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Washington Post editorial board … confusion is bad (even if we’re at fault)

February 22nd, 2010 · 6 Comments

The Washington Post editorial board came out with a strong statement about climate change that, even with its few errors, would be an important statement if it weren’t such a monumental travesty in the face of actual Washington Post editorial policy and practices.

Entitled Climate Insurance, the editorial begins.

THE EARTH is warming. A chief cause is the increase in greenhouse gases accumulating in the atmosphere. Humans are at least in part responsible, because the oil, gas and coal that we burn releases these gases. If current trends persist, it’s likely that in coming decades the globe’s climate will change with potentially devastating effects for billions of people.

Contrary to what you may have read lately, there are few reputable scientists who would disagree with anything in that first paragraph. Yet suddenly we’re hearing that climate change is in doubt and that action to combat it is unlikely. What’s going on?

Well, you won’t find it discussed in this editorial (or any official statement from The Washington Post), but part of what is going on, is The Post (along with too many traditional media outlets) has been publishing deceptive and false information in OPED after OPED from people like George (will-ful deceit) Will, Bjorn Lomborg, Sarah Palin, Robert Samuelson, Dana Milbank, and others. While The Post editorial board seems comfortable with a “faux and balance” approach of occasionally publishing OPEDs from people with their feet solidly in reality (like Bill McKibben) and reality-based editorials, the truth is simple:

The Post’s opinion section creates a strong perception that “climate change is in doubt” that is at odds with reputable scientific research and at odds with the position on climate change taken by every single relevant scientific institution globally (with the exception of the American Association of Petroleum Geologists).

Sadly, the ‘faux and balanced’ routine isn’t limited to The Post’s opinion pages but also infects its reporting (here, here).

The Post’s editorial board simply does not seem willing to acknowledge its responsibility for a share of the confusion

The Washington Post editorial board’s glazing over of the Post’s complicity in the confusion about climate science is simply astounding. Publishing George Will, giving front-page prominence to minor footnote issues, frequent quotation of Marc Morano, etc are the sorts of journalistic “he says, she says” that contribute to a public belief of confused science that is, well, simply not matched within the scientific community.

Considering The Post’s record in giving voice to anti-science syndrome sufferers (most prominently George Will), it seems generous to say that the publication of Climate Insurance and other reality-based editorials is representative of the Post’s fundamental schizophrenia when it comes to climate science.

The Post’s editorial reaches a reasonable conclusion: that we should adopt a price on carbon and work to reduce carbon emissions for many, many reasons including ‘insurance’ in the event that the world’s scientists actually are right about the subjects that they have spent their lives studying.

We can only hope that The Post’s editorial board will also reach a reasonable conclusion about their editorial policy: that they should adopt a practice of ensuring their opinion pieces on climate are factual and not misleading, with the operative assumption that the world’s scientists actually are right about the subjects that they have spent their lives studying.

UPDATE: Matt Yglesias reacts in a similar way:

Shockingly, however, in their discussion of “what’s going on” they completely neglect to mention the fact that The Washington Post—home of one of the most influential op-ed pages in America—consistently publishes climate denialist tracts that seek to deliberately mislead the paper’s audience.

Something the world certainly won’t miss when the Post and the vast majority of its fellow big city dailies are out of business is this kind of prissy evasion. If the rationale for publishing liars in the Post’s opinion section is that it’s important for the opinion section to represent the full range of the debate, then the Post needs to take into account the fact that this editorial stance is part of “what’s going on” in the climate debate. Alternatively, if they want to take the stance that accuracy matters to the owners and editors of the Washington Post then they need to stand up to inaccurate and misleading writing in their own pages.

Tags: Energy · George Will · Global Warming · Washington Post · climate change · climate delayers · energy efficiency · global warming deniers · government energy policy · politics · sarah palin · truthiness

6 responses so far ↓

  • 1 WashPost, yet again: some true items spun into truthiness // Feb 26, 2010 at 12:30 pm

    [...] The Washington Post asked the other day “what’s going on” that people are confused…. Well, today’s The Washington Post provided yet another example, in a distressingly long list of examples, as to why that confusion. [...]

  • 2 Does ACCCE money speak with the Washington Post? // May 2, 2010 at 5:58 am

    [...] Several months ago, The Washington Post editorial page ever so innocently asked: What’s going on? [...]

  • 3 Drill, Baby, Drill: Drill the bottomless well // May 5, 2010 at 4:24 am

    [...] and debate about the science that misrepresents what is going on in the scientific community.  The editorial pages are filled with misrepresentations by the likes of George Will, Sarah Palin, and Bjo…. To be clear, the ‘liberal bastion’ of The New York Times is far from an innocent in [...]

  • 4 WashPost editorial board calls out Kook-inelli // May 7, 2010 at 6:02 am

    [...] Sadly, The Washington Post has yet to acknowledge its role in fostering confusion in its readership (and in….  And, see today’s important statement from 255 members of the National Academy of Sciences [...]

  • 5 A window on France: The World’s Planet Page // Aug 29, 2010 at 2:36 pm

    [...] The Washington Post editorial team has expressed confusion about why the US public is so confused a…. Moving beyond the fact that the Post’s own he said/she said type reporting, giving much visibility to anti-science syndrome suffering haters of a livable economic system (like George Will), perhaps one reason is that prominent and serious reporting on basic issues of global importance like seen within Le Monde and in the Planète page are all not a regular (and certainly not a prominent) part of reporting by any traditional U.S. media outlet. Share and Enjoy: [...]

  • 6 Post Watch: Balance and Absence aren’t top-flight journalism … // Dec 1, 2011 at 9:15 am

    [...] Washington Post editorial board … confusion is bad (even if we’re at fault) [...]

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