The world’s scientific community predicts up to two feet of sea level rise by just 2100, likely accompanied by a rising tide of climate refugees. So it’s worth dissecting how America’s dominant conservative media have swept the issue under the rug for two generations. To watch the evolution of climate change denial in action—and learn how to fight it—a great place to turn is the nation’s highest-circulation newspaper, the Wall Street Journal.
The most eminent U.S. conservative news source, the Journal’s reporters are among the best in the country, reflecting a common pattern among the business press, which is written for executives, investors, and managers who need reasonably accurate information in order to run the corporate economy. However, its op-ed page is essentially Fox News with AP English, and its long tradition of climate denial and more recently fatalism is the perfect window into what future generations are going to demand: a fucking explanation for how people were able to accept several decades of knowingly utterly wrecking the future environment, years after the science was settled.
The reality, as even the Journal recognizes, is that there has been a scientific consensus on climate change for some time. However few people have any idea what constitutes scientific consensus—broad agreement—about a phenomenon. However, climate researchers have examined this specific issue, and their findings are striking. For example, one research paper in Environmental Research Letters examined an amazing compilation of 11,944 climate-relevant paper abstracts, showing a high level of professional consensus. “Among abstracts expressing a position on [anthropogenic global warming], 97.1% endorsed the consensus positions that humans are causing global warming…we invited authors to rate their own papers…97.2% endorsed the consensus…Our analysis indicates that the number of papers rejecting the consensus on AGW is a vanishingly small proportion of the published research.”
Importantly, a fascinating research article published in the prestigious Proceedings of the National Academy of the Sciences studied how the subject had become politicized. Applying an analysis algorithm to a giant number of texts discussing climate, it concluded “organizations with corporate funding were more likely to have written and disseminated texts meant to polarize the climate change issue.” More specifically, “corporate funding influences the actual thematic content of these polarization efforts,” so that rather than a non-partisan scientific subject the issue is treated like a “polarized” political issue, with corporate-driven talking points always present. The paper empirically highlights “the actual social arrangements within which large-scale scientific (mis)information is generated, and the important role private funding plays in shaping the actual ideological content of scientific information that is written and amplified.”
With this broad outline in hand of the scientific consensus on climate, as well as scientists’ own understanding of corporations muddying the water, let’s have a look at the history of the Journal’s foot-dragging on climate, remembering that this is business media–primarily capitalists talking to one another. It reveals an evolution from full denial to a heinous resigned fatalism, in the process creating right-wing tropes that became hugely widespread in reactionary media from Rush Limbaugh to South Park.https://www.currentaffairs.org/2019/01/if-you-cant-deny-it-downplay-it