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Thursday, November 15, 2012

Has The Media Failed In Covering Climate Change?

Wen Stephenson has committed himself to climate activism, after leaving a longtime career as a journalist. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Wen Stephenson used to be an editor at The Atlantic and The Boston Globe, and has worked on NPR and PBS programs. He considered himself well-informed and engaged.

But after leaving as senior producer of NPR’s On Point two and a half years ago, Stephenson threw himself into an intense study of the effects of global warming.

The experience changed him, and Stephenson felt compelled to share what he’d learned. Knowing that it might bar him from ever working for a mainstream media company again, Stephenson decided that he had to become a climate activist.

Now Stephenson is back with a message for his former journalism colleagues: You are failing.

In a recent front-page story for The Boston Phoenix, Stephenson argued that journalists’ business-as-usual approach to global warming is missing the mark.

Climate change is one of the biggest stories of our lives, he wrote, and it should be getting front-page crisis coverage.

Here are two excerpts from that essay:

Dear friends and colleagues:

This is hard. Coming to grips with the climate crisis is hard. It’s frightening. It’s infuriating. It’s heartbreaking.

Likewise, what I have to say here is hard. But it’s honest, and it’s necessary. And it’s for real.

Our most respected climate scientists, people like NASA’s James Hansen and MIT’s Kerry Emanuel, as well as global energy experts such as Fatih Birol, chief economist of the International Energy Agency — people who, it’s fair to say, may not always agree on politics and policy — are increasingly clear and vocal about one thing: we’re rapidly running out of time to address climate change in any meaningful way and avoid the risk of global climate catastrophe, with the incalculable human suffering that it will bring, quite possibly in this century.

In the face of this situation — as much as it pains me to say this — you are failing. Your so-called “objectivity,” your bloodless impartiality, are nothing but a convenient excuse for what amounts to an inexcusable failure to tell the most urgent truth we’ve ever faced.

What’s needed now is crisis-level coverage. And you guys know how to cover a crisis. In the weeks and months — nay, years — following 9/11, all sorts of stories made the front pages and homepages and newscasts that never would have been assigned otherwise. The same was true before and after the Iraq invasion, and in the months following the 2008 financial meltdown. In a crisis, the criteria for top news is markedly altered, as long as a story sheds light on the crisis topic. In crisis coverage, there’s an assumption that readers want and deserve to know as much as possible. In crisis coverage, you “flood the zone.” You shift resources. You make hard choices.

The climate crisis is the biggest story of this, or any, generation — so why the hell aren’t you flooding the climate “zone,” putting it on the front pages and leading newscasts with it every day? Or even once a week? Why aren’t you looking constantly at how the implications of climate change and its impact pervade almost any topic — not just environment and energy stories?

The Atlantic’s James Fallows responded to his former colleague’s assertions on the same day Stephenson’s article was printed.

“It is not comfortable to read,” Fallows wrote. “But I am glad he wrote it.”

Peter Canellos, editorial page editor of the Globe, provided this statement to Here & Now:

The Globe’s editorial board routinely meets with activists on all sides of major issues. These visitors come to the meetings with the understanding that the board’s role is to probe their views closely, often asking uncomfortable or “devil’s advocate”-type questions. As Wen Stephenson pointed out in his piece in the Boston Phoenix, the Globe has been a steady advocate for programs to fight climate change, from raising fuel-efficiency standards to imposing a “cap-and-trade” program on polluters to reducing the level of emissions allowable under the regional Greenhouse Gas compact. We were strong and early supporters of the Cape Wind project. We also have advocated repeatedly for clean-energy grants and loans. When the heavily subsidized Evergreen Solar went bankrupt, we argued that the state’s potential gain from the investment had been worth the risk. Obviously, there are some people who would take more radical steps to limit greenhouse-gas emissions. I like and respect Wen Stephenson, and honor his commitment to the very important issue of global warming. But his piece in The Phoenix makes a basic error in equating the questions we asked him at a meeting with our underlying positions. It’s hardly irresponsible or myopic to ask about the cost to the economy of cancelling major pipelines and imposing stiff new regulations, even if we go on to support such moves. It’s part of the reporting process. The Globe’s editorial board is committed to probing all sides of major issues, and asking critical questions of the advocates who seek our support. Our readers expect nothing less.

Do you think the media has failed in covering climate change? You can let us know in the comments or on Facebook.


  • Wen Stephenson, climate activist and former editor at the Atlantic and the Boston Globe. He tweets @wenstephenson.

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
  • Katta

    Talk all you want about global warming or the lack of it. However I don’t hear anything about weather modification, HAARP, TARFOX, chemtrails or geo-engineering which is going on for years now. Do a search for Dr. Bernard Eastland or Ben Livington, known as the father of  weaponized  weapons.One can go directly to web sites, many are government URL’s and read about this.The Diane Rehms Show and NPR has talked about this in the past few years.Yet the politicians don’t talk about it. Why? Because they could lose their jobs and more.Well over 16 meteorologists or TV weather men have lost their jobs across the US mentioning any of these topics I listed above.Blame it on global warming, but don’t blame in on human intervention.

  • aknman49

    News media love covering “events” but when it comes to “trends,” not so much.
    That means weather dramas, like a rash of tornadoes or hurricanes, get ample attention but creeping catastrophes don’t warrant much attention from the front office. 

    It’s gotta make you wonder if there’ll still be a “wow” factor left to disasters once they become commonplace.  Is it still an “event” if it happens everywhere, every day?

  • Andreawilder

    The newspeople should be reporting this!
    Robin, this means you!
    If you don’t have the knowledge, educate yourself!

    No kidding, YES you are failing in responsibility if you don’t cover this.
    The black plague?  Wouldn’t you cover it?

    Why don’t you find out what Menino as mayor is doing about climate change?

    • RockinEZ

      Just the sort
      of knee jerk reaction Stephenson wants to promote.

      The truth is
      the Earth is a dynamic place.

      Humans are here
      on the temporary plan, just as everything before has been.

      The Earth had a
      “mini ice age” 150 years ago. They were ice skating on the Thymes in

      The climate
      change has been reported.

      We all need to
      act, not just the “talking heads” on TV.

      The word is
      out, do you need someone to repeat it daily, or will you change your personal
      actions to reduce Global Warming?

      responsibility yourself; don’t count on reporters for anything but the news in
      the last 10 minutes.

      • Jonathan Teller-Elsberg


        I disagree that it’s enough for people to “take responsibility” for their selves. Much of what we do and how we do it is structured beyond our individual control–for example the number of roads available for use vs. the number of train lines. Large scale infrastructure is powerful in guiding how people are able to take responsibility for their selves. And large scale infrastructure is always guided, if not outright determined, through the political process–that is, the collective, social process. And that is where the mainstream media come in: what they report on has enormous influence on the collective, social conversation, which in turn strongly guides how politics go, which in turn strongly guides how infrastructure is designed, which in turn strongly guides the set of choices available to an individual who seeks to take responsibility for his or her self.

        • Jasmine Spence

          I agree with your statement of the infrastructure limiting us,it makes all people whether they like it or not,presently engaged in accelerating climate change. It is not just about personal responsibility. A historical example of being limited in how we act is the time when women did not have the vote in America. It took until 1920,  72 years after Elizabeth Cady Stanton wrote the Declaration on Sentiments(based on the Declaration of independence) for women in America to vote.Many were very comfortable with women’s role of staying in the home with no voice.These people  were supported by the infrastructure of the culture. In my opinion the Earth needs a Declaration of rights and Independence from the present tyranny of humankind. Is there any such thing?

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Oregon-Stream/100002120209443 Oregon Stream

        If the holocene Earth that fostered modern civilization is so hopelessly dynamic, and the “mini ice age” froze the Thames (please check the REST of the story on that one), why do we “all need to act”? On the other hand, if there’s a high risk of multiple disruptions to populous societies, people need to be as informed as possible.

        I wouldn’t rely on today’s mainstream reporters alone, but they have a role to play. Ideally, we’d get back to the investigative reporting of yesteryear, instead of the infotainment fluff so commonplace today.

  • http://twitter.com/leon_fan Leon of DE

    Reality check – nothing will be done. Best to hope for is slowing — damage already done will continue warming regardless. Battle lost around turn of century with rise of China. Politics in US just will not permit necessary changes. China & India will take up whatever slack the US is unlikely to initiate. Emphasis must be on dealing with effects. Trying to make best of bad situation.

    • Paul, San Diego

       I think Leon of DE is spot on.  Assuming even the mild-case assessments and predictions are true, the magnitude of change that would be required, world-wide, to even halt the rate of change (let alone reverse what change has already occurred) is staggering.  Beyond unprecedented.  It might be a wild ride … h0ld on to your seats. 

      • Larycham

         I understand what your are saying. However, I believe there is a consensus among climate scientists that we can avoid the worst consequences of climate change if we act in the way Stephenson suggests is necessary. It requires very serious action very soon–right now. I refuse to accept the kind of fatalism that says we are too late, there is nothing we can do. I do think there are actions we can take now, but I would only include geo-engineering as a very last resort if all else fails.

        • http://www.facebook.com/people/Oregon-Stream/100002120209443 Oregon Stream

          Exactly. We’re going to need both adaptation and mitigation efforts. Yes, a certain amount of change is essentially locked in, but just piling more fossil carbon into the system, and assuming today’s ecology and civilization as we know it will keep up just fine, is lunacy. We’re running a huge experiment with the carbon cycle and climate, and there’s no assurance that we aren’t flirting with thresholds of destructive acceleration. Why gamble when the stakes are so high, and the net cost of acting today is likely to be substantially lower?

    • Carolharlow


  • Pmsinotte

    This is most definitely a problem of lack of media coverage. No one from the local media – TV or radio – was present when a group of activists, led by Bill McKibben,  marched to Romney’s Boston headquarters, on Sept. 28th (2012), to deliver petitions, asking Romney 2 questions on climate change, signed by close to 6k.  It would have been “news” that the petitions were not accepted and no staffer came out to address the activists.

    • BlueNH

      I was there. And last night, two thousand people, old and young, packed the Orpheum to hear Bill McKibben talk about how we can put pressure on the fossil fuel industry, but no media coverage. I think the press was down the street at the Twilight opening. Now THAT’S big news!

  • SMV

    I think Wen Stephenson is correct in saying we can not just sit back and wait for politicians to act on climate change. The media has great power when they think independently and report THE FACTS! This story must be framed as the immediate crisis it is!

  • Andrade Judith

    Yes, the media is responsible for getting the subject in the forefront.  It was journalists who exposed the weaknesses of nuclear power plants years ago.  It was journalists who exposed the real backdrop of the war in Vietnam.  The Watergate event.  It is the job of journalists to lead in areas of need and problems in the world. Who else can look at things with an objective eye and tell what they see?

  • R Planche

    Hello. The climate change trend is pseudo science at best. Are we that short sighted? There have been heat waves before, there have been ‘super’ storms and earthquakes more severe and devastating than our selfish, guilt ridden culture thinks is happening just now and just because of climate change. The nature of the word climate covers the word change, that’s what it does. This is a serious set of separate environmental problems that is being bundled into a figurehead named climate change so that people can be victimized by it, instead of being able to take control of the tangible problems to make it better. It’s a savvy marketing scheme with pertinent trendy buzz words. It sells people words like Eco and Green attached to garbage. This juggernaut is a filthy, selfish, stinking pile of bullshit. I’m embarrassed that so many people are this uninformed. 

    • Larycham

       Your post should embarrass you as it is totally uninformed. Have you done any research into the issue at all? Fox News doesn’t count.

    • Warren Criswell

       Ha. How much did the Koch brothers pay you for that one? Sometime, while they’re not looking, read some science.

  • Lavada

    I listen to this piece about global warming a how it should be on the front pages of the newspapers every day.
    I also suggest that weather modification, HAARP,   TARFOX, chemtrails and geo-engineering be plastered across the headlines. These are all government programs run by the military and NASA. One can go to their websites.
    Add to that the U.S. Air Force’s program called Owning the Weather 2025.
    Do you people need the links to these or can you find the time to do your own research as I did?
    I would supply them, however their are the skeptics and brain dead amongst us who don’t believe anything other than what the mainstream media feeds them. Critical thinking is so foreign to many.  Channel surfing or texting is easier on their little minds.

    • Carolharlow

      Of course we know about these things. As for me, they scare me. Where and how would theor effects be optimized or turned off if necessary.

  • john__riley

    I think journalism’s trenchant leadership from behind has smothered cultural progress over the past decade .  In fact, if we could point to one cultural failure which has enabled or encouraged all the others our society is groping to confront, it would have to be the complacency and pettiness of the mainstream media.  It is maddening to hear the host primly prod, “isn’t it the politicians’ fault for not bringing x up?”  The media has a responsibility to REPRESENT societal standards.  When it’s  a gossip mill for the status quo, our vision perishes.

  • Ninten Vlad

    I’m with you Wen!!!! It’s all about looking ahead. We’re living irresponsibly and leaving a path of destruction for our kids and grandkids. I was surprised that Robin asked if we should leave it up to politicians. If anyone knows about private interests that affect the direction that politicians guide themselves by, it should be Robin (whose position on a radio program is to report on these things). Ideally, the media should give climate change more importance, as should private citizens raise their voices.

  • Jennifer

    THANK YOU for covering this article and this topic!  We need to create a tide (sorry) of support for SERIOUS action by our leaders.  And our journalists have a responsibility to stop pretending this is a “controversy” and start covering it just like they cover a flu pandemic, a hurricane, or any natural disaster.  The controversy is not whether it’s happening, but how to address it.

  • Rockinez

    Reporters report the news. Wen Stephenson has crossed over into the “making news” catagory, and will never be a non-biosed reporter again.

    It is always a sad day when reporters resort to interviewing reporters.

  • Max

    20% per annum of World Groundwater resources are being depleted.  Stated another way, water is being extracted faster than it is being replenished.  Where ever this is the situation the exhaustion of that groundwater is a mathematical certainty.  As bad as climate change, poison oceans and air, dying reefs, etc. are Mankind will be suffer much greater tragedy as water is inadequate to maintain the existence of Mankind.  The root cause of both water exhaustion and climate change is the Global population exceeds the carrying capacity of planet.  Yet, your guest has not mentioned any of this.

    • Pleitner

      What is the lifetime carbon footprint of a baby from various countries given current average consumption rates? Funny, no discussion of that, eh?
      Peak oil estimates had no credibility to me as a geologist until Jeffry Rifkin’s hit me in the head with a piece of lumber when he (an economist) proposed looking at such estimates in the context of “per consumer.”
      I was still studying during the first Earth Day. Population control then was a concept promoted by conservative in the USA. Today not even alarmed climate scientists are mentioning that.
      The geologic record will record that we were just another meteor strike, but not localized.
      It is very hard to escape the action of a frog caught in a pot of water on a fire.

  • Djheff1

    How does the media report “every day” on a slow-moving trend whose catastrophic impact is a generation or two away? One suggestion: because the “story” is slow moving, a long series that starts by going back in time and reporting the evolution of the science would be a start. Also, since monitoring the change is a planet-based scientific endeavor, no one paper or network can cover this. Media should develop alliances and share resources on the story. Finally, media in the US is extraordinarily self centered. A cultural shift to paying attention to the rest of the world is needed to get readers out of the US bubble… no pun intended.

    • Ccarolharlow

      Global warming is neither slow moving nor a generation or two away. It is here, bow, and by delaying action, we have already made certain solutions not possible or quite difficult. If journalists were doing their jobs, you would know these things already.

  • Martha in Fairbanks AK

    Yes, Wen Stevenson is totally correct. This is the shift I have been talking to people about. We need to talk about what our options are, and how we are going to transition to a low carbon economy. I am a scientist, but the conversation does not need to be about science. The technology exists – many different types of technologies and other ways of coping with climate change. But what are we going to choose as a society?  How much of our resources should be spend on adaptation – things like storm-proofing our cities, and how much on changing our electricity production? These are the big questions.

  • Dennis

    People prefer hype over facts.  Those who do want facts can’t trust the media to give it to them.  Media prefers the “late breaking story” and sensationalism over a story about something that has longer term and longer lasting implications b/c sensationalism sells.

    • Paul, San Diego

       “Facts” have quickly become a nebulous concept and scarce commodity.  Look at the presidential debates.  The debates after the debates were more about who lied less/more rather that whose ideas had more merit or meaning.  We’ve all become adroit spin artists.  We’ve all become “the boy who cried ‘wolf’ “.  It’s sad, but true.  Al Gore even admitted that it was proper for him to use hyperbole to drive his points across because of the magnitude of the issue. 

  • Thomas R. Rowen

    When innovation is a concern, the United State government does not want to endorse those projects for “commercial use”, regardless if its for the common good of all. Taking the history of Dr. Royal Rife, as early as the 1920s, he was able to obliterate any disease known to man. He died a broken man. However, you get people like George Church  from Harvard University who has the current ability to eradicate any disease, it becomes marginal. Yet, there is a growing concern about climate change where innovation can also help to remove  emissions to the common good. Thorium reactors have been kept quiet since the Eisenhouer administration. China is now taking the lead. It best be addressed as soon as possible.  

    • Paul, San Diego

       I urge readers to read up on Dr. Royal Rife before acknowledging the validity of Mr. Rowen’s comments.

  • climate researcher

    I am an atmospheric scientist (PhD), university professor, and actively publishing (peer-reviewed) researcher on the physics of climate change, particularly related to the Arctic. I feel that the media has done a big disservice to the public by failing to convey that the “denial” position on human-caused climate change is held by a tiny fraction of real scientists, and the loudest voices promoting this view are either not credible scientists or not scientists at all. Would you take the advice of a chiropractor or your bank teller about your heart valve replacement? Of course not! Why, then, would you reject the conclusions of trained experts on the climate system in favor of someone who ignores (or doesn’t understand) the overwhelming body of real science that says human-caused changes to the Earth — particularly increased gases from burning fossil fuels — are the primary cause of sea-level rise, increasing frequency of extreme weather events, sea-ice loss in the Arctic, disappearing glaciers, various changes in the ecosystem, enhanced forest fires…just to name a few? The media needs to expose the frauds, as well as their financial backers, and explain to the public that they’ve been had. The public is not stupid, but they can be easily confused when the legitimacy of one side of the story is omitted in favor of pursuing balance. 

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100003000884786 Navin R Johnson

       What do you suggest we do to reverse the human effects of climate change?

      • Jonathan Teller-Elsberg

        Navin, there are multiple layers of what needs to be done. One is the rapid reduction in our annual rates of greenhouse gas emissions to effectively zero within our lifetimes. Another is encouragement of processes, notably in agriculture, that draw carbon out of the atmosphere and sequester it for long duration (e.g., reforestation and, especially, agriculture that rebuilds soils as much more carbon can be sequestered in soils than in forests).

        That first layer has multiple parts: reduced use of fossil fuels alongside rapid expansion of energy production capacity from non-polluting sources. (Nothing is entirely non polluting over the full life cycle, e.g. the energy needed to turn raw materials into a wind turbine.)

        And so then multiple layers to reducing fossil fuels: switching to electric vehicles, increasing energy efficiency in all sectors of economy and society, lifestyle changes (using public transport rather than individual autos), as well as the direct action of figuring out how to shut down coal and gas power plants without leaving people in the cold and dark.

        I hope it’s obvious that this list of points and subpoints isn’t exhaustive, but also hopefully it gives you the basic gist.

        Personally, and if it matters I say this as a sometime economist, I think it would be enormously helpful at the political level to pass into law the Cantwell-Collins CLEAR Act first proposed a few years ago. It is by leaps and bounds the best policy proposal I’ve come across in terms of honestly addressing the scale of the problem as well as dealing with it in a fair and equitable way. I don’t think we can trust “the market” to solve this problem, but a nudged market–which is what the CLEAR Act creates–will be an extremely strong tool in the overall effort.

        • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100003000884786 Navin R Johnson

          You are living in fantasy world if you truly think there is any chance any idea you mentioned could be implemented quickly enough on a large enough scale to make any difference.

          Take electric vehicles for instance; the technology just doesn’t exist at this time to make them a viable alternative to gas vehicles.  And even if they did, they still require fossil fuels to generate electricity.  And yet, even if you possessed magical power and in the blink of an eye switched everyone over to solar powered electric cars tomorrow, it STILL wouldn’t make enough of a difference to even halt the human effects of climate change, much less reverse it.

          The real story no one talks about in the media is the solution to the problem of human climate change doesn’t currently exist in any practical sense.

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/Oregon-Stream/100002120209443 Oregon Stream

             It’s fantasy to think we can switch over whole systems overnight, but the problem is, we lack the kinds of consistent, reliable policies that would quicken the pace of implementation, and foster economies of scale for improved technologies. Where practical, electric cars (or electric assist with regenerative braking) are just part of the broader set of potential solutions. And one that is still more efficient/lower carbon intensity than a typical gasoline powertrain, even running on today’s power mix. Something is better than nothing, and things like fossil fuel subsidies/an absence of effort to ease into carbon pricing, and unreliable incentives don’t help in getting a serious start.

          • Jonathan Teller-Elsberg

            Navin, I think you’re right that the odds we’ll put if off are long, very long. It it entirely technically possible to do, and is within the economic capacity of our civilization to do. What we don’t have is a social commitment to push through the (sometimes very) awkward transition. If I had to make a bet, I’d bet that we don’t do what needs to be done and the world roasts. That’s a far cry from just throwing up my hands and saying, “forget even trying.”

            I’m not sure why you think electric vehicles are nonexistent. The Tesla S just won “Car of the Year” from Motor Trend. Remember, we don’t have to replace every vehicle with an electric alternative tomorrow, we “only” have to convert the fleet over the course of a couple of decades. That’s absolutely doable–if we make the necessary individual and collective choices involved.

            And yes, electric cars do indeed need to get their electricity from somewhere, but you are wrong that that somewhere must be fossil fuels. Alternatives already in widespread use are hydroelectric and nuclear facilities. In this post-Fukishima world, will people accept nuclear as a necessary evil to avert catastrophic climate change? I don’t know–probably not! (For more and less pro-nuclear takes, see http://slackwire.blogspot.com/2012/08/fukushima-update-how-safe-can-nuclear.html and http://www.monbiot.com/2012/03/15/no-primrose-path/.)

            And there are indeed alternatives. In the U.S., concentrating solar stations in the desert southwest could certainly generate all the electricity needed for the country–and that’s even if you allow for the conversion of the auto fleet to electricity AND for conversion of other energy needs currently supplied by fossil fuels (e.g., home heating via heat pumps rather than via burning of natural gas or heating oil). Mind you, as David MacKay points out, you’d have to cover an area something like the size of Arizona to generate that much solar electricity, which is a good reason to look for a more compact alternative to solar, in whole or in part–or throw up your hands and say that shortsightedness in our society means doom. Similarly, you can get really substantial quantities of electricity from wind; not on the massive scale of solar, but definitely at meaningful scale.

            All of this is far from easy, including on the technical side (especially w/r/t a reliable grid if/when the majority of power comes from relatively erratic sources like solar and wind), but none of it is insurmountable in principle. It really all does boil down to choosing your fantasy: the fantasy that we’ll figure out a way to be okay in a world with unrestrained global warming, or the fantasy that we humans can find sufficient wisdom to address a big problem at the scale it requires.

          • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100003000884786 Navin R Johnson

             I never said “electric vehicles are non-existent” — I said they are not a viable alternative.  I hope they will be someday.  The Tesla S is a great car, but it is much too expensive to be a replacement for an average sedan.  There are significant problems with electric vehicles that must be worked out before they can replace gasoline powered vehicles.

            Nuclear power is great.  If we had fusion reactors and a super-conducting power grid, then we would be set and could solve global warming tomorrow.  But, we don’t and we can’t.

            There is no technology that currently exists today that could effectively replace fossil fuel energy based machines.  It is years away.

          • katied6

            Where I live in CA you can currently lease an electric Nissan Leaf for less than most people spend on gas in a month. At night when you typically charge it, our grid is almost entirely wind power. 

            With solar panels, I have eliminated my electric bill and power my house and car.  I actually produce more energy than I use. The electric company pays me!

            Even with the cost of high-end solar panels, I figure I’m saving $15,000. Here’s how:

            I have 16,200 miles on my Leaf and nary an issue. No oil changes. No exhaust. No noise. No gas-station stops. This is more than viable. It’s an awesome way to live.

          • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100003000884786 Navin R Johnson

             The Leaf sounds like a great car, but the limited range and long recharge times are problematic. 

          • katied6

            Climate spinning out of control <- more problematic

          • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100003000884786 Navin R Johnson

             Sure, but driving an electric car won’t solve climate change.

          • katied6

            No 1 thing will solve it. Renewable energy + electric cars part of the solution though.

          • Jonathan Teller-Elsberg

            Hi Navin, first–and maybe most importantly in this world of blog comment threads–thank you for debating me on the merits of the issues rather than going for the easy ad hominem attacks.

            Okay, so back to the issue: Yes, the Tesla is too expensive, but that is partly a marketing decision by the company to aim for an upscale market. My point was that not only do electric vehicles exist, they exist in a form that is adequate for the needs of a significant fraction of drivers today… And this is still, relatively speaking, early in the development of broad scale electric transport technology. Alongside this are increasing numbers of plug-in hybrid vehicles. None of them solves the problem, but these are technologies–available right this moment, and improving rapidly–that move us in the right direction IF culture and policy combine to shift things in a major way in the near term.

            If nuclear is acceptable to you, then you don’t need fusion to solve the low-carbon energy problem. Regular old fission reactors exist in the here and now and could, if built out extensively–totally possible if politics allowed for it–displace fossil fuel based electricity in the timescale the climate community is talking about.

            Concentrated solar is an existing technology in the here and now and could be built out at large scale in relatively short order, if politics allowed for it.

            Wind turbines are a proven technology that exists and could be built out at large scale in relatively short order, if politics allowed for it.

            (In all these cases I’m using the term “politics” to mean both the technical politics of government policies and legislative wrangling, and the cultural politics of public opinion and zeitgeist.)

            Conservation and efficiency technologies exist in the here and now to significantly reduce energy demand, so that the new generators of energy can meet demand in the middle rather than having to replace our current fossil fuel demands in full.

            If nothing else, all of this is very expensive. But there are a couple of things to keep in mind: the scale of the expense isn’t totally unprecedented–as David MacKay estimates for the UK, the transition to a low-carbon economy would cost about as much per year as is already spent on insurance. So it’s a lot, but it’s not an amount of money that our economy is incapable of scrounging up. Second, one person’s expense is another person’s income. As a whole economy, spending money on revamping our energy sector does’t mean throwing that money away, it means redirecting some of our existing monetary flows and loops into new flows and loops. That means different people get to take advantage of those flows–workers in wind turbine factories, for example, rather than workers on oil rigs (with some possibility that it could be the same people working new jobs), which is where much of the politics comes into play. And it need not be a zero-sum game — in fact, that’s one of the advantages of the Cantwell-Collins CLEAR Act method of cap-and-trade. It would lead to net positive economic results for the vast majority of Americans, even at the same time that energy costs went up. For more on that, see these PDF files: http://www.peri.umass.edu/fileadmin/pdf/other_publication_types/green_economics/Cap_Dividend_States_nov2010.pdf and http://www.peri.umass.edu/fileadmin/pdf/other_publication_types/green_economics/Boyce_SFC_May7.PDF .

            Respectfully yours,

          • Tantlian

            There are safe nuclear power options, look up “pebble reactors” and “Thorium reactors” to find out about these options. We also have very little if any influence on the coal/oil usage in large and growing economies such as China and India both of which suffer from horrific air pollution which blows toward the US and effects our climate.

          • Bill Ferree

            The Nissan Leaf in my garage is a real pleasure to drive. It serves quite well most of our local travel needs. The electricity cost is the equivalent of about $1/gal. CO2 emissions from the electricity generation (if coal fired) are about half that produced by an equivalent gasoline car. If the electricity comes from a modern natural gas generator the CO2 would be approximately one fourth.
            Our other car is an 8 year old Prius. It still runs perfectly after 125,000 miles and averages about 48 mpg on regular unleaded fuel.

      • climate researcher

        Right now the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere is higher than it’s been in at least 650,000 years, and not by a little bit (we know this from analyses of ice cores and ocean sediments). We’ve blown by the level it hit during the last interglacial (warm) period, 125,000 years ago, by about 25%. It takes a long time for the Earth’s temperature to equilibrate with changes in CO2, and present global-mean temperatures and sea levels are way behind the CO2. The last time temperatures on Earth were as warm as they are today, sea levels were 6 to 8 meters (about 23 feet) higher than now. We are literally sailing in uncharted territory. So back to your question, I don’t believe we can reverse the human effects of climate change. That doesn’t mean, however, that we should not do whatever we can to slow them down, and there’s a whole raft of other reasons for cutting back on fossil fuel use, especially supplies from an unstable Middle East. In my view the best use of our resources and efforts is toward understanding where and when the various impacts of climate change will be felt, preparing as best we can for those impacts, and helping those who have limited ability to get out of harm’s way. It would have been much cheaper for NYC to prepare for the likes of Sandy than it will to repair, rebuild, and prepare for the next time. There are many other regions that are as vulnerable, and I hope this event will serve as a wake-up call leaders in those areas to get busy.

        • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100003000884786 Navin R Johnson

          “I don’t believe we can reverse the human effects of climate change.”

          Finally, an honest answer.  Thank you.

          • http://profile.yahoo.com/CQBZHKZ2PQFTUS5WX22N3PDZ3E everetth

            In the days after 9/11 when no planes were flying over the U.S. a slight increase in the Ambient temperature was attributed to the absence of contrails from Jet planes.  Perhaps if we sent airtankers alloft, modified to spray a wide fine mist (contrail) the ambiant temperature in it’s shadow would be lower.  This could be tested with one high flying tanker like those used for fire fighting.  At a lower attitude would be 3 planes with temperature sensing & recording equipment.  One of the planes would fly in the shadow of the tankers contrail.   From this experiment we could calculate wether this simple rather crude method just might help!

          • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100003000884786 Navin R Johnson

             The problem is, you have to burn fossil fuels on a massive scale to implement this solution.  This is an idea, but unfortunately I don’t think it is anywhere near practical.

      • Carolharlow

        Begin to use renewable energy technologies for every possible application. Now. Without delay. And make it known why this is being done, why it must be done and replicated everywhere else that its use makes sense..

      • Len Frenkel

        Promote plant-based eating. The livestock and supporting industries are responsible for more greenhouse gases than all other human activities. It’s that simple.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Oregon-Stream/100002120209443 Oregon Stream

      Agreed. At the same time, I think there could be a fine line between media covering the threat of rapid holocene climate change comprehensively, and the coverage becoming constant and shrill. Many people tune out when that happens. At this point, I’d be happy to see one or two prominent articles and TV news pieces a week catching the public up on the science, the events, and what politicians are doing (or not doing).

      It’s worth considering that the climate change process remains somewhat nascent, and in many temperate regions the effects are not yet consistent and unambiguous. After all, weather is a confluence of regional dynamics and the overall trends associated with Earth’s energy balance. And from what I’ve read, a major concern is the risk of further acceleration, given inertial lag and amplifying feedbacks in the climate system. So if it’s a slow motion train wreck, or the proverbial frog sitting in a pan of water that’s slowly coming to a boil, it doesn’t lend itself to frequent coverage (it might help if bodies like the IPCC reported more often). Except perhaps in the realms of policy and Arctic change. That makes it even more of a challenge.

    • The_Truth_Seeker

       See my comments about both timid journalists AND timid scientists.  It’s also the fault of many scientists for locking themselves in their labs and not talking truth to power more forcefully and more directly. Unfortunately, politicians, corporations and the public don’t read “pier reviewed papers” (they can read protest signs though).  Doesn’t matter how many papers you write (except maybe for funding and tenure) unless lots of people are wiling to read what you write! Lots of people wanted to know what Newton and Galileo had to say (because they were willing to pay the price for speaking out). How many scientists today are willing to pay a price today for speaking out? At least Wen has the guts to stake his career on this.

      Don’t back down Wen – it’s high time someone spoke out (forcefully).

  • Susan White

    Our news organization, InsideClimate News, published an ebook this week that does exactly what Wen asked the media to do. Clean Break shows how the U.S. can respond to climate change by using Germany’s Energiewende, or energy transformation, as an example. It’s written by an experienced journalist, Osha Gray Davidson, and the first three chapters are now available on our site, InsideClimateNews.org. The entire book can be found in the Kindle store.

  • Belinda Davis

    Thank you, thank you for this vital contribution:  how can _anything_ else be more important than this?  Our shortsightedness on this imminently threatens the future of our planet, the availability of water and living space, and the viability of survival of humans and other species.

  • Aunt

    I appreciate that many people, like Mr. Stephenson, come to climate activism “for our kids and grandkids.” I have certainly seen this in my own family, with relatives becoming more concerned about climate change as they have children of their own.

    But as a childless 30-something, I wonder if it’s time for serious public dialogue about rethinking family, with the climate crisis in mind.

    I am not advocating a return to Population Bomb-type blame-the-Third World fear-mongering. I’m talking about rethinking family size as one very important environmental decision that–unlike so many aspects of climate change–we as individuals and couples actually can affect and make a meaningful difference. I do not begrudge people’s desire to have children. Who knows, I may yet have one–but just one, if any at all. But I think it is important to recognize that we live in a high-consumption society. All the hybrid cars and local produce in the world can’t make up for an additional person’s consumption.

    We need to change the discourse on family in light of climate change and other environmental problems, so that childless people are not seen as selfish (as I have been called many times by relatives, co-workers, and even nosy strangers) but as helping to make a major contribution to lowering CO2 emissions and environmental impact, to the benefit of already-existing children. I have chosen not to have children the same way that I choose to live
    within walking distance of my work and to keep the thermostat set as low
    as possible in winter. Not having children, or having a smaller family, is just as “environmental” a decision as cloth vs. disposable diapers or gasoline vs. hybrid vehicles. And I would argue that family size has a much bigger long-term impact on reducing CO2 emissions than just about any other choice a person can make.

    I have a six-year-old nephew, whom I love very much. I want a healthy, liveable planet for him. Perhaps remaining “childless” is the best way for me to secure the future for him and all of today’s children.

  • Lou

    What about some coverage of “geo-engineering” by the US Government.
    Its been talked about on the Diane Rehms Show and NPR the past few years.
    Thats been forgotten more by the media than global warming.
    Even The Weather Channel has programs on it. I first watched an hour on CHEMTRAILS several years ago.
    So the material it out there, but the media conveniently ignores it.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Oregon-Stream/100002120209443 Oregon Stream

      There’s a fair amount of real science on such matters, including the realities and caveats therein, on sites like Realclimate.org and Skepticalscience.com.

      Along with the he-said, she-said treatment of climate change, in the case of geo-engineering, certain media discussions have liked to explore it as hope for a quick fix pill with few side-effects. For now at least, that remains pie in the sky.

  • GreenGardener

    THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU for this program.  Climate change has been the elephant in the room for way too long.  It’s about time we the people wake up, because the government certainly is asleep on this one.

  • Wanderingdoc

    As much as I agree with the notion that our media as well as our political leaders have failed to pay attention much less act on the global crises that is global warming, it is only one facet of the threats that humans have created that will doom us. Pollution of our planet by innumerable human produced waste products is affecting every invironment on earth and is already responsible for the greatest extinction since the Cretaceous. And these rates of change are geometric, just as Malthus predicted in the 18th century, except he was plotting growth versus agricultural production. We’ve found ways to increase food production, but not what to do with the waste. The growth curve in a Petri dish is a better analogy of what we’re doing to the planet.

  • Paul, San Diego

     You have to consciously not notice that the issue isn’t being covered.  Obviously it’s not covered to the extent that Mr. Stevenson would like.  That global climate is changing cannot be refuted.  Predicting its effects is the real challenge.  Our (scientist’s, politician’s, researcher’s, activist’s, man/woman-on-the-street’s et al) poor record of figuring out what’s going on now (and why) is only eclipsed by our dismal record of forecasting and predicting what will happen years from now.  THAT, in my view, is a huge issue.  We may think we know the reasons and think we know what’s coming and think we have solutions but history tells us that all too often we’ve been way off the mark.  Way off!  Knowing this, is Mr. Stevenson or anyone else willing to put the global economy on hold or in reverse in order to try to ‘save the planet’?

  • Isabeast

    I totally agree with Wen Stephenson–I would like to see screaming headlines daily about the crisis we are facing. As a further expression of how I feel about what we are facing in climate change, and the lack of mobilization to address it, I am ever-thankful that I have not brought children into this world…

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100003000884786 Navin R Johnson

    No mechanism, organization, or society exists which can control the entire economy of the world and make the needed changes to reverse greenhouse gases.  Humans can’t even agree to stop slaughtering one another. 

    It is probably already too late to change anyway.

    Our only hope is that the climate systems of the Earth will reach an equilibrium before it becomes like Venus.  This is not a matter within human control, but of nature itself.

    • Daniel J. Rose

      Navin, I”ve had enough of your shameless rationalization cloaked as realism. The problem is clearly human caused.  The solution can only be human caused.  To do nothing is tantamount to doing a great deal, and that is more of the same, which is predictive of a human-caused disaster.

      The cause is simple: ancient and deactivated carbon being relentlessly re-introduced into the active carbon cycle where it has not existed for hundreds of thousands to going on tens of millions of years.  This is the source of every environmental peril that we face, from climate change to loss of water quality, to loss of species, you name it.  And it is human caused.  Period.  End of story.

      Ultimately, humans must balance a reduction in population with an increase in non-carbon-based energy use.  This is the only way to go.  The math does not lie.

      How we get there is the challenge, and to simply say that nothing can be done that makes a difference is like the old saying about good people doing nothing in the face of real need to do something.  No, just because you cannot satisfy your own need for instant gratification does not mean the rest of should follow your lead into  a world of human desperation.

      So, it would be helpful if you would stop rationalizing, admit that you have done so, and actually contribute a little to the solution.  Otherwise, I hope more of us make that small contribution that together can move not only mountains, but nations, and eventually continents in a new direction.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100003000884786 Navin R Johnson

        “The problem is clearly human caused.  The solution can only be human caused.”

        What?  You write something like that and accuse me of rationalization? 

        Carbon is the source of EVERY environmental peril we face? 

        You sound like you are advocating genocide as a means to reverse climate change.  That seems a little extreme.  I have had enough of your incoherent babbling.

        • Daniel J. Rose

          You obviously did not read my post.  I did not say that “carbon is the source of every environmental peril we face.”  I said “ancient and deactivated carbon being relentlessly re-introduced into the
          active carbon cycle where it has not existed for hundreds of thousands
          to going on tens of millions of years” is the source of every environmental peril we face.  Big difference. 

          Most such carbon had been locked out of the active carbon cycle for millions of years until humans re-introduced it in the big way that it has, starting with coal during the industrial revolution and continuing with oil and natural gas.

          Unless, Navin, you can think of some other agency than humanity that has unlocked this vast carbon store, I accept your apologies for confusing these facts with some alleged “incoherent babbling” on my part.

          • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100003000884786 Navin R Johnson

             I DID read your post.  Did you understand what you wrote?  Because there is not much difference between what you wrote and my paraphrased version of your text.

            The answer to your question is — Volcanoes.  They aren’t human, and they have unlocked a lot of ancient carbon.

            And it is not the source of EVERY environmental peril we face, there are other perils that have nothing to do with your ancient carbon.

          • Daniel J. Rose

             Volcanoes are part of an active carbon cycle that courses across billions of years and nothing about them has significantly changed in the time that humans have populated the planet.  Humans have activated far more additional carbon into this cycle over the last few hundred years.

            As for environmental perils, nothing on Earth  comes close to threatening humanity than the effects of all this additional carbon, in various compounds, coursing through the atmosphere, our oceans, and our fresh water.  Even threats such as environmental mercury have been abetted by processes facilitated by fossil carbon, and they are nothing compared to the direct effects of ancient carbon on living systems across the globe.

          • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100003000884786 Navin R Johnson

            “As for environmental perils, nothing on Earth  comes close to
            threatening humanity than the effects of all this additional carbon, in
            various compounds, coursing through the atmosphere, our oceans, and our
            fresh water.”

            No matter how many times you write that, it will still be a false statement.

          • Daniel J. Rose

             Ok, there is one thing: nuclear annihilation, also human caused, and which might well, in fact, result from a human response to the more catastrophic effects of global warming as well.  Also, global warming will only put greater pressure on scarce fresh water resources as the human population increases, another potential flash point for a nuclear exchange.  Any way you look at it, the threat from global climate change, if not enough to destroy us by itself, will make it more likely that something else will destroy us.

      • Jasmine Spence

        http://www.transitionus.org this movement seems to inspire your sentiments… “Otherwise, I hope more of us make that small contribution that together can move not only mountains, but nations, and eventually continents in a new direction.” We need leaders on all fronts,we are in this together.

        • Daniel J. Rose

           Thanks, Jasmine.  I hadn’t heard of this particular initiative.

    • Warren Criswell

      Navin, I’m very much afraid you’re right. An inconvenient truth–or at least an inconvenient probability. Daniel and the others are right to want to do something, but they don’t understand how ecology works. You don’t just turn off the spigot. You would have had to turn it off 30 years ago. Just because humans caused it doesn’t mean that humans can fix it. Once Pandora’s box has been opened, closing it doesn’t do any good. But hope springs eternal!

      • Daniel J. Rose

        Warren, those who knew were very much warning of the need to change course 30 years ago.  What is human caused can be human changed.  The effect of this change may not occur in a single human’s lifetime, especially given the realities of ecology you claim we do not understand.  However, nothing else is going to change it short of human extinction, or at least the extinction of human civilization.

        Finally, hope has nothing to do with changing it.  In fact, a fairy tale of hope is what has driven humanity’s sentiment to ignore the reality that it faces.

        This issue is far beyond hope, but not beyond the requirements of humanity’s survival as a species and civilized one at that.

  • BillMettler

    Hooray for Wen!!!
    2 Climate Solutions also solutions for Fiscal Cliff
    1. Rescind Corporate Personhood
    2. PHASE IN Total Cost Accounting for US Economy–including Defense Spending  (ie Account for ALL ecological and social costs for ALL goods & services, domestic & foreign) 

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100003000884786 Navin R Johnson

    I challenge anyone to come up with a single idea or plan to reverse human climate change that is effective, economical, and reality-based.

    • Larycham

       So we lack “a single idea or plan” to reverse climate change and, therefore, we should do what…nothing? On the contrary, we have many ideas and strategies and alternative fuels to make a big dent in our carbon emissions. A big enough reduction? Maybe, maybe not. But I favor doing everything we can as individuals, as communities, as a nation. But this will not happen until we get the necessary leadership from our political leaders and more understanding of the problem and its urgency from our news media.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100003000884786 Navin R Johnson

         The answer to your rhetorical question is yes. 

        You do not understand the problem.  This is a threshold problem and if we can’t do enough to get over the threshold, it is just as if we are doing nothing. 

        Not enough = nothing. 

        However, doing “not enough” will cause huge economic problems and will limit our future ability to adapt to a changing environment.  So, doing a little bit to help is actually harmful in the long run.

        • Homeplace

          Your response is a rather pathetic way of attempting to cloak complete defeatism in wisdom and superiority.  Don’t know your age so, of course, I can’t guess at how long you’ve been creating excuses for diong nothing, but I’ve been involved for forty years in the struggle to awaken a basically ecocidal society to the need for fundamental changes in worldview and lifestyle.  Folks like yourself have always found ways of avoiding the discomfort of facing up to this need, and now the “well, it’s too late and doing something is worse than doing nothing” argument is simply the latest in irresponsible rationalization.

          • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100003000884786 Navin R Johnson

             When you are unable to conjure an effective response against the argument, just attack the person who made it.  That is a rather poor strategy for solving the climate change problem. 

            You are also making wild assumptions of my entire life based on a few lines I wrote on a comment board, perhaps that reflects poorly on your reasoning skills, perhaps you are just in a bad mood.

            I am not a defeatist, I am a realist.

          • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100003000884786 Navin R Johnson

             When you are unable to conjure an effective response against the argument, just attack the person who made it.  That is a rather poor strategy for solving the climate change problem. 

            You are also making wild assumptions of my entire life based on a few lines I wrote on a comment board, perhaps that reflects poorly on your reasoning skills, perhaps you are just in a bad mood.

            I am not a defeatist, I am a realist.

          • Homeplace

            Pathetic but predictable response.  You may call it realism, but it is defeatism in the guise of realism.  To do nothing is the height of irresponsibility.  I tend to agree with you that we are probably at a point where we cannot do enough to avoid extremely destructive consequences, but that is NOT an argument for doing nothing.  It is, in fact, all the more reason why we should concentrate our efforts and resources on what we can do to possibly avoid outright and utter catastrophe as well as what might be done to mitigate the impacts and begin building  a different society – one that might, just possibly, provide a bit of shelter from the storm.  Noone, including yourself, can predict with absolute certainty how severe that storm will be or whether it is too late to do ANYTHING to soften the blows to come.  A little “realistic” humility would go a long way here.

  • Tncaneoguy

    Let’s remember that it doesn’t have to be either or – jobs or the environment.  If natural systems are degraded significantly jobs won’t matter much.  

  • Peter

    I think that Wen is right on, and that this is a result of the journalistic tendency to bias towards fairness. This story truly does not have two sides. This is accepted science, and something that will affect all of our lives daily going into the future. This is a subject that needs the sort of full court press that journalists have so far not been giving it.

  • Gailellenhonea

    The press has been reporting with a pro and con approach so the public now thinks the science is mixed on Climate change.

    Why hasn’t the press been reporting the facts. I am glad that he is passionate about this!!! We all need to be.

    Gail Honea WUWF Pensacola

  • Darrenmbeal

    I Agree 100% with Stephenson.

  • Jonathan Teller-Elsberg

    The media has absolutely failed, as has the political sector (noted by your guest), as have we as a citizenry as a whole. A further failure will be if people–in whatever sector–use Stephenson’s dustup as an excuse to turn the conversation again away from “what do we do right now to make major changes to our socio-economic system” and instead fritter away valuable time debating tiny details of journalistic process. It doesn’t matter if this or that detail of Stephenson’s essay is wrong. What matters is that we’re burning up the world, surely and not at all slowly, and as a society we haven’t faced up to that fact.

    Just a tidbit on how little wiggle room we have at this point:
    “After looking at how much climate-warming greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide (CO2), can be emitted without pushing the climate system above 2°C of warming, the IEA found that almost four-fifths of the allowable CO2 emissions by 2035 are “already locked-in” by existing infrastructure, such as power plants. If significant actions are not taken by 2017, the report said, then all the allowable CO2 emissions by 2035 would be locked-in by the built energy infrastructure at that time.”
    From http://www.climatecentral.org/news/amid-u.s.-oil-and-gas-boom-report-warns-of-unsustainable-energy-path-15239


    And not that it is perfect, but along similar lines to the media’s failure to address the climate crisis at the appropriate scale is it’s failure to promote numerical literacy of the scale of changes necessary to successfully address the crisis. For help on that, I strongly recommend that all journalists–and everyone else!–read David MacKay’s surprisingly humorous book “Sustainable Energy: Without the Hot Air,” available through bookstores or free online at http://www.withouthotair.com/. The book is UK oriented, but has info on the US and even ignoring the US numbers is enormously informative to US readers.

    Here and Now, what’ll you do from here on out?

  • Dee

    Thank you Wen Stephenson and Here and Now for this story.  Climate change IS the biggest story ever and should be front page all the time.

    • Clara

      What about DEPLETED URANIUM? What about the threat to humans from its illegal use by the US military?

  • laurakoz

    I think one of the reasons that media outlets shy away from hard-hitting coverage is because the follow-up discussion points are so uncomfortable. If we are to think about reducing climate change we will have to report on and discuss some very unpopular ideas: population control, high taxes on fossil fuels, household emission caps, etc.

  • http://www.AtmaStudy.com/ Kyle Schmierer

    Yes the media is failing us … the public, the planet – our only home,
    future generations and their own profession.Of course mainly Republican
    politicians and other climate change deniers and the industries that fund them
    for their own perceived short term interest have failed first and most, but the
    media’s job is to uncover and cover the truth. Do your damn job media! Even
    more balanced media like NPR & BBC are doing an absolutely dreadful job in
    covering climate change and other environmental issues.

    Media professionals are cowering in fear of being attacked for being
    biased, but climate change is a fact not a belief or a political position.

    Also, it seems many journalist are woefully ignorant of climate change and
    science in general and are under pressure form their corporate bosses not offend
    anyone and instead focus on fluff, scandal, and covering politics as a

    Human caused climate change is a fact not a belief … just like the Earth
    is a sphere not flat, just like the Earth is not the center or the Universe but
    we revolve around the Sun while we spin in a massive cosmos of billions of
    Galaxies, just like the Earth is billions of years old not thousands, just like
    humans are animals that evolved from other species of apes, just like water
    freezes at 32 degrees F and 0 degrees Celsius on this planet.

    If you breathe drink or eat you should care, stand up and take actions.
    Climate change is not a belief that can be ignored. It is fact.

    Do you people have even the slightest idea how much in money and life doing
    denying the problem is already doing and will cost us in the future? No you do
    not because the media is failing at its job!

  • http://www.AtmaStudy.com/ Kyle Schmierer

    Yes the media is failing us … the public, the planet – our only home,
    future generations and their own profession.Of course mainly Republican
    politicians and other climate change deniers and the industries that fund them
    for their own perceived short term interest have failed first and most, but the
    media’s job is to uncover and cover the truth. Do your damn job media! Even
    more balanced media like NPR & BBC are doing an absolutely dreadful job in
    covering climate change and other environmental issues.

    Media professionals are cowering in fear of being attacked for being
    biased, but climate change is a fact not a belief or a political position.

    Also, it seems many journalist are woefully ignorant of climate change and
    science in general and are under pressure form their corporate bosses not offend
    anyone and instead focus on fluff, scandal, and covering politics as a

    Human caused climate change is a fact not a belief … just like the Earth
    is a sphere not flat, just like the Earth is not the center or the Universe but
    we revolve around the Sun while we spin in a massive cosmos of billions of
    Galaxies, just like the Earth is billions of years old not thousands, just like
    humans are animals that evolved from other species of apes, just like water
    freezes at 32 degrees F and 0 degrees Celsius on this planet.

    If you breathe drink or eat you should care, stand up and take actions.
    Climate change is not a belief that can be ignored. It is fact.

    Do you people have even the slightest idea how much in money and life doing
    denying the problem is already doing and will cost us in the future? No you do
    not because the media is failing at its job!

  • d_john

    Wouldn’t we want to beleive in climate change rather than ignore science and make things worse. Isn’t this logic akin to some philosophers justification to believe in god and the afterlife.

  • peace

    It was great hearing someone speak the truth about climate change. Everyone can do there part to help. 

    • Guenther500

      Tell me what I  can do as an individual.
      When discussing issues, if  the “environment”or global warming is mentioned all I see are blank stares and the subject is changed quickly enough. It seems futile most of the time. People don’t want to hear it even if it may severly effect their own childrens’ lives.

  • Larycham

    I applaud Stephenson’s determination to get this story the regular front-page attention it deserves. Over the past year of extreme weather, I have written the editors of my local newspaper many times urging them to connect the dots between these events–heatwaves, droughts, wildfires, floods–and climate change. We had a major flood in June, and our newspaper quoted the public works director for the City of Pensacola saying, “something is happening” to cause this second 100-year flood in less than 10 years. The article simply left the quote there without any reference to the possibility that that “something” is global warming. Recent articles about extreme weather have sometimes contained some slight reference to the possibility of a connection to climate change–those references always being near the end of the article.

    I am sure there are many people around the country advocating for more attention to our biggest challenge. We are fighting against inertia, the influence of big fossil fuel money, and the fact that we humans are hard-wired to meet visible, immediate challenges more than remote challenges. Of course, the frustration among advocates such as Stephenson is that the challenge is no longer remote–it is here and now. 

  • Annie J

    I absolutely think that the media isn’t giving us enough information on global warming. When there are so many people still under the impression that global warming doesn’t exist, that is when it is obvious that media is the root of the problem. It is the job of the public media to keep the public informed on FACTS. Unfortunately, with news teams divided so widely on issues that are or are not backed by their political benefactors, I have a hard time believing that this issue will be solved any time soon. With big oil and fossil fuels backing the Republican party, and thus Republican-based news, they are using this influence to skew news to benefit their bottom lines. Even more unfortunately, I feel like if, and only if, these fossil fuel companies are made obsolete will we ever see progress in the news when it comes to a unified stand against global deterioration.

  • John Atkinson

    Of course, the media has failed to enter crisis mode because of climate change!  Climate change is not a scientific issue.   It is a political and religious issue and when problems become politicized or placed in the realm religious beliefs, any  journalist who considers climate change on the same importance level as a war, risks losing his or her credentials to report the truth.  There must be a general understanding that there is a crises before it makes any sense to report on the crises.  With climate change part of the faith community thinks any such calamity is the wrath of God and humans are only getting what they deserve.  On the political side, anything suggested by Al Gore must be disagreed with at any cost.      

  • Flowen

    The media and the politicians are equally irresponsible in enabling and promoting the Toxic Energy Industries (oil, gas, coal, nuclear, ethanol).

    The media effectively tells the population what to think and how to behave; they are a key component driving the population’s denial of the EMERGENCY that is climate change.

    The psychology of the US population is one of denial and helplessness with respect to climate change. This attitude precludes any effective change in behavior, which is exactly what the powers-that-be (the “captains” of industry) use the media for; with money, influence, and raw power.

    A free market it is not. Corporate media, including Public TV & radio, have become the mouthpieces of the corporate constellations whose purpose is simply to not discuss it, thereby preserving the Status Quo.

    In contrast, the big news this week: “The US will become energy independent and a larger producer of [toxic energy] than Saudi Arabia by 2020!” Give us a break!!!!!!!!! 

  • Homeplace

    Finally, finally, finally!!  This is way overdue and I’m thankful that someone at last broke ranks and is saying what is absolutely essential.  We’re so far behind on this issue and other associated concerns relating to environmental devastation that we’ll be lucky to avoid utter catastrophe.  We need a mobilization of resources and will along the lines of our societal response when we entered WW II.  Even if we do manage to pull our heads out of where the sun don’t shine sometime soon,  it will still  be touch and go, and there’s no sign that we’re close to that kind of awareness and response yet.  Wake up media – wake up fellow citizens!

  • Savebiosphere3

    You’re damn right the media has FAILED miserably in covering climate change. I once was regularly published on the Opinion page of the Philadelphia Inquirer about environmental issues. In past years I’ve submitted several essays about climate change and they would not publish them. I’ve been hounding the Philadelphia network news stations to report on it for at least 4 years to no avail. 
    I am a very well known climate change presenter who has done 254 presentations including at the United Nations and at the COP-15 Climate Summit in Copenhagen, so I’m not a novice.
    I produced this video at WHYY Public Radio in Philadelphia:.   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hxQNy8G1cIQ&feature=plcp

    And, finally the Erie Times published one of my opinion articles:  http://www.goerie.com/article/20121108/OPINION02/311089997/Letters-to-the-editor%3A-Superstorm-reflects-climate-change

    I absolutely feel his frustration. 

    Richard Whiteford
    Savebiosphere3@Verizon:disqus .net

  • Jasmine Spence

    Wen Stevenson,thank you for being brave and being the clarion call for action for journalists to provide daily front page information on the climate crisis.You may loose friends,but will gain new supporters who become friends.There is so much confusion around climate change we must be educated with reliable information so we can change our ways. We are all complicit in “pouring carbon dioxide and other climate-altering gases into the atmosphere at a rate never before seen” according to John D.Steinberger,who was quoted in a NYTimes article on November 10, by J.Broder titled,Report Outlines Climate change Perils:Strains for U.S. Military and Intellegence Agencies are Predicted. If scientists such as Dr.James Hanson,who is  a leading expert on climate change can provide information to journalists and we can hear ,in turn new leaders can take up the challenge to mitigate climate change on a societal,global level. In The book Censoring Science,Dr.James Hanson was not permitted to give an interview to NPR about climate change. What are the obstacles? Journalists must fight to find out the truth. Real information can give us,the people the challenge to change. I believe Creative intelligent solutions can be put in place,rather than doom and gloom panic,but we need to know the facts.One such a very positive movement to address climate change is  transitions town, started by Permaculture professor,scientist and activist Rob Hopkins.

  • Doni

    Not only do I agree that the media are doing a poor job of covering/reporting on climate change, I am disappointed at the “golly-gee” vacuous tone of this interview.  Implying that Stephenson is less a journalist because of becoming an activist, and asking if he’s become “too close” to his subject is a not very subtle way of undermining his message. If that’s the point of the interview, why bother in the first place. I would hope an interview is for the purpose of respectfully giving voice to a message which needs to be heard.
    In the wake of Sandy, which has left us with thousands of (can I call them) refugees, and seeing police needing to ensure the peace over something as simple as waiting in line for gas, how is it we all do not understand the word “emergency.”
    Denial ain’t just a river in Egypt, my friends. How many coastal cities will be inundated; how many communities destroyed by “killer” storms; how many billion/trillion losses until things begin to fall apart. I fear that if we fail to act now, in whatever time we have, our children and grandchildren will rise up to curse us all.

    Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; Mere
    anarchy is loosed upon the world,    … The
    best lack all conviction, while the worst Are full of passionate
                             The Second Coming , William Butler Yeats


  • terraton

    Oh, I could not agree with you more!  After watching the development of research on wireless radiation bioeffects for twelve years, and the lame coverage it has received in the American press, and the way that those with big conflicts of interest shape the discussion, the reporting and indeed even the research on this topic, I can only imagine your frustration after having been on both sides of the journalistic wall.

    Journalism and news has become this self-repeating circular game, with wheels spinning in mud, and taking us nowhere.  I say, lead the charge!

  • Jack

    HIPPO – the worst  killer of people on Africa, is an ACRONYM that represents conditions evolving on Planet Earth

    H – Habitat losss
    I  – Invasive species
    P – Pollution
    P – Over-population(root cause of all other factors)
    O – Over harvesting

    Remember HIPPO

    The increase of CO2 in our atmosphere is like someone who smokes.  When a smoker needs oxygen for his emphysema, we provide him with an oxygen bottle.  The destruction of our rain forest and natural vegetation destroys the photosynthesis process that keeps the proper balance of our Oxygen and CO2.  It is this un-balance  that is creating a World “Atmospheric Emphysema”. 

     Who in the future is going to provide the World with needed”oxygen bottle” for the “World Lungs”.
    Jack Wilson

  • Diana in California

    Please pass this idea along: 

    Perhaps we could increase our education about what to do about climate change by  including climate information in our local weather reports.  Families need specific “public service announcements” on what they can do personally to help bring down CO2 emissions and to prepare for the weather anomalies that will hit their areas.

    Our local weathermen and women could be a trusted source of this kind of information.  This way our news media could take an active role in reporting climate change without causing their audience to “tune out”.  When there are news reports about climate change and our political will to address it, our families will be better educated to react.

    Thank You!
    Diana in California

  • Stella Pacificone

    The news media has to make money and that is already the top priority what  to cover and to feed the public curiosity. Look around and see who and what are available in the effort to reduce  rates of greenhouse gas emissions to effectively zero – such as one person electric vehicle by a tech crunching start-up company , Lit Motors’ C-1.
    I totally agreed that the news media has failed to fulfill the responsibility to cover more about items or ideas to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and human behavior for the climate change, but it is never too late to start now!!

  • Greenturtle

    I am so relieved to hear this discussion in the media.  I agree with Wen Stephenson whole-heartedly.  More people need to stop bickering and start working together to make any change that we can for the better.  Who cares if it’s going to be enough in the long run?  Let’s just do the most that we can do right now.  It’ll be better than sitting on our asses pontificating exactly how much is needed by exactly when.  It is urgent that we do something now.  Get out there and start talking and put it into action, people.

  • Guest listener

    Thanks to Here and Now for covering this extremely important issue.  I have been saddened (and frightened) by the lack of urgency that pervades all different voices of leadership who should be alerting the public to this potential catastrophe.  The media, our elected officials, and public thinkers have not been nearly vocal enough about this crisis and persistent enough in taking steps to address it.  We need leadership at the state and national level to tackle this problem, although raising people’s awareness on a personal level would be a step in the right direction.

  • Bphely

    I applaud Wen Stephenson, and enjoyed listening to him today. I sympathize with journalists who have to speak on climate change objectively, because it is a difficult balance to strike. The consequences of destabilized climate are grim, and the interdependent machinery of our world is also a force to be reckoned with. Changing the machinery drastically is the only clear answer but this is a tough concept to express for objective reporters of news. I agree that the scale of the problem is not accurately represented by most journalists and media. Contrary to many comments below, I believe the world will come together to solve the climate crisis during my lifetime. And I agree that the responsibility is on everyone including journalists, to take it seriously. I am always on the watch for people writing or speaking about this issue honestly. Glad to have been listening today.

  • Kohare

    Stephenson is correct and not nearly alarmed enough.  Hopefully, future generations will tell their children about Wen’s media ride, the way we used to recount Paul Revere’s. Meanwhile, thanks to WBUR. We need to hear updates daily, from now on.

    In regard to ‘what next,’ an immediate step right now would be to put a price on fossil fuels (a revenue neutral “carbon tax”) with a full rebate to all households. Call your legislators,  your newspaper and TV stations to say that you expect daily coverage and expect them to editorialize for a carbon tax.

  • Carolharlow

    The press and the US government have failed the world in not making global warming and the actions needed to head off the worst of it the topmost issue that we now face. I am convinced that had we taken action to fully deploy renewable energy technologies when we first invented them 30 years ago, we could possibly have cut off the worst of what is yet to come from global warming. Instead, we allowed ourselves to be lulled to sleep by Ronald Reagan as he put photovoltaics and wind energy and all the other substitutes for fossil fuel based technology on the shelf, to just sit there, as the great warming began to kick in for real. It was Morning in America, after all. Remember that one?

    The Germans and the Danish and other science-based societies took those technologies that WE invented and installed them, widely, all over the place and not just for show. Does anyone in our press understand that every part of Germany is farther north than the northernmost part of the lower 48 states of the USA?

    The most tragic element of this situation is that within the 30 years that we have wasted by refusing to do anything real to deal with global warming is that both China and India have industrialized during this time and how did theydo it??? With FOSSIL FUEL-BASED ECONOMIES. This is perhaps the most tragic action that humanity has ever taken. I have spokeken to Chinese friends about this situation, asking a what if, such as what wpuld China have done had the United States decided to completely retool its economy, instituting every cost-effective measure to stop wasting energy AND begun to implement all of the renewable energy technologies that were ready to be scaled up and put online as the initial steps toward unplugging all of humanity from any technology that required the use of any sort of fossil fuel?
    My acquaintance replied that had America begun to retool its economy to be based on renewable energy, China would jhave probably done the same thing. Imagine what would be happening in the world now if the USA, China, India, the European Union, South America, Australia, Canada, and maybe even Russia Nd the former Soviet States, and the middle easyern nations, were all engaged in a race to see which society could be the most innovative in converting their entire economies to systems making use of one form or snother of renewable energy???

    So, enough of that for now. Have America’s journalists ever studied any science? How about high school science even. Had America’s press corps not been afraid of angering someone higher up in the companies they work for, how would they have reported the climate change/glpbal warming issue?

    This is not a horse race, nor has it ever been, except perhaps in the minds of those who have been concerned that”both sides” get to have their say on the matter. There is not any such thing as two sides on this issue. There is only one side, the only side supported by the world’s reputable scientists from a full range of scientific disciplines and that is the side that has known for at least 50 years that the earth is earmimg and that the warming correlates in near lockstep with the use of fossil fuels since the beginning of the industrial revolution.

    Science also tells us that the earth has gone through many cycles of warming and cooling in its history — we can track those changes by the evidence we can seein the rock cores, ice cpres, sediment cores just to name a few of the means we have in determining what kinds of organisms were alive when, and most likely why. The warming we are now experiencing is occirring at a rate never before seen in the geologic records. Science now uses numerical models to simulate various systems and these methods have also been applied to the global warming phenomenon. These modeling efforts usually have at least three scenarios being tested. The results of these efforts have all been quote similar. The most dramatic or extreme of the scenarios have been exceeded by reality. In other words, global warming is no only real but it is occurring faster and with more extreme consequences than any of the scientifoc models would have forecasted. Why is that the case? The answer is usually that the real world and the real climate interactions and forcings are undoubtedly more complex than even the best science can now model, and thus there are undoubtedly any number of positive feedback loops interacting globally and the real world changes are occurring sponer and with greater power than anyone involved with climate science would have been willing to forecast, even five years ago.

    Both Wen Stephenson and NASA’s Dr. James Hanson say that they are devoting their lives’ work now to telling snd alerting the entire world if possible about the reality of global warming, waht it means for our planet, amd the future of life on earth, and that they are doing it for the sake of their grandvhildren. In my case, I have known of global warming since I was a graduate student at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies in the mid 1970s, and have taken actions in the various phases of my professional life to alert humanity to the nature and reality pf global wRming and what is to be done about it.

    What I can say now is that time is growing very short if anything is available for us to do to try to reverse the terrible course this phenomenon may well take. In my case, it appears that my children may be deciding not to have children. I do understand why theyay be taking this path. The storms and firs and droughts have just begun to occur and even I hesitate to tru to describe their ultimate severity before any real efforts humanity may decide to make to try to turn this thomg around.

    This I do know, that you snd I will not live to see The results of anything we may decide to do to try to reverse global warming. Any such results may be well into the next century before any results will
    be detectable. So, I am not doong this for my grandchildren, for I doubt that I shall have any. I am doing this for the earth itself, and for the beautiful plants and animals, for the coral reefs and the sea turtles, and the elephants and tigers and orangutans, and sea hotses and snow leopards, and the clear blue seas and the forests and redwoods and the lion cubs and zebras and elk and orchids and every creature and ecosystem that may not survive what we have done.

    So, all of this is what is at stake and is also why the joutnalists’ world at best reported this as thr horserace — whose scientists are right about this. There is ONE FACT THAT ALL OF YOU MUST WAKE UP AND UNDERSTAND — there is no science on the other side. Those who pretend otherwise are lying, have no qualifications to be speaking as an expert on the topic and they are lying if they say otherwise. This is not the story. Most people I know have at least an inkling that something is wrong. What must now be done to turn this around, to save some version of our civilization and our species even from extinction. That, dear journalists, is yours to report.

  • Geoff Kaufman

    Thank you, Robin, for giving Mr. Stephenson air time today!  Obviously you’ve generated a lively conversation.  I fervently hope it expands to other media and that you follow up on a regular basis.  There is no more important issue facing us, meaning humankind, right here and right now.

  • Warren Criswell

     Stephenson is right but about 30 years too late. The coming crisis was foretold in 1972 in the Club of Rome’s book “Limits to Growth.” (See the 30-years update: http://www.amazon.com/Limits-Growth-The-30-Year-Update/dp/193149858X) All these things mentioned by Max, Leon of DE and others here are all linked together: depletion of  nonrenewable resources (including water and arable land), pollution and population. All these are growing exponentially and will soon exceed the biosphere’s carrying capacity. We are in overshoot mode, like a wave about to break on the beach. Whatever preventative measures that may now be coaxed out of the fossil fuel industry and the politicians it controls will probably be too little too late.

    The problem is, we’ve evolved to deal with with short
    term solutions to local problems but not with long term solutions
    to global problems. In all the data projections run by Donnella Meadows, Jorgen Randers, and Dennis Meadows in “Limits” (even when they double the supply of known nonrenewable energy sources) a collapse occurs around 2050. To prevent it we would probably have to become altruistic robots, some kind of global ant colony, a case of the treatment being worse than the disease. All these years I’ve thought something would be done in time, especially after the dramatic improvements in solar technology, but we continue to march toward the cliff in lockstep with Wall Street. Some politicians (like Carter and Obama) have talked the talk but failed to walk the walk. Maybe they can slow down the rate at which we place straws on the camel’s back. But like other civilizations and species before us, that last straw eventually arrives.

  • Asa

    Wen is spot on–climate change has been proven to be inextrickably linked to the survive of our race, so why is it not treat it as such? Robin do you agree or disagree with Wen?

  • Penny Parsekian

    It seems there are many things we could do over the next decade that would make a big difference. We need to drive smaller cars – everyone, so that it’s safe for everyone. We should not have to take our lives in our hands by choosing a small vehicle the way we do today – a huge disincentive to save the planet. Manufacturers should stop producing SUV’s,  recreational ORV’s  and jet skis, for example, and get assistance, if need be, to manufacture something less damaging.

    We all need to drive less. My husband and I would like to move from the suburbs, downsize and move to a city so that we can walk and use mass transit to get around. We would like to stay in Connecticut, near where we currently live, and we are finding this difficult to do.

    If we really thought of climate change as the emergency it is, and if people  focused on taking needed steps, we could do it. Let’s hope Wen manages to get  the media’s attention.  Our future depends upon it.

  • Anne C.

    Of course the mainstream media has failed in informing the public about climate change, because they are owned by big corporations or others who really don’t care what life will be like for the majority of people  in the future, let alone now.  The dichotomy between doing something about climate change and improving the economy is false, however, because far more jobs would be created by a “new deal” of all-out energy conservation and renewable energy projects than by any further development of fossil fuels and nuclear energy.  Even just eliminating subsidies for fossil fuels would be a big help.   Also, how good for the economy are these serious weather events?  I think future generations (those that survive) will curse this one for our selfishness and failure to act.  Your guest is absolutely right.   

  • The_Truth_Seeker

    FINALLY!!!! A “real” journalist with some balls!!!! This is what journalism should be!

    Everyone else out there is asleep at the wheel, or too cowardly to say anything,  even when there is 95%-99% consensus, because they are afraid of offending the (ignorant) 1%-5%.  I think Wen should maybe get both a Pulitzer AND a Nobel prize!

    The vast majority of scientists out there also get lots of the blame for also being cowards when it comes to confronting “science bullies”. This may be in part due to their natures, but also has to do with their fear of losing government and private sector funding.  Shame on all scientists that don’t stand up for the truth and are unwilling to stand up to the ignorant bullies.  (Also shame on scientists that experiment on animals in order to get government and private funding – find some other line of work!)

  • The_Truth_Seeker

    Dianne Sawyer (and others in the MSM) will drink to that! But that’s about all they’ll do.

  • The_Truth_Seeker

    Where was the million scientist walk on Washington (well, OK, the 1000 scientist walk on Washington)?

  • The_Truth_Seeker

    Holding everyone’s view to be equally valid and relevant, is NOT journalism!! You should know that Robin (but then I guess you used to work for ABC News – home of checkbook journalism).

    • Robin

      Hmmmm..thought I’d jump in here. Did work briefly for ABC, much longer for NBC,
      in a very different time. But to your criticism, I think I actually said, “why can’t  journalists be advocates, Rachel Carson was a journalist.” I do hold to Hallin’s theory
      of spheres. I do believe climate change is in the consensus sphere.  No  second opinion.


      • Jasmine Spence

        Robin,Your show has sparked real passion. If climate change is really in the consensus sphere,then what are the obstacles journalists face if they do become stronger advocates for our urgent need to be  dealing with climate change  ?

      • The-truth-seeker

        Robin, just checked in – thanks for reading all comments (I know it takes time). I wouldn’t put you in the same category a many “journalists” at ABC News, but in general I think the last 1-2 decades has been especially bad for good (i.e. fact-based) journalism. Even 60-minutes is not as good as it once was (maybe for budgetary reasons). Luckily, we do still have Frontline (TOPS!!!!) and ProPublica (also excellent). Knight-Ridder used to also be excellent, until they got taken over by McClauchy. Now their pretty crappy. Anyway, I always enjoy your show and don’t expect it to be an investigative journalism show.

        • The_Truth_Seeker

          This reply should have showed up as ‘The_Truth_Seeker’

  • katied6

    Yes. Yes. Yes. Truer words were never spoken. 

    We’ve known about global warming for decades but the implications have simply failed to sink in. If we don’t act with urgency right now, it will be too late too soon. There is no bigger story. Indeed, there has never been a bigger story.

    • Macksheltonis

      Please, everyone should notify their congressman that we demand cap and trade to be implemented NOW!  Cap and trade is the only way we can get big oil to get serious about thinking about other kinds of energy.

  • From Jonsai

    I consider the sychronicity of catching Wen’s comments, while feeling environmentally guilty for pressing the petal too hard to be on time for a meeting, to be another in a long strand of such events over the last eight years.  Wen mentions 9/11 in his argument.  That started it.  Then there were two questions at the dinner table, deconstructing the Allegory of the Cave with a twelve year old, then quit job, sell house, take family to Costa Rica to UN mandated University for Peace, and immersion into the dross of humanity, only to find the biggest crisis isn’t what we do to each other, but instead is what we are doing to the environment – slow, torturous, effective planetary genocide.
    Earth Charter, arguments with Thomas Homer-Dixon, Mark Twain, British government’s assessment of cost of environmental decline (recall the estimate of detriment of $980 billion versus annual global output of $60 trillion, concluded to be tolerable, plus that deficiency possibly offset by other economic opportunities), Eckhart Tolle, Earth Policy Institute, Jarad Diamond (love “exponentially accelerating horserace…”), continuance of practive as a Certified Public Accountant (because peace and environment are not economically viable vocations), plus continual resonance from the authors of Global Environmental Politics (GEP), as compiled by Micheal Maniate, have thickened the complicated soup that has been simmering isolatedly for nearly a decade.  In those articles, there is the repeated argument that authoritative actors are unauthoritative.  (Don’t limit thoughts to political leaders, but include elites from the academic, economic, and spiritual dimensions.)
    What to do?
    GEP students’ statistical response upon exit: plant a tree, plant a tree, and ride a bike.
    Yet the greatest torture comes yet from an oft repeated statement from one of those authors, Ken Conca, “but what about the billions who live, work, and consume in ways that fit neither the extremes of overconsumption or poverty-induced ecological marginalization[?]”  He goes on, stating that if we think in terms of two extremes, we place a grave over-reliance in “the same gadgeteers and financial wizards” that are at the roots of the problems.
    The billions!
    They are where the movement/progress/energy/mass are at.  Now inert, but think if they started taking half-steps in the right direction.
    Twain says that they are ignorant, and have a heredity of believing authorities are authoritative.
    Plato was okay with leaving them in the cave.
    I can attest to how blinding it is to to wrestle against that common curse to admit , and not go running back to the cave (plus how humbling to acknowledge one’s ignorance) .  More, how many will have the great fortune that I had?
    Yet, even before trying to get them to move, there is need for a vantage quake.  (Think “paradigm shift” on steriods.) 
    The current dominant economic models “train” that affluence is human centric. Labor, intelligence, fortitude, education are the tools in the box that propel excess.  That is false.  Instead, if taking a Earth-centric view, the affluent, including those of inheritance, are best at commanding and mastering those human qualities, plus access to the excess abundance of Earth.  While many humans are truly incredible, “it” all comes from the Earth, and whatever Source is behind it all, which, incidentally, includes us.  The United State is a most poignant example.  More important than democracy, capitalism, rugged individualism, rule of law, freedom of religion — it was the incredible mastery of that slice of Earth’s natural equity that has been the greatest force for growth and development.  That is true, unless, of course – trained in being human-centric.
    More, those economic models also train and sustain one of the greatest socially correlative falsities – that it is about a lack of abundance.  We are trained that deficiency is our reality.
    Yet, to assure continued economic growth, it is necessary to promote excess consumption.  Why?  
    Because the economic elite have the greatest interest in upholding that. 
    There is now $150 trillion of excess equity that has been accumulated.  (That excess is not modern, but can be witnessed in ancient history through the Egyptian and Myan pyramids, the Great Wall, the Taj Mahal, Westminster Abbey, Vatican City, but also in the great infrastructure of nations, plus the spacestation — all enabled by excess abundance.)  Split evenly amongst the 6+ billion, is — $25,000 for every single man, woman, and child on the planet.  Yet, we know that liquid equity is 50% controlled by 2% of people, and over half around the world live on less than $2.00 and have virtually no equity. 
    “We” don’t share very well.
    But, why all of the talk about economy when it started about the “Tragedy of the Earth?”
    Economy is the naturally dominant superstructure of our collective, interdependant reality.  It is the social expression of our physical needs.  Yet, if people realized abundance is the aggregate state, then they could be confident in the existance of the sufficiency, not only for satisfaction of their own basic needs, plus their neighbors, but also enough to apply immediately to strategies, processes and  individual actions to support the Earth’s healing — if it still can.  No, this is not about tearing down inadequate structures, that was alread tried; but rather about bridling those, plus making improvements and explansion, for the benefit of planet and all the life it sustains.
    Can journalists do this?
    No, not alone.  It will take many from all dimensions from all levels — with solidarity.
    It took 50 years for scientists to concur on decline.  That now has to be exponentially accelerated.
    My children were 13 and 11 when I became aware.  They are now 21 and 19.  It has been lonely.  Wen, my head too is ready to explode.  Our advice to others, if I could be so bold — awareness truly is hell, but continued ignorance is just plain stupid.  

  • Mercedes

    The practice of naming storms is misleading (much like the practice of naming wars).  It leads people to think of each event, no matter how severe, as a separate incident, rather than as part of a global system. Thus it allows us to respond to symptoms, when we should be addressing all our powers to reversing the disease.  Whenever I hear the name by which we’ve cut nature’s latest warning down to size – that ironic, supremely dry, gender-nonspecific name – it reminds me of how we’re simply stalling.

  • Delmag

    This Wen… laughable in his drivel… go ahead, winge and moan! How about this Wen, and any other metropolitan social engineers. Reduce, starting tomorrow, 80% of your carbon footprint!
    Lead by doing, not by whining! Start by selling any internal combustion vehicle in your possession.
       Swear off flying, for ever. Buy a bicycle but make sure it is recycled. stop eating meat. Buy no produce that is transported longer than 3 days pedal power from your domicile. Quit your ConEd contract. Purchase a solar cell battery charger and regulate your power consumption to the array that you can afford. That might act as a suitable governor to further publishing your yellow journalism.
       Switch to solar powered LED lights. You’ll get by a few hours each night. Less on cloudy days.
    Turn off the heat in your house so you are not supporting any nasty CO2 creating industry. Please swear off the Bus and certainly NO TAXIS! Oh, by the way, try not to use any petroleum based products at all. How ya’ gonna’ do that? No cotton either, or wool, transport, Mfg.,Too much carbon!
       Or… how about this: Help to solve the REAL problems, not your tunnel vision imaginary ones.
    Help solve the abject poverty of the 90% or so of the world. Help to educate. Help to empower women. Fight a fight where you have a tinkers chance at effecting positive change.
    Raise up the real people with education, health care and harm reduction and you might see many of your worries fade away.

  • skasner

    YES!! Finally, a journalist who dares to speak the truth, AND do so with the appropriate urgency. 

    Bizarrely, I think most journalists believe it would be unbecoming or unprofessional of them to do this. But it is truly their job. In fact, I think its more the responsibility of journalists than government leaders.

    We must speak up if we want the government to act, especially against well-established interests. And speaking up means way more than voting. It means organizing, it means mobilizing, it means direct action.
    To expect or hope for the government to act on its own in response to the science, and to actually enact (or even try to enact) the radical changes  necessary, is as pollyannish as climate-change denial itself.

    And the necessary changes are truly radical. As Naomi Klein pointed out in an excellent cover article for The Nation, the far right is correct about one thing: bringing climate change under control, and taking it as seriously as it deserves to be taken, would mean the end of capitalism as we know it. 

  • Jasmine_spence

    Please post the comments after 100?

  • no time for pessimism

    The cost gap between alternative energy and conventional energy sources would be massively reduced or eliminated if fossil fuel energy producers were required to pay for / eliminate their CO2 waste and fossil fuels did not receive government subsidies.  These are problems of political will, not science, and crisis coverage is required to build political will when one of the presidential candidates mocked climate change.

  • BarryMcGhan

    Listened to an audiobook version of Storms of My Grandchildren by James Hansen this fall.  Scared the hell out of me, and I’ve been a climate change believer for years.  Been in a Blue Funk since the Hansen book. From what I heard in Stephenson’s talk yesterday, he’s on the same page as I am, even further along.
    I say adopt the Dick Chaney Doctrine for Terrorism about climate change immediately:  If there’s even a one percent chance that Hansen is right (actually there’s much more than that) we have to take every possible step to counter the danger.
    Wake up World!  Get on board with 350.org.  If this threat isn’t defeated, none of the other economic, social, and political problems that we spend so much time talking and thinking about will count for a hill of beans.
    Republicans worry about handing our debt to our children and grandchildren, but the likelihood of that danger is smaller and less significant than the likelihood of handing them an increasingly unliveable planet.  Our descendants may well spend their final days huddled in tunnels far below the surface of an earth heated to twice the boiling point of water.  Human civilization is only about 10,000 years old.  If Hansen and other climatologists are right, in another 10,000 years human life, and all but microscopic life, will be extinct.
    There really isn’t any time to dink around the edges of this looming world crisis any longer.  Things are changing more rapidly than predicted, and the future tipping points Hansen forecasts will cause climate change beyond our ability to counteract.
    Do your part to get the rest of the media to take up Stephenson’s message.  The politicians are too corrupted by the money pouring out of the fossil fuel industry to act responsibly.  Only the people can act, and only if they know the truth.

  • AFW

    I am so glad that Wen Stephenson has published this piece. I direct the Environmental Studies minor at my university, but it is an uphill battle to get many students here either to be interested in, or to realize fully, the severity of our situation regarding climate change. Yes: this is partly the fault of the media; environmental issues should be on every front page. And yes: it is partly the fault of politicians. But look at the powerful interests–the fossil fuel industry–throwing everything they have into fighting meaningful change. I am not sure if there’s much hope, at this point; it’s entirely possible that there’s not. But we must do everything we can to try.

  • Suzy Hamilton

    I am a radio journalist with Kootenay Coop Radio in Nelson, British Columbia (www.kootenaycoopradio.com/The EcoCentric).  I left the maintstream print media in the 90s over the lack of  truly objective reporting on the abysmal state of our forests and subsequent forestry jobs. I can fully understand Wen’s frustration with, if not outright fear of, an uninformed public when it comes to climate change.  On our one hour weekly program we are front and centre on climate change mitigation and adaptation. Here in an idyllic mountain setting surrounded by clean air and clean water we are seeing the effects of extreme weather: four people died this spring when the saturated mountain soil could no longer hold the massive trees which slid  into Kootenay Lake, burying them in their wake. While we dodged the bullet this year on forest fires (fires burning so hot they turn the soil to glass), heavy rainfall is no panacea.

    We are fortunate to have proceeds from the Columbia River Treaty with the US to allocate funds for municipal climate change adaptation, but no one is kidding themselves that we have a handle on what the future will bring. Modest predictions foretell of the desertification of our bio-region, a concept that is pretty hard to wrap your head around.

    I would take Wen’s criticism of his colleagues a step further. I think it is criminal that major media are refusing to alert the public to the oncoming disaster and the blame rests on the publishers and editors—and advertisers— who are afraid to tell the whole truth and show us examples from around the globe of community efforts to work together to, if at all possible, lessen the effects of what is to come.

    • Jasmine Spence

      Suzy,Thank you. I wish more journalists would join this conversation.

    • The_Truth_Seeker

      They also did a lousy job reporting on the BP disaster (especially what was going on behind the scenes in the first 60 days). How come we never learned what happened to the massive (now “disappeared”) BP database of crowd-sourced spill mitigation ideas? Why did the news media completely forget about that?

  • membrum publica

    i’m wondering if many journalists have seriously responded to mr. stephenson’s letter and if those responses could (appropriately) be made public?

  • http://www.facebook.com/harvey.ginsburg Harvey Ginsburg

    Regarding the question, has the media failed?… of course it has.  But it doesn’t matter… the relevant question is whether it will continue to fail. 

    I believe that one important way one can help that answer to be “No”, is to write a letter to the editor of your local paper, and to national media and newspapers, demanding front page, headline coverage of an issue that is of the most vital importance to our future. 

    In the program, Wen Stephenson optimistically states that if we make heroic efforts to reverse our CO2 emissions we have a 50% chance of averting crisis, or at least surviving as a civilization. I feel that is a far too generous assessment, and yet if we are a mature, ethical society, what choice is there but to do everything we can to possibly make a difference?   To have our efforts perhaps allow the attractor state of our climate… the “landing place” of climate change…. to be at a point where our survival is possible.  

  • Janet Wright

    I agree  1,000% with how critical it is to publicize the urgency of climate change and how much the media (and the politicians) are failing us.  Thank you for having Wen on–and please do more of this.

    I am appalled every time I hear NPR talk about how the U.S. now has huge new reserves of oil and gas without ever mentioning what it will mean if we burn those reserves or pointing out that the fossil fuel cost to get them out of the ground will be much more carbon-intensive than what we’ve experienced in the past!

    • The_Truth_Seeker

      Agree – NPR won’t even say, on-air, who all their sponsors are and they make it difficult to find out. At least PRI and PBS state who their main sponsors are. NPR also seems to be taking money from sponsors and THEN doing favorable stories about them (particularly when you listen to the segments about new music and movies). That trend at NPR smells like the “Payola” of the 1950′s to me! Surprised many more listeners (and the FCC & Justice Department) haven’t caught on yet.

  • Sommer

    To cut down on air pollution we need separate cycling paths that provide safe, comfortable travel like in much of the Netherlands, Denmark and Westphalia, Germany where the percentage of trips by bicycle range from 18% to 25% of all trips. Since short trips in cars emit excessive pollution just by turning them on and driving the first few miles, the cuts in carbon dioxide, formaldehyde, benzine and other pollutants are actually about double what the 18% to 25% cycling rates might suggest.

    If Americans would provide decent cycling paths and supporting infrastructure and policies, since most trips by car run under 20 miles, cycling could take over 20% of the modal share.

    We are failing miserably with fewer than 1% of all trips by bicycle while allowing ideologues who promote “vehicular cycling”–cycling with motorized traffic, so-called “sharing the road”–to occupy transportation planning positions. This of course has satisfied oil companies.   

    Do the math and you’ll see the CO2 savings are also huge in terms of less manufacturing (30 pound bicycles instead of 3000 pound cars), transporting and eventually disposing of cars, repairing, putting tires on cars, less expensive “roadways” for cyclists than for cars, etc.

    Opportunities for safe and comfortable cycling for transportation would also put a big dent in obesity, diabetes, heart disease, depression and the myriad of diseases that sedentary people develop.

    • Macksheltonis

      It is hard to believe that CEO and the board of directors at corporations like EXXON, BP, ETC. are willing to sacrafice their own grand children and our grand children  by continuing to pump the oil and gas into the air. At the same time they are fostering the lie about global warming being a hoax.  If they took all the money that they are spending to push the disinformation about global warming, and put it all into r&d for non-fossil fueled energy.


    The media can’t talk about it because they are being controlled by big oil and other conglomerates that value there profits more that the lives of our grandchildren.

    • The_Truth_Seeker

      YUP – NPR won’t even say, on-air, who all their sponsors are and they make it difficult to find out. At least PRI and PBS state who their main sponsors are.

  • Guest

    Now that ONE journalist has finally done it – SCIENTISTS RISE UP!!!!!

  • it’s bleak

    The reason that the media has not given the climate crisis the crisis coverage it deserves is that most members of the media are like most other people: they are so emotionally overwhelmed when they look at the crisis for what it is that they have to turn away. It’s much easier to cover it like any other conventional news story. Pros and cons of this or that small aspect of the problem, this expert weighing in against that expert, nobody looking at the longterm implications of what they’re saying, everybody always happily concluding that market forces will take care of the problem. The reality is that sooner or later somebody’s market forces are going to be crushed by this crisis. The only question is whether we’re going to pay a high price to put things right or whether we’re going to leave behind a world that can’t be bailed out at any price.

  • Jasmine Spence

    Bill McKibben is journalist who has done  great job of exposing climate change. Thanks to Here and Now,Robin and Wen,I am learning more about who is writing about climate change.  I listened,riveted to the broadcast and keep checking in here to read the comments which I find very interesting. I have even followed a few posts deeper by researching what people have said. Check out 350.org if you have not already.Check out the Rolling Stone article by McKibben. I find it very interesting that Mckibben identifies that a movement needs an  enemy. The enemies of the movement to ameliorate climate change are the  corporations in the fossil fuel industry.  So, 350 is going after the oil giants who are ferociously protecting their  financial interests. So I concur with the post of MRWMS, big oil is handcuffing politicians, the  journalists bosses, confusing the general public by lies and distortions about climate change. It’s a mess. Help us out journalists, insist upon giving credible scientists, such as  Dr.James Hanson,leading expert on climate change airtime. 

  • Suzanne Barzee

    Thank you Wen, for speaking up. Where was the media coverage on the XL Pipeline protest this Sunday in D.C.? Where is the media coverage on Bill McKibben’s 350.org tour? We should be hearing something daily about climate change and what is being done around the world to fight it. It should be covered with as much fervor as the Isreal Palestinian violence that I hear about every day. Fiscal cliff? What about global cliff? I was offended at the end of Wen’s interview when the host implied that Wen’s stance relegated him to less than journalist status. He is on the right side of history by speaking up. We need the media to cover this very real and frightening crisis, as if it were WWII and our lives and freedom depended on it.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/NXT54NOX7Y6ZCU5PQTMOAHDK5A Harvey

    A lot of these posts tell us there is a technical and societal way forward in addressing AGW, although many agree a positive outcome (survival) is a long shot.  Going back to the featured article by Wen Stephenson, how can these efforts become “politically possible”? Mr. Stephenson believes it can only happen if journalism and the media decide or are “forced” (by the public’s demand) to cover the issue in a way that matches the importance of the story… namely, front-page headline stories describing the research outcome and effects of anthropogenic global warming. 
    The reason this type of coverage is necessary is that frankly, what is strangely missing in the reactions even from people who understand the catastrophe of climate change is FEAR.  That much maligned adaptive behavior is what we need, at least to get us out of the starting gate towards a meaningful response to human-caused climate change. 

  • Poppy

    Congratulations to the journalist who wrote the business front page NYT article on students calling for divesting their University funds to put pressure on the fossil fuel industry today! Good work 350.org!

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/CQBZHKZ2PQFTUS5WX22N3PDZ3E everetth

    We are not going to stop climate change unless we cut way back on our use of “Time shifted Energy”  i.e. fossil fuels.  Read last hours of Ancient Sunshine” by Thom Hartmann or check out timeshiftedenergy.com

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/CQBZHKZ2PQFTUS5WX22N3PDZ3E everetth

    We are not going to stop climate change unless we stop using “Time Shifted Energy” i.e. Fossil fuels.  Of course this is not going to happen.  We are now looking at the rapid deterioration of modern society.  All we can do is make choices on who suffers the most and how much.  At 72 I’m glad I won’t live to see most of it. 

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100003000884786 Navin R Johnson

      ” We are not going to stop climate change unless we stop using “Time Shifted Energy” i.e. Fossil fuels.”

      Right, we are not going to stop climate change.  Ceasing the use of fossil fuels is not possible.

  • Abrown11

    The companies that pay for the media don’t want controls on their emissions so they will not let anyone talk about it being a problem. Creepy! Do these poeple love their children I think not. Global warming will be the end of us. Then where will their precious companies be?w. What stupidity it is unreal. It saddens me to the core.

  • Len Frenkel

    Here’s an essay that was published in my local newspaper just a week ago. It describes the steps that I think are necessary to reverse the climate crisis:


    What is a crisis? Let’s define it as any
    immediate, long-term threat to the security, economy, environment, food or
    person within a home, community, state or nation. There are many at present:
    poverty, income disparity, corporate power, excess spending and terrorism, to
    name a few. In our past, we had the Civil War and World War II. But there is one
    that exceeds all others in the depth of its threats, for it looms over
    international economies, environments, foods, security and the very existence of
    all life on the planet. That, of course, is the climate crisis. It is
    justifiable to call it a crisis. It is not a hoax nor a plan by scientists to
    take over the world. It is not a TV program, a horror movie or a book of
    fiction. It is real and 95% certain to be caused by human activities since the
    onset of the industrial age.

    Most of us are familiar with the present
    and expected impacts of global warming: melting glaciers and ice packs, flooding
    in some areas and drying out in others, ocean acidification, pest infestations,
    loss of biodiversity, increased extinctions, plant and animal maladaptation,
    starvation, economic chaos.

    One of the problems in dealing with this
    is the non-visibility of these effects to the public on an everyday basis. We
    may read about it but it doesn’t touch us directly yet. Hence, the strength of
    the deniability and the inaction of governments, corporations and individuals.
    But the climate crisis isn’t going away. It will only get worse as time goes
    on unless individuals and national governments respond in a way that reflects
    their acceptance of it as an emergency situation.

    Here are just a few of the steps that must
    be taken if life will survive in a state somewhat resembling

    The President must share with the public
    the present status of what is known on the subject, what consequences will
    result from maintaining the status quo and, at some point, declare a state of

    The only permanent and immediate way to
    curb the release of greenhouse gases is to drastically reduce the burning of
    fossil fuels. Gasoline rationing, as we had during the emergency of World War
    II, must be instituted.

    A massive, national development of an
    effective transportation system must be initiated immediately. This would be a cooperative effort for
    national and state governments, the transportation industries and the labor
    markets to build many miles of rail lines, develop extensive bus routes, even
    trolley lines. All this in order to severely reduce car transport.

    Because our livestock, dairy, corn and
    soybean industries are responsible for more greenhouse gases than any other
    human activity, we must switch to plant-based eating. Ending government subsidies to the above industries and,
    instead, subsidizing the plant food industries will accomplish a vast reduction
    in greenhouse gases.

    Using newly available land, a program of
    planting millions of trees and acres of grasses will help absorb carbon dioxide,
    provide jobs and return the land to a healthy state. This would be accomplished by the state
    and federal governments working with subsidized nurseries.

    The construction industries, which are
    energy intensive, must be confined to refurbishing rather than new construction.
    No new malls or retail buildings.

    It is obvious that the more people we have
    in our country, the more consumption of goods and resources takes place.
    Legislation that taxes large families more than small families, over a period of
    years, will help rectify this part of the problem.

    We must all recognize that a growth
    economy is contrary to harnessing greenhouse gas production. Growth means more
    production of goods, almost all of which require burning fossil

    realize that these radical steps are extremely unlikely to take place in the US
    or in any other industrialized nation. They are contrary to the way we have been
    living for the last 200 years. However, we have never faced a situation as dire
    as this one. We don’t know what to do. Even representatives from hundreds of
    nations are unable to come to agreement about how to stop the steamroller of the
    climate crisis. No nation is willing to ‘sacrifice’ its economy. The choice is
    whether to make the sacrifices now or wait into the future when international
    chaos becomes the norm.

    • Navin R Johnson

      That has to be one of the most naive and simplistic pieces of writing I have ever read…

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