Getting Media to Take Climate Threats Seriously? There's a Snowball's Chance

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Getting Media to Take Climate Threats Seriously? There's a Snowball's Chance

Senator Jim Inhofe attempting to debunk climate change with a snowball was described as a "fun moment" by Meet the Press's Chuck Todd. (Image: C-SPAN)

Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Ok.), who chairs the Environment and Public Works Committee, took to the Senate floor recently to try to debunk what he called the "hysteria on global warming" by holding a snowball. While the Washington Post editorialized that the performance was a "national embarrassment"–despite the paper having columnists on staff who make similarly absurd arguments (FAIR Blog, 3/3/15)–NBC's Meet the Press (3/1/15) had a different reaction to Inhofe's performance.

As noted by the LA Times' Michael Hiltzik (3/2/15), host Chuck Todd introduced a clip of the senator's snowball bit by saying:

A little lighter note here. Sen. Jim Inhofe used a fun little prop to make his point, apparently, on global warming, claiming it was a hoax, this week. Here he is.

After the clip, Todd added:

Now, I'm not going to use that to get into a climate change debate. I am actually going to use it because I think the House and Senate floor sometimes get some fun moments.

Hiltzik notes that the show aired just a few days after a new study published in the journal Nature Communications (2/24/15) that reported a rise in the sea level outside New York City by a magnitude "unprecedented during the entire history of the tide gauge records."

Speaking of the laugh riot that is climate change, have you heard the one about the pipeline that would carry a third more tar sands crude oil than Keystone XL? If you don't live in Wisconsin, the odds are no. But Line 61, which runs the length of the state, would convey up to 1.2 million barrels every day is almost a done deal, with virtually no press scrutiny.

Line 61 is a project of oil company Enbridge, which happens to have the worst record for oil spills in the Western Hemisphere:  some 800 incidents since 1999, including the largest inland spill in US history — a 2010 line rupture that dumped a million gallons of crude oil from Canada  in Michigan's Kalamazoo River.

A story by Louis Weisberg in the Wisconsin Gazette (2/12/15) notes that Enbridge snuck the project under the radar by breaking it into pieces, each of which was approved without an environmental impact study and largely without public meetings.

What makes it worse that you haven't heard the story is that many journalists must know about it: A single op-ed, by writer and musician Dan Kaufman, ran in the January 17 New York Times, which we understand many reporters read, but has triggered no other major media attention.

As Weisberg notes, on the myriad occasions on which Enbridge has spilled crude into communities and waterways, the settlements to residents come with gag orders, so "there's no one around except for activists to tell the public the truth." Reporters could do that too, but first they'd have to pay attention. Seriously.

You can send messages to Meet the Press here or on Twitter @MeetThePress. Remember that respectful communication is the most effective.

Janine Jackson

Janine Jackson

Janine Jackson is FAIR's program director and and producer/co-host of FAIR's syndicated radio show CounterSpin. She contributes frequently to FAIR's magazine, Extra! and co-edited The FAIR Reader: An Extra! Review of Press and Politics in the '90s (Westview Press).

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