The front page story in today’s (4/21/2011) Chicago Tribune, “Climate change: More intense rains could swamp Chicago’s aging sewers,” by Michael Hawthorne, is mostly of interest for its entertainment value.
It is amusing that the Chicago Tribune, for years a willing mouthpiece for the most alarmist voices in the debate over climate change and other possible environmental threats, would run yet another piece about the supposed threat of “global warming” one day after Chicago’s temperatures hit a low not seen since the 1940s. Chicagoans who had to scrape ice off the windshields of their cars this morning could be forgiven for wondering if the paper’s reporters ever bother looking out their windows before they write such tripe.
This article also appeared on the same day as disclosures that the United Nations’ prediction rising sea level and flooding would create millions of “global warming refugees” by 2010 was completely and utterly wrong. But of course, no sign of those stories in the Tribune.
I don’t think anyone takes the Chicago Tribune seriously about environmental issues these days, and that is probably one reason for its falling circulation. Day after day and year after year, its headlines proclaim deadly threats to public health, all sourced to news releases by a few environmental activist groups that profit from fear. Yet day after day and year after year, the air and water and food in the Chicago region gets cleaner and safer. (That’s not an opinion, that’s fact, according to EPA’s own numbers.) Do the Tribune’s writers really think its readers are so stupid?
It didn’t have to be this way. Folks at The Heartland Institute, just a few blocks from Tribune Tower, including communications directors Dan Miller (who recently retired) and now Jim Lakely (who took his place), have repeatedly offered to provide Tribune reporters with the scientific experts needed to balance their coverage. To say we’ve been ignored is to be polite.
Maybe if/when the Tribune gets out of bankruptcy, its new owners will finally recognize the folly of its current editorial bias and make the personnel changes needed to restore some credibility with readers. Let’s hope that time isn’t too far in the future.
I found the following sentences late in the story to be quite interesting:
Most mainstream climate scientists agree that rising global temperatures are changing precipitation patterns because of increased evaporation and greater amounts of moisture in the air. There is greater uncertainty about how fast climate change is happening and how human disruption of natural climate cycles will affect day-to-day weather.
While sharp political differences remain among interest groups and elected officials about how critical it is to respond to climate change, or whether to respond at all, local planners around the nation are looking ahead and bracing for the worst.
This betrays muddled thinking, but it is also a little bit promising. It is muddled because while all climate scientists (not just “mainstream”) believe rising temperatures would change precipitation patterns, there is no agreement on how those patterns would change. There are big differences in regional forecasts, so you can find a study to back virtually any forecast you care to make. Droughts? Flooding? Take your choice.
These sentences are a little bit promising, though, because they come close to acknowledging what many scientists and those of us at The Heartland Institute who have followed the debate closely have been saying all along. That is, simply put, that there is no scientific consensus on the causes or consequences of the modest warming trend of the second half of the twentieth century, and that there is even more uncertainty as to what, if anything, should be done about it.
“Bracing for the worse” is one way to describe a policy of adaptation (reinforcing infrastructure to protect against extreme weather events regardless of their causes) rather than fruitless efforts to change the weather by controlling human emissions of greenhouse gases. It is the preferred path, not because of “political differences,” but because scientific uncertainty about future climate changes and economic realities make it so.
Old media outlets like the Tribune will be the last ones to report the end of the global warming delusion. Most will disappear without ever admitting their mistakes, to be replaced by more reliable media outlets. But this article might signal a small step toward the day when the Chicago Tribune either stops reporting on global warming at all, or starts getting the story right.