I remember when I took my first college news writing class back in the 1980s one of the first things the professor drilled into us was that news stories must have balance … full stop.
For example, if one wrote a story about how humans contribute to climate change it was imperative that the reporter find people representing all sides of the issue … including “experts” who think human action has no impact on climate change … and maybe for good measure folk believing that climate change was a hoax.
Well … having watched and reported on the climate change issue for decades I’ve come to some interesting conclusions. Most importantly for years Big Oil played journalists as suckers, weaponizing balance to spew and spin oil industry views.
It was a brilliant strategy. In 1998, the American Petroleum Institute created the Global Climate Science Communications Team.
The plan called for a coordinated effort from Big-Oil and pro oil activists to single out media, demanding in the name of balance they report on uncertainties in climate science.
Big Oil provided their own contrarian scientists as expert media sources so that the public would learn the “truth” that climate change was nothing more than a left wing hoax.
In short by demanding journalistic balance Big Oil turned climate chance into a partisan issue.
The most damning evidence is that Big Oil itself verified human involvement in climate change. Read that sentence again and let it sink in.
Needless to say that research never saw the light of day.
Instead Mobil Oil and its merry band of climate science haters funded scientists guaranteed to talk up Big Oil’s point of view.
And there’s anecdotal evidence that it worked.
Polls in the early 1990s showed that roughly 80 percent of Americans accepted human involvement in climate change and that something needed to be done.
A 2010 Gallop poll indicated that just 55 percent of Americans thought climate change was a threat.
But print journalists have mostly wised up to Big Oil’s secret plan.
Many, perhaps most, journalism shops, ascribe to the Society of Professional Journalist’s Code of Ethics.
And the journalistic kryptonite to Big-Oil’s poppy cock is to seek truth. “Ethical journalism should be accurate and fair.”
In short balance should not get in the way of truth.
OK. Climate change is not a partisan issue. Despite what your Congressman or Senator might be telling you.
And for whatever reason of late the public has wised up as well.
A freshly minted survey from the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication finds roughly 73 percent of Americans say climate change is real and could impact their lives. That’s 10 percent higher than 2015.
Uh Big Oil, y’all got a problem.
And as I blogged last December, the world is coming to a tipping point of no return on the impacts of this little blue ball we call home.
Most of us will be dead when global warming fully reshapes weather, national security, food security, GDP and a host of other unforseen consequences, but for whoever is left life will certainly be different than today.
Up to now we’ve been willing to talk the talk on global warming. Time is running out quickly on whether we’re willing to walk the walk and actually do something about it.
Right now, fossil fuels account for about 80 percent of the world’s energy supply. That’s huge.
It’s time all Americans bite the bullet and sign on to the White House Council of Economic Advisers’ carbon dividend plan.
The plan essentially taxes carbon dioxide emissions. The feds would tax gasoline and businesses to encourage less use of fossil fuels. Dollars collected would be re-distributed to consumers willing to invest in alternative and green energy production – wind, solar, and the like.
If properly implemented the plan likely would have little drag on the economy. Winner winner chicken dinner.
It’s a start. It ain’t perfect. But doing nothing is no longer an option. Climate change ain’t going away.
About Dave Dickey
Dickey spent nearly 30 years at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s NPR member station WILL-AM 580 where he won a dozen Associated Press awards for his reporting. For 13 years, he directed Illinois Public Media’s agriculture programming. His weekly column for Big Ag Watch covers agriculture and related issues including politics, government, environment and labor. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This column reflects the writer’s own opinions and not those of Big Ag Watch.