THE BLOG

Birther, Climate Denier... Same Difference

04/29/2011 02:34 pm 14:34:02 | Updated Jun 29, 2011

Well, the great national nightmare is over. President Obama released his long-form birth certificate on Thursday. This settles the issue... again. I could go on about how depressing it is that it all came to this.

But my point in this quick blog is just to say that the vigorous discussion about how the media covered this topic sounded eerily familiar to me. For example, here's ABC's Jake Tapper quoted in a Huffington Post story:

"One of the biggest problems is how many reporters have treated this as if it's a subject for debate and not just a lie," Tapper said in an interview.

"Instead of covering this the same way you would cover someone saying that the earth is flat -- just a demonstrable untruth -- too many reporters and anchors have allowed this to become 'critics say X,'" Tapper continued.

Just imagine if Tapper were discussing how the media covers climate change? Wouldn't it ring true? Granted, global climate models are infinitely more complicated than, say, a Certificate of Live Birth. But doesn't that make clarity from the press about how solid the data is -- and how broad the scientific consensus is -- even more important? When the media "debates" whether it's actually getting hotter over the last century -- a fact -- it really makes it hard to discuss more complicated topics.

And when they place thousands of scientists on one side and equate their views with basically a paid spokesperson for a think tank or particular industry on the other, they propagate a lie.

It was good to see a bit of media gut-checking going on. We do have serious problems (and no, the budget isn't the only one), and we need focus on fact-based discussions. Sustainability is hard enough without false equivalence and lazy journalism mucking up the works.

In my work, I always say it doesn't matter whether you believe in climate change or not. The things businesses and our country would do to tackle carbon are things they should do anyway for both profitability and competitiveness. But not debating climate science all the time doesn't mean we have to accept falsehoods either.