I enjoy reading the Moab Sun News – a great mix of local updates and local perspectives on national issues.
The “opinion” piece from Warren Scott in the April 27 edition made me wonder how you decide whether a submittal is an opinion or propaganda (“Climate debate needs balance,” April 27 – May 3, 2017 Moab Sun News). What if someone’s “opinion” crosses the line to misrepresentation or outright lies? What if the writer is misinformed or lacks understanding to the point where the “opinion” is not based on facts? Do you still have any obligation to publish it and propagate the fallacies?
As an example, the writer stated that based on a “perusal of the internet,” the March for Science was mainly about climate change. Did the writer read the previous week’s “View” or look at the March for Science press statements? Both of these sources make it clear that the march is about science as a key basis for policy.
If marchers are concerned about climate change, then that’s what they chose to put on their banners. And by the way, a banner proclaiming “science or extinction” is not solely about climate change. It could apply to the Endangered Species Act, habitat restoration and even rainforest protection.
One aspect of propaganda is to repeat a lie over and over. Characterizing the climate science as a “debate” is a tactic that has been around for the last 20 years. Science is always evolving, and people on the leading edge should not be expected to agree on everything.
But the fundamentals of human-induced climate change are not controversial to anyone that understands the scientific basis – starting with Svante Arrhenius (1859-1927). Today, all top U.S. universities – Stanford, MIT, Harvard, Yale, etc., agree that human activities yield greenhouse gases that are changing the climate at an unprecedented rate. Today’s research and peer-reviewed papers are about timing and impacts of climate change, not its existence – that was settled years ago.
It’s unfortunate that Mr. Scott is not skilled in science since this really undermines the validity of his opinion. To put it simply, although earlier changes in climate occurred over tens of thousands of years, the current change is happening not in thousands but in hundreds or perhaps tens of years. Our grandchildren will see effects of our actions.
Another facet of propaganda is to throw out a number without context. With respect to government’s ability to take effective action, a number is given for malaria deaths, but no further background is provided. What has been the death rate? Is it rising or declining over time? Are there differences among countries with different policies? One could look at government-led programs to reduce acid rain, AIDS and ozone destruction, just a few of many successful policies.
Government in the U.S. is by the people, of the people and for the people, so if there are suggestions for effective ways to address climate change, please write to your representative, gather grassroots support, and do what it takes to get them noticed, evaluated and implemented.
The “opinion” ends with the assertion that “nary a whit of worldwide alarm is raised over … deforestation.” One of the objectives of the March for Science is to make sure that sound, peer-reviewed science is used as the basis for policies regarding all environmental issues. A simple internet search reveals that the Rainforest Alliance, World Wildlife Fund, Rainforest Action Network, Rainforest Conservation Fund and many other groups work hard every day to raise awareness and support for policies to protect forests and to make sure that land-use is included in climate change policies.
Time Magazine recently asked the question, “Is the Truth Dead?”
If our newspapers and other media feel some obligation to publish propaganda in order to be seen as presenting both sides of an issue, they may also have a duty to include fact-checking as part of the decision to publish.
Thanks again for a thoughtful, interesting and well-written weekly newspaper.