The only way a reporter ought to look at a climate skeptic is down.

by Alex Steffen, Worldchanging

Having wasted 20 years here in the U.S. on a completely non-factual "debate" about whether fossil fuels were implicated in climate change, it's a bit shocking to see this story by Azadeh Ensha, where an industry-funded spokesperson is allowed to get away with the statement, "It is beyond dispute that any connection between meat production and global warming is a false one."

As science journalists have been discussing for a few years now, he said/she said journalism around climate change (where industry groups are allowed to lie without direct factual refutation in the same story) is bad journalism: it puts the journalist and his/her organization in the role of serving an industry PR message, rather than the truth.

Ensha punts on her responsibility to reality check the industry message, merely quoting another source saying "This is what the food industry always does ... obfuscate without ever looking at facts." By failing to provide those facts, she leads a casual reader to believe that this is an actual debate.

But the industry statement here is simply not true. It is a lie. There's quite well-established science refuting it. Cows cause climate change, to put it simply. We know that.

Ms. Ensha's story is precisely the kind of cheap-shot "controversy" story that's landed us in the mess we're in. In this stage of the climate crisis it should have been beneath the Times to publish it, but even more importantly, it should have been beneath a reporter as smart as Ms. Ensha to let herself be used this way by writing it.

In contrast, check out Elizabeth Kolbert's excellent New Yorker post Donating to the Deniers, a skillful revelation of the anti-science reality behind the U.S. Climate Action Partnership, an industry front group that claims to want strong action on climate change, but who's member companies have been strong supporters of politicians and causes which deny the reality of climate change.

In this day and age, the only way a reporter ought to look at a climate skeptic is down. That's doubly true when the skeptic is getting paid by an industry involved in melting the ice caps.

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The media's job is to interest the public in the public interest. -John Dewey