In a singularly brazen piece of COP27-warmup alarmist fearmongering, NBC blared on Oct. 26 that “Greenhouse gases in Earth's atmosphere hit record high in 2021/ The U.N. weather agency published the alarming report less than two weeks before world leaders gather for the U.N. Climate Change Conference.” And they accompanied the piece with a scary image of factory chimneys dimly visible through the poisonous murk of… uh… soot particulates. Not CO2, not methane. Of course not, since like other greenhouse gases and unlike soot they are invisible and distinctly not scary. So better show something that looks horrible even though it’s unrelated to what will be discussed at COP27. As the cutline admits, the picture shows “Smog fills the air in Herat, Afghanistan, on Feb. 14.” An unrelated air contamination problem in a nation that, if it even shows up to COP27 will have nothing to contribute. We might chalk it up to mere ignorance, but after all these years of media insisting on the need to follow the science, it's culpable ignorance.
The NBC piece warns that “Carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide are the three main greenhouse gases responsible for trapping heat in the atmosphere and driving global warming.” And to be fair there actually is nitrous oxide in smog, but it’s not what turns the air acidic (sulphur dioxide does that one) or grey (particulates do that one). This sort of scientifically illiterate hair-raising prose is now everywhere in what one cannot seriously still call responsible society.
Thus the UN Environment Program page on global climate emissions, for instance, hollers “GHG emissions are choking our world, mitigation opportunities exist but GHG emissions continue to rise”. Which we stumbled across while actually looking for UNEP’s data on Afghanistan’s emissions, which are 0.8 tonnes per capita and 29.3 million tonnes total in 2018 (behind even those choking, spewing fountains of climate change irrelevance Nepal and Mongolia… and Turkmenistan).
So what clown picked that stock image to illustrate CO2? Presumably some hapless NBC copyeditor with even less training in the subject than the writer who actually thinks you can choke on CO2. Just as the BBC ran “COP27: Climate change threatening global health – report” with one of those standard backlit photos of chimneys blasting out deadly black… steam.
Yes, folks. It’s steam. All those scary shots of chimneys in your newspaper are trying to make you choke on water (which, to be fair, is easier than doing it on CO2). And instead of it being ominously white, they love even more to get it with the light behind it so it appears to be black although it is not. Such is modern journalism. (And has been since at least 1997 when one of us encountered a complaint about it in a book by a Canadian business leader before climate change was even a thing.) You see the same trick in the Guardian’s Oct. 27 story “World close to ‘irreversible’ climate breakdown, warn major studies”.
The rest of the BBC piece is no better than the art, promoting some report in the Lancet that “describes how extreme weather has increased pressure on health services globally already grappling with the Covid-19 pandemic…. But it said there are solutions. ‘Despite the challenges, there is clear evidence that immediate action could still save the lives of millions, with a rapid shift to clean energy and energy efficiency,’ the report concludes.”
Again, we say fiddlesticks. If the 1.1°C temperature rise since the mid-19th century has us losing our lives (and our minds, as “The health impacts of extreme heat include… poor mental health”) there is bupkis we can do about it even if we stop emitting GHGs altogether tomorrow because the planet won’t cool down. That there has not been an increase in extreme weather is another objection a sane person might raise. Whereas the people behind this article (the author, unsurprisingly, is a “Journalism Apprentice” with a degree in Fine Art, presumably the appreciating of it not the trashing though these days one never knows, and her editors seem to hold PhDs in misleading hysteria) instead quote UN Alarmist-General Antonio Guterres that “Human health, livelihoods, household budgets and national economies are being pummelled, as the fossil fuel addiction spirals out of control”. So apparently we’re not switching to renewables after all?