Thursday, January 29, 2009

CNN on climate change - the good and the bad

This morning, I was impressed to discover leading with a story about Al Gore's testimony to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Gore spoke about the imperative for the United States to negotiate and agree this year to an international treaty to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions.

I was also encouraged by the tone in these two paragraphs in the article:
During the hearing, Republican staffers handed out a statement contending that there are "significant objections" to claims about climate change. The document, which did not name Gore, said there is "a continued international outpouring of skeptical scientists" along with research "to refute warming fears."

The idea that the world's climate is being changed by human activities is supported by studies accepted by the vast majority of scientists with expertise in the field. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, the American Meteorological Society, the American Geophysical Union and the American Association for the Advancement of Science are among groups that have issued reports backing that position.
I am encouraged here for a couple of reasons. First, the article does not hedge on whether or not climate change is being caused by humans. The second paragraph here is simply strong, direct, factual journalism, which is desperately needed to bring US public opinion on climate change more closely in line with reality.

Second, although the article does describe the actions of the climate skeptics, the claims of those skeptics are presented as claims alone (with quotation marks), not as truths. To me, this is journalistically a step in the right direction. By following the Republicans' "claim" of an "outpouring of skeptical scientists" with a real list of real scientific organizations, the article essentially discredits the claim. (To be fair, a perfect article would have discredited the claim directly, but nonetheless progress is still progress.)

That having been said, though, CNN doesn't deserve all praise today. It is a daily habit of mine to read the CNN International home page followed by the CNN US page. I do this for a variety of reasons, but primarily I am curious about the differing emphasis and priority assigned to different news stories for the two markets.

And sure enough, my elation over a cover story on climate change was immediately quashed when I discovered that the US edition of CNN did not even feature the story at all on the home page:

What's going on here? Gore testifying in front of the Senate on climate change is important enough to make the cover of the international page, but on the US page is usurped by such hard-hitting headlines as "Vegetable ad deemed too hot for TV"?

And so the long struggle to change US public opinion on climate change goes on...

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