Last summer, I was admiring a pair of adult quails ambling through the sage brush adjacent to my back yard. Following close at hand were roughly twenty puffball-like baby quails. Apparently I got a little too close for comfort. At a signal from the adults, the entire flock of puffballs froze in their tracks, blending into the landscape, and one of the full grown quails started fluttering on the ground. This quail looked pitifully injured as it held one wing at a crooked angle, stumbling this way and that, just a couple feet in front of me. It did a damn good job of drawing my attention away from the flock of baby chicks, and leading me in the opposite direction. Once I had moved a safe distance from its little ones, the broken wing act ended just as suddenly as it had begun. She flew about twenty feet away, let out a sharp screech, and all twenty puffballs charged through the sage brush to join her as they continued along their morning jaunt.
These days, it seems that whenever I watch network television, all I get is a pant load of that same old "broken wing act." While scientists and world leaders meet in Copenhagen to work on solutions to climate change, I rarely see even a single minute devoted to the daily events in Copenhagen. However, I am bombarded with commentary and interviews devoted to the marital infidelities of Tiger Woods, or some other similarly worthless item of so-called "news." Do the networks make time for this endless drivel, instead of meaningful programming content, simply because it's what the people want and it sells advertising, or is this some kind of consciously planned broken wing act to remove our attention from climate change, Copenhagen and the escalating war in Afghanistan?
Back in 1991, Danish researchers Eigil Friis-Christensen and Knud Lassen published an article in the scientific journal Science that appeared to document a close agreement between data representing recent global temperature increases and increases in solar activity. This article included a "hockey stick graph" that linked the steep rise in global temperatures since 1970 with a similar rise in the sun's solar output. This graph was widely published in major media all over the world, and is significantly responsible for promoting the common belief that global warming is caused by the sun, and that man's actions have little to do with climate change.
Subsequent scientific peer reviews of the above mentioned paper have uncovered both mathematical errors and statistical problems which refute the author's results, yet this kind of bona-fide peer-reviewed science receives scant coverage by major media. Peter Laut, professor emeritus of physics at The Technical University of Denmark (also former scientific adviser on climate change for The Danish Energy Agency), and others, have written extensively on this subject, but I had not heard about their findings until I went digging for data at realclimate.org and Google.
How come Sarah Palin, Brad, Janet, Angelina, the bogus hockey stick solar curve, and the stolen emails of "Climategate" get top billing while the voices of thousands of real scientists are drowned out by this worthless crap? Is this some kind of coordinated plan to "Keep America Dumb", or perhaps it is a conscious plot to keep business as usual driving full speed ahead until the whole world collapses around us?
In 2006, Lord Stern, the head of the UK Government Economic Service and former chief economist for the World Bank, said the following rather alarming things about future climate change:
The scientific evidence is now overwhelming: climate change is a serious global threat, and it demands an urgent global response.... Climate change will affect the basic elements of life for people around the world -- access to water, food production, health, and the environment. Hundreds of millions of people could suffer hunger, water shortages and coastal flooding as the world warms. Using the results from formal economic models, the Review estimates that if we don't act, the overall costs and risks of climate change will be equivalent to losing at least 5 percent of global GDP each year, now and forever. If a wider range of risks and impacts is taken into account, the estimates of damage could rise to 20 percent of GDP or more. In contrast, the costs of action-- reducing greenhouse gas emissions to avoid the worst impacts of climate change -- can be limited to around 1 percent of global GDP each year.
--Nicholas Stern, from The Economics of Climate Change: The Stern Review
A central assumption of his 2006 Stern Review was that global temperatures would rise by between 2C and 3C (3-1/2 to 5-1/2 F temp change) over the current century if nothing was done to counter global warming. Stern now says new data indicates that 4C (7F), 5C, 6C and even 7C (12-1/2 deg F) rises are a distinct possibility by the end of the 21st century, taking the world into new territory -- agriculture would be destroyed and life impossible in many of the most populated areas of the world. Certainly this guy is more credible and newsworthy than Tiger and Sarah, but I don't see him on American TV. In fact, I have to search the internet and quality papers like the Boston Globe and New York Times to hear what this credible authority has to say.
America, its time to wake up! If we let the media "dumb us down", will we end up just like the German people making "we didn't know" excuses for the Nazi holocaust, only this time we will be trying to tell our dying children that we were too busy watching Tiger and Sarah to do anything about the climate before it was too late?
Matthew Stein is the author of When Technology Fails: A Manual for Self-Reliance, Sustainability, and Surviving the Long Emergency from Chelsea Green. For more information, visit chelseagreen.com and whentechfails.com.