Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Nitpicking the News: Rolling Stone

So I know Rolling Stone is supposed to be a warm and cozy blanket of righteousness for liberals like me but some of this is just sloppy:

The trouble is, Obama's accomplishments are small-bore when weighed against the immense scale of the climate crisis. 2012 was the hottest year on record in the continental U.S. The polar ice caps are melting faster than scientists predicted; wildfires torched the American West; extreme drought parched 60 percent of the country's farms, jacking up food prices. Then came Hurricane Sandy, which devastated New York and New Jersey. 

The "immense scale" of climate change isn't accurately communicated by the list of climate events that the continental US experienced in 2012.  And none of those events speak to how "Obama's accomplishments are small-bore" - his accomplishments led to a projected end-of-decade reduction in carbon emission as stated in the previous paragraph.  To establish "small-bore" this passage should discuss how that reduction isn't enough.  Instead it's a regurgitation of the same litany every climate reporter has been writing lately.

And by the way, stop mentioning wildfires.  There are wildfires every year.  Say something about a change in their intensity if you want to include them.  (Actually, say something about intensity for all of those things - intensity and frequency are where weather and climate interact.)

These days, the president's point person on global­ warming has been Heather Zichal, a 36-year-old former legislative aide to Sen. John Kerry. "Heather is smart, but this needs to go about three levels up," says Wirth. It's the equivalent of running a war with a recent West Point grad as your top general.

Zing!  Poor Heather must not have returned the reporter's calls.  Seriously though, I'm sure the writer just really wanted to use that terrible analogy.

That means Obama must drop all the talk about "clean coal" and "energy independence" – code words for more mining and drilling – and articulate the hard truths about global warming: that we need to wean ourselves off fossil fuels as quickly as possible, that we'll have to prepare ourselves for life on a hotter, less hospitable planet, and that our suburban paradise of shopping malls, big backyards and SUVs is a relic of an earlier era.

Whoa whoa whoa - what is this business about suburbia and backyards?  I wasn't aware that these are major contributing factors to climate change.  I mean I hate shopping and all but it's stupid to imply that mall destruction is on the same level as legitimate goals for climate mitigation and adaptation.  And wouldn't urban areas have a bigger carbon footprint than the "suburban paradise" anyway?

Obama can kick off the conversation by permanently halting the Keystone XL pipeline, which has been dubbed "a fuse to the biggest carbon bomb on the planet."

Lazy!  Who called it "a fuse to the biggest carbon bomb on the planet"?  No mention here!  (It happens to be Bill McKibben).  And where's the explanatory sentence? (For a 2011 discussion, start here).

And by some accounts, the amount of methane that escapes from drilling and pumping operations is so large that it makes natural gas no better for the climate than coal. "Fugitive methane is the biggest unknown of all the U.S. emissions sources," says Fred Krupp, head of the Environmental Defense Fund. "Getting a better measurement of it, then figuring out ways to cap it, could have a big impact on the climate in the short term."

By whose accounts?  Not Fred Krupp's, since he doesn't seem sure about it. 

Climate policy can't be all stick, of course – there have to be carrots, too. One is to fund more research into clean energy

But how is that a  - ?  Nevermind.  I guess we should celebrate the writer's rare accomplishment:  he's managed to employ a cliché that's both unnecessary and inappropriate.


Making real progress on global warming would require Obama to do something he has shown little inclination for: leading a massive grassroots campaign to rally the American people and overcome the fear-mongering of the fossil-fuel industry and its Republican allies.

Technicality alert!  The President doesn't get to lead grassroots campaigns - by definition those are bottom-up.  The President on the other hand is as toppy a top-down leader as they come.

Writing, Rolling Stone.  Do it better.

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