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Meet the (Brain-Dead) Press


Various blogs, including this one, have noted that the Sunday morning network news shows have been devoting no more than a few minutes each year to climate change. But this week, in the face of worldwide floods, droughts, snow storms and heat waves, they finally braved the elements, tiptoed up to the plate, and timidly asked: Are we humans really changing the climate?

Here’s how it went:

On NBC’s Meet the Press, David Gregory put TV science personality Bill Nye up against Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn. Nye is not a climate scientist, and Blackburn, a shill for the fossil fuel industry, called climate change a “hypothesis”. The result was a farce. Esquire’s Charlie Pierce rightly described it as:

… the single best example of why the entire elite political class of this country is one day going to be subject to a massive class-action negligence suit on the part of whatever rodents are left.”

Over on ABC’s This Week, North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory (R), whose state was buried in snow and at a complete standstill, told George Stephanopoulos that we shouldn’t be talking about climate change, but rather on “cleaning the environment.” (The Governor should be an expert on that – he used to work for Duke Energy, the company that’s currently leaking tons of poisonous coal ash into the Dan River.)

mccrory-schieffer-021614McCrory showed up on Face the Nation, too – this time to hedge his bets by saying that the climate has always been changing. Bob Schieffer’s idea of a follow-up was to “wish you and the folks in North Carolina the very best” in dealing with their disaster, and quickly move on.

Schieffer did at least move on to a real climate scientist, Dr. Marshall Shepherd, former head of the American Meteorological Society. But Dr. Shepherd knows the rules of network TV: he kept repeating that we don’t know whether any individual weather event is the result of climate change, and that it’s not the job of scientists to venture any opinions on anything.

Fox News Sunday had the eternally pompous George Will proudly proclaiming himself a “climate change denier”, while Kirsten Powers of USA Today tried to smooth the political waters by saying:

“Less pollution is definitely a good thing. So that might be a better way to make the argument rather than claiming that climate change is the cause of every single thing that happens with the weather.”

(… as if anyone is suggesting that.)

Twenty-six percent of Americans believe the Earth goes around the sun.

If you wonder why mainstream American news programs are holding these brain-dead “debates” over whether (let alone why) the climate is changing, just check out the latest national survey by the National Science Foundation. One of its revelations is that 26 percent of Americans believe the Earth goes around the sun. And what TV network would want to upset an audience of zombies by challenging any of their belief systems?

Meanwhile, as snowstorms battered the east and drought shriveled the west, another disaster was unfolding across the Atlantic, where the U.K. was having the worst January floods since records began in 1766. Entire villages were being evacuated, and more than 5,000 flooded homes and business were being abandoned. Roads and railways were torn up and cliff-top houses had collapsed as raging seas gouged the land out from under them.

Here’s what it looked like at the southwest corner of England at Newlyn, Cornwall, as the flood poured into town:

Compared to Dr. Shepherd on the Face the Nation, his counterpart at the U.K.’s Meteorological Office, chief scientist Dame Julia Slingo, was entirely at home stating her opinion. “All the evidence,” she said, supports the theory that climate change is playing a role in what’s happening. The leader of the Independence party declared that the floods are a direct result of the government allowing gay marriage.

The U.K. does, of course, have its own denialists. Former treasury chancellor Nigel Lawson called Dame Julia’s views “absurd”, and the leader of the Independence party declared that the floods are a direct result of the government allowing gay marriage.

And while most people were scrambling to save themselves, each other and thousands of visibly displaced animals, one “yob” (as the Brits call the uncouth young among them) uploaded a video of a policewoman being washed off her feet by the flood.

(When he discovered that his fellow countrymen were not so amused, the yobbo did at least have the grace to apologize publicly.)

With national elections due next year, climate change is now becoming a campaign issue in the U.K. When will the same be the case in the U.S.?

Certainly not in this year’s Congressional elections, where only the brave and foolhardy will even dare mention the word. And probably not in the Presidential elections of 2016. Perhaps it will be a safe topic by 2020. After all, by then it will be far too late to do anything to stop the accelerating disaster, and each of the candidates will instead be trying to persuade us that they were warning us of the approaching catastrophe all along.