becoming an echo chamber is that nobody goes “Hey, is this an echo chamber?… chamber?… chamber?…" So perhaps if “news” outlets did a better job of separating news from opinion, and in the former category did a bit less preaching and a bit more investigating, they would regain the trust that many surveys indicate the mainstream media has lost precisely by becoming advocates rather than observers.

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