Sources with an agenda

by Milan on September 15, 2010

in Activism, Climate change, Climate science, The media

One of the more dubious experiments ever performed was undertaken by Pyramid Power Magazine. Subscribers were recruited to put dull razorblades inside wire pyramids and assess whether they became sharper as a result; other subscribers were told to do the same with cubes. To nobody’s surprise, subscribers of Pyramid Power Magazine provided data showing that pyramids have beneficial effects.

This is an extreme example of a general tendency among media sources: some at least try to maintain a reputation for impartiality, though it can be hilariously ill-deserved as with the “fair and balanced” coverage of Fox News. Others have a clear editorial line. The most dubious bunch have a specific agenda, but do not announce it.

The agenda of BuryCoal is self-evident. That being said, I don’t think that is cause to dismiss the site. For one thing, the reasoning behind the editorial stance is clearly spelled out and open to questioning from anyone. As editor, I can genuinely say that if I am ever convinced that climate change can be addressed without leaving most of the world’s remaining fossil fuels underground, I will either alter or leave the project. Unfortunately, the physics and chemistry are both very clear. You cannot burn fossil fuels without producing greenhouse gases, including CO2. And doubling the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere warms the planet by about 3°C. Almost certainly, that means we are heading for major problems, unless humanity radically alters the energy investments it is making, and thus the emissions path that will result.

Right now, the idea that humanity will not burn all the fossil fuels on Earth can probably be fairly described as ‘fringe.’ Most politicians seem to be either unaware of it or unwilling to mention it in public. Even many committed environmentalists who I meet argue that it is impossible. The first stage in properly evaluating the idea is reaching the point where policy-makers and citizens are aware of it. Then, we can confirm whether the approach is the appropriate one and work out the ideal means of achieving the necessary ends, within a timeframe that avoids catastrophe, and while securing as many co-benefits as possible.

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