How can the front page be at war with the back page? Wisconsin State Journal shows us how

Paris Climate Conference.  Wisconsin State Journal headline:

“Event goal: Avert global havoc”

WSJ front page

Is this headline controversial? Well, sure and alas, it is.

The headline seems to offer matter-of-fact acceptance that global climate change is real. It is real, of course, but not everyone believes it.

Oh, yes, the insurance industry, the Department of Defense, and scores of U.S. corporations all recognize that climate change is real. Scientists are in consensus. Really, all serious people recognize this looming danger. But that’s not everyone, is it. In point of fact, one of our two major political parties remains ludicrously married to climate denialism.

And that brings us to the back pages of the Wisconsin State Journal. There, on the editorial page, where they ought to be able to speak freely, they’ve got almost nothing to say. On the front page, as we noted, they can say the words “Avert global havoc,” but on the back page, they’re sound asleep. How does this happen? Mr. Milfred, the apparent editorial page editor for life, is snoring away.

Consider Milfred’s recent editorial page celebration of Congressman Paul Ryan — an over-the-top tribute which dubbed Ryan a “statesman” and a figure of “intellectual heft”. Somehow — and we know not how — Milfred seems not to know about Ryan’s nutty stance on climate change.

Writing in New York magazine, Jonathan Chait said this about Ryan’s climate change stance:

During a debate last night for his election to the House, Paul Ryan was asked if he believes that human activity has contributed to global warming. “I don’t know the answer to that question,” he replied, “I don’t think science does, either.”

In fact, science does know the answer. Climate scientists believe with a 95 percent level of certainty (the same level of certainty as their belief in the dangers of cigarette smoking) that human activity is contributing to climate change. There are things science knows, and this is one of them. Scientists may not have the answer to what policies are appropriate for responding to the fact that greenhouse-gas emissions cause changes to the environment, but they can tell us what happens when we release heat-trapping gasses into the atmosphere.

This is another way of saying that Paul Ryan is a nut.

Is “nut” too strong a word? Too colorful? Maybe for some. But really, no one should offer up baseless nonsense about a grave problem facing the planet and still have claim to “intellectual heft”.

 



Are climate-science denialists fit for public office? An elephant in the room? What elephant?

Jonathan Chait, writing at nymag.com, believes climate-science denialists should be disqualified from holding public office.

If a candidate for a managerial job at your office insists that two plus three equals seven, it wouldn’t matter how well-qualified this candidate may be at any other aspect of the job…

That’s true about hiring decisions. There are some things so basic, so necessary to get right, that any job applicant with the wrong answer to a critically important question — much less insistence on the wrong answer — needs to be culled from the list of applicants. Organizations really cannot hire an ignoramus without damaging their whole operation and everyone in it.

Simple. No? And yet, for some — and here we turn to the editorial board of our local Wisconsin State Journal — it’s just impossibly difficult.

Toles-GOPSkateThe fact is, climate-science denialism is an almost universal orthodoxy among national Republican office-holders. Paul Ryan (R-Janesville), a perennial favorite at the State Journal, claims he doesn’t know whether human activity is contributing to climate change. Senator Ron Johnson (R-Oshkosh) blames sunspots:

Johnson said extreme weather phenomena were better explained by sunspots than an overload of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere…. “I absolutely do not believe in the science of man-caused climate change,” Johnson said. “It’s not proven by any stretch of the imagination.”

Alas, Ryan and Johnson illustrate the rule within their party. Almost no Republican on the national stage will acknowledge that climate change is real or that fossil fuels are the major cause of it. Even conservative pundits like George Will and Charles Krauthammer — who cannot, for obvious reasons, fear getting ‘primaried’ or losing their nonexistent public offices — will appear on Fox News and just grasp for reasons to doubt the scientific evidence.

This poses a terrible problem for the Wisconsin State Journal and indeed for all the press trying to appear sensible without ever saying that so-and-so (in fact, so-and-so’s entire party) is peddling truly dangerous foolishness, and has been doing so for at least a decade.

Talk about your elephant in the room, or rather don’t talk about it…  What kind of journalist or journalism takes this absurd oath of silence?


Well that went badly…

As predicted, the elections went well for Republicans, and their owners. Of course, it was bad news for the humans, and the planet, and all those other creatures with fur, fin, and feathers, and zany hopes to survive.

Because there’s a global shit storm coming.

The Pentagon on Monday released a report asserting decisively that climate change poses an immediate threat to national security, with increased risks from terrorism, infectious disease, global poverty and food shortages. It also predicted rising demand for military disaster responses as extreme weather creates more global humanitarian crises…

And days ago the U.N. Panel on Climate Change warned us, again. We have only a short time to get acting. And acting very seriously.

And yet, as we see in these elections, we are headed in an utterly wrong direction. Kids, that inheritance — the nice blue planet — isn’t going to be there for you. It’s going to be much, much worse. Your folks, many of them, it turns out, aren’t really that tuned in to reality. Advertising by the Koch brothers can easily trump science. Most voters (and all the non-voters) apparently don’t get worked up by their own children’s future calamity:

Only 3 percent of current Republican members of Congress have been willing to go on record as accepting the fact that people are causing global warming. That, at least, was the calculation by PolitiFact, which found a grand total of eight Republican nondeniers in the House and Senate.

Toles - Climate changeClimate scientists might (or might not) get a headline for a day. But we see that they’re no match for billionaire campaign contributors. They’re no match for the fossil fuel industries. They’re no match for Money.  Let’s all say hello to a few more 1%-Republican apparatchiks as they ascend into the halls of government power and the earth goes sideways.

There is no guard rail.

***

We’ve got a whole new class of opiates
To blunt the stench of discontent
In these corporation nation-states
Where the loudest live to trample on the least
They say it’s just the predatory nature of the beast

But, the barons in the balcony are laughing
And pointing to the pit
They say, “Aw look, they’ve grown accustomed to the smell
Now, people love that shit
We’re workin’ it.”

Workin’ It by Don Henley