Trump World Grab-Bag--A Collection

Monday, November 26, 2018

Climate Monday: A Humble Media Suggestion




I don't think that the narrative that the Trump Administration is necessarily "hiding" their National Climate Assessment report is correct because I don't think news cycles really have a "Friday news dump" lacuna anymore, but I definitely agree that the actions of the administration serve to undermine it (or as they probably see it, the damned scientists are trying to undermine them). But this isn't something that's just peculiar to President Trump's anti-intellectual, conspiracy-minded, staring up at eclipses sort of nonsense. This is a problem we specifically have with US conservatives, and sadly, with how our media screws up reporting fact-based issues "for balance".

Take the Sunday shows. It's not hard for the chatty journalism format of the designated serious newsy shows to work in a "Friday news dump" item and give it a going over. Meet the Press, the ancient and venerable, bothered to mention it.

And they fucked it up. They let Senator Mike Lee get away with being stupid regarding the financial aspects of the substance of the report. The report specifically addressed the fact-based reality that real economic damage would be the fall-out of climate change, but libertarian Lee was able to burble that he saw no policy proposals that would not be economically damaging.

Let me rephrase that: is it that he sees no proposals that immediately address climate change that also permit entrepreneurs to capitalize on the deal? First off, that's short-sighted, but second, the turning a buck is their problem, not as a law-maker, his. His job would be legislation aimed at mitigating the effects for the safety and welfare of his constituents, which might not always be direct regulations (if he's so ideologically opposed), but could mean tax penalties or credits as a carrot and stick incentivization scheme to encourage better environmental practices. He doesn't seem to understand the question. He is, unquestionably, not a scientist--but you'd think he might understand the policy end a bit more, no?

Questions regarding the report were also put to regular MTP panel-member Danielle Pletka, of the AEI think tank. Her answers were also god-awful stupid.  And of course, she is not a scientist, and the AEI think tank she hails from gets a not-inconsiderable subsidy from Exxon, and maybe for all I know, other fossil fuel companies. This merits a disclaimer, I would think. But that MTP asked Pletka, and not, say, Tom Steyer, who was also on the program and actually has a committed and informed point of view on climate change, but was only asked about the 2020 horse race (really?) is, well.

Stupid.

But this isn't the worst stupidest thing. CNN actually pays my former senator, Rick Santorum of PA, for opinions about things when there is no evidence that he is actually, in any respect, a person with worthwhile and well-considered opinions. He actually fatuously repeated the dumb thing that Trump said about forest-raking, even though, once again, California does not manage all the forests, but the Federal government is in charge of most of it, and no, no one ever rakes forests because that is fucking stupid. Droughts are about less rain, and raking would actually pull more moisture out of the forest floor, and, you know, just read a book or something if you don't know why that is stupid. In the history of ever, there has never been a time when forest fires were managed by troops of people sent out into tens of thousands of acreage of trees, raking up shit.

But he also said a funny thing regarding climate change and the scientists who study it, to wit: they propound that global warming is real because of the sweet cash involved:

"I think the point that Donald Trump made is true, which is, uh… Look, if there was no climate change we’d have a lot of scientists looking for work," Santorum said. "The reality is that a lot of these scientists are driven by the money they receive, and of course they don’t receive money from corporations and Exxon and the like. Why? Because they’re not allowed to because it’s tainted, but they can receive (money) from people who support their agenda and that, I believe, is what’s really going on here."
Is he saying the people who support the thing where the established companies with all the money are going to have to make less money are somehow offering more compensation than the companies with all the money?* Because that is either really stupid or exactly what somebody who has been getting fossil fuel money and is also really stupid would say. And if Exxon and the coal companies and the natural gas guys and them could pay for Rick Santorum to say stupid stuff on tv (and also get paid by CNN, and provide no disclaimer about that whatsoever), than frankly, whatever stopped them from paying an actually very intelligent person or a hundred to put a scientifically shut-up-shutting up empirical stake in the heart of climate change science for once and for all?

Except, you know, the empirical facts?

So, my humble suggestion is this: If you have a political operative who might be swayed because of their income streams into siding with a corporate enterprise or entire industry opine on a subject pertaining to that industry, make it abundantly clear or don't have their asses on at all. And it you want balance, instead of "not a scientist" viewpoints dueling in a nebulous policy arena, maybe try to actually be informative and have a scientist weigh in! Also, maybe dedicate more of your staff to knowing this shit cold so they can respond to actually brain-damaged statements about raking forests and the glamorous pay of research scientists in real time.

I think it could be very helpful and serve the public a lot more than this farcical coverage.

*No. Tom Steyer is not paying all the other guys. It's, like 97% of scientists. He and Al Gore are not behind the whole global warming thing. The greenhouse effect was first described in 1824.

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