Heading For A Different Planet

systematic propaganda of the corporate media – its deep-rooted antipathy towards upholding proper journalistic standards in the public interest – extends to its coverage of human-induced climate change. The Independent recently delivered a masterpiece of headline obfuscation with: 'World cools on global warming as green fatigue sets in.'

line-height:150%;font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif";mso-bidi-font-weight:bold”>'Only 49 per cent of people now consider climate change a very serious issue – far fewer than at the beginning of the worldwide financial crisis in 2009.'

elite-serving corporate globalisation that has taken humanity to the brink of disaster. Chris Shaw, a social sciences researcher at the University of Sussex, noted on Twitter that nor was there 'any mention of the work of the merchants of doubt, paid for and acting on the behalf of corporate interests'.

Climate Progress blog had exposed the myth of 'green fatigue' in a piece a few days earlier:

line-height:150%;font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif";mso-bidi-font-weight:bold”>Romm's powerful rebuttal noted that 'blunt, science-based messaging that also makes clear the problem is solvable' has a demonstrable effect in stimulating public concern about climate. His piece listed 8 key points about the mostly poor standard of climate coverage in the media, as well as the incessant pro-business propaganda to which the US public is subjected (likewise in the UK and other 'developed' countries). Some of Romm's key points are:

line-height:150%;font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif";mso-bidi-font-weight:bold”>Not only is the so-called 'mainstream' media uninterested in addressing the climate catastrophe looming right in front of us, it is simply not equipped to do so. This is obvious when one recalls that the media isn't actually 'mainstream', if by that word we mean representing majority public interests. It's corporate media: owned and operated by elite interests – government, financial, business – that are structurally driven by the 'need' for control, profit and accumulation.

Civilisation On The Cusp Of Disaster

study published earlier this month in the prestigious journal Science showed that, on current trends, the world will be warmer by 2100 than at any time since the end of the last ice age, over 11,000 years ago. This time period, known as the Holocene, encompasses the origins of agriculture, writing, cities, science, the Industrial Revolution and the exploration of space (see this excellent video of a climate talk by David Roberts of Grist).

Jeremy Shakun of Harvard University, a co-author of the Science study:

line-height:150%;font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif";mso-bidi-font-weight:bold”>Meanwhile, the Guardian noted yet another 'climate change alarm', in a decades-long series of unheeded 'alarms' or 'wake-up calls', the familiar recycled trope of jaded journalism. This was the news that US scientists had measured the second-greatest annual rise in CO2 emissions last year at the famous Mauna Loa observatory on Hawaii. Guardian environment editor John Vidal, a safe pair of hands at the paper who has managed to skip over numerous troubling questions for over two decades, noted:

line-height:150%;font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif";mso-bidi-font-weight:bold”>Here, Vidal uncritically relayed the dangerous and discredited notion of a 2ºC 'safe limit' for global temperature rise. Climate change has been hereby reduced to a phenomenon defined by a single global dangerous number. This is a simplistic and damaging view of climate which, in reality, varies widely in time and space with multiple, overlapping impacts and feedbacks including ice melt, sea level rise, increasing storms and devastating droughts. Social scientist Chris Shaw, whom we mentioned above, has studied how this skewed 'safe limit' framing of the climate change debate arose, and how it has become a stranglehood on climate policy and even on progressive voices who should know better. Shaw warns that 'falsely ascribing a scientifically derived dangerous limit to climate change diverts attention away from questions about the political and social order that have given rise to the crisis.' He notes:

line-height:150%;font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif";mso-bidi-font-weight:bold”>Rapid and dangerous climate change is already underway, with little chance now of keeping global temperature rise to under 2ºC. Indeed, another recent climate study warns that a global temperature rise of just 1.5ºC may 'trigger the thawing of permanently frozen ground over a large part of Siberia' with 'vast quantities of carbon dioxide and methane' being released into the atmosphere, adding to the greenhouse effect. We are, said a report in New Scientist, 'on the cusp of a tipping point in the climate'. And a new scientific study has linked recent examples of extreme weather to human-induced climate change. There are deeply difficult times ahead. Yet the political response has been pitiful.

warns that:

line-height:150%;font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif";mso-bidi-font-weight:bold”>And yet, switch on the television or the radio, or open up a newspaper, and – bar a few items in passing – it's as if none of this is happening. Instead, the public is being force-fed a diet of celebrity gossip, huge advertising campaigns to consume more and more, and tedious 'news' and 'debates' that elucidate almost nothing about the real world.

honesty, bravery and decency to speak out. We understand that it is not easy; one's hopes of a stellar media career or even the prospect of continued employment might be on the line. In the early days of Media Lens, we used to entertain the very slim possibility that – if anyone – the environment editors of the major newspapers might do so. But signs of media sanity from even these quarters are scarce.

line-height:150%;font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif";mso-bidi-font-weight:bold”>BBC News is no exception to the corporate media's abysmal performance on climate. This crucial issue – the fate of humanity, no less – is confined to a small, tightly-shut box that is rarely opened for public display, even when it's kicking and screaming to be heard. There are all too many examples we could cite. Take one report on the BBC News at Ten last month (February 19, 2013), for instance, by John Moylan, the BBC's employment and industry correspondent. On the flagship television news programme, watched by millions around the country, Boylan spoke of the rising demand for energy and the cost of fuel. He stood in front of impressive high-tech graphics and he eloquently made his points. And he referred, briefly, to EU environmental targets on closing 'dirty polluting power plants'.

line-height:150%;font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif";mso-bidi-font-weight:bold”>Obviously this single example is not an exhaustive investigation of BBC News; although the cumulative impact can be gauged from our numerous media alerts and several books over many years. But it is indicative of how poorly BBC News journalists and editors take their commitment to (a) reporting the significant risk of rapid and dangerous climate change; (b) responding to public concerns about it. As ever, the biased and debased standards of BBC News adhere to the norms of corporate journalism.

notes Haaretz columnist Zafrir Rinat, the paper has been avidly:

line-height:150%;font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif";mso-bidi-font-weight:bold”>Rinat spoke with Joe Confino, an executive editor of the Guardian, and the chairman and editorial director of Guardian Sustainable Business. This is a Guardian-corporate partnership which promotes the notion of 'corporate social responsibility', a public relations oxymoron that should be exposed repeatedly.

line-height:150%;font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif";mso-bidi-font-weight:bold”>'We are partners in ventures with businesses that we are convinced are going in the right direction on sustainability. The condition for all cooperation is preserving complete editorial independence.'

'firewall' between advertising and editorial content, a claim that does not withstand scrutiny. Moreover, as Haaretz's Rinat rightly points out:

line-height:150%;font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif";mso-bidi-font-weight:bold”>Rinat added that 'the media is still part of the problem because it continues to promote in its reports the culture of consumerism that depletes the planet's resources.' He noted that Confino 'doesn't deny' this crucial point but, disappointingly, the Haaretz columnist did not press the Guardian executive about it.

column when he said that this was 'essential' to 'secure the future' of the paper.

line-height:150%;font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif";mso-bidi-font-weight:bold”>'in the last six months three colleagues have written or spoken to me to express concern that the entirely reasonable desire to attract people to the site may be skewing news and features agendas.'

line-height:150%;font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif";mso-bidi-font-weight:bold”>'There have been occasions recently where stories have been commissioned by editors who have talked about how they hope it will "play well" online – this appears to have been at the very forefront of their mind when commissioning. Certainly this is the prime driver of many online picture galleries. Obviously … we want to be well-read and popular, but it is a slippery slope, and it now appears that in a few cases we are creating stories purely to attract clicks.'

plush corporate offices. 'Conflicted' Guardian journalists may well be wondering how – if at all – a corporate newspaper is able to uphold the nine cardinal principles of journalism set out by the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism, amongst which:

line-height:150%;font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif";mso-bidi-font-weight:bold”>Covering dangerous climate change in accordance with such basic essentials means not just reporting the science of climate change responsibly – a task too far for the Daily Mail and Mail on Sunday. But it also means investigating the systemic reasons for global warming. That must include a critical appraisal of corporate-driven capitalism and unrestrained consumerism. And, finally, it must also mean full and open public debate about alternative ways of organising society to benefit human well-being and the climate stability of the planet.

line-height:150%;font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif";mso-bidi-font-weight:bold”>If you need hope and inspiration in the face of such a huge task, then watch Ken Loach's new film, The Spirit of '45. It is partly a tribute to those who lived through the Second World War and then battled to fight poverty, illness and unemployment at home in Britain. It was public pressure, through the election of a post-war Labour government, that led to the nationalisation of assets such as railways, the coal mines and the steel industry; building a proper welfare system; and the founding of the National Health Service. This was not, in fact, real socialism. For example, private ownership of the mines transferred to state ownership with many of the same elitist bureaucracies and establishment figures in charge. But many gains were achieved for the benefit of millions of working-class people; not least the NHS which is now being carved open for private profit under the noses of a compliant news media, including the BBC.

response to the neoliberal propaganda that 'there is no alternative' to capitalism; and that all the current system might need is a 'kinder and gentler' face. But as one participant in the film wryly notes: 'Caring capitalism is like the Arabian Phoenix: everyone's heard about it but nobody's seen one!'

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