MONDAY, MARCH 14, 2022
So says Wallace-Wells: Is the world ignoring the latest climate report from the United Nations?
So says David Wallace-Wells in this report for New York magazine. Indeed, the headline atop his report says this:
Why Is the World Ignoring the Latest U.N. Climate Report?
Wallace-Wells has the advantage of generally seeming to know what he's talking about. Here's his capsule account of last week's report by the IPCC, whatever the heck that is:
WALLACE-WELLS (3/13/22): The 2018 report was an interim “special report.” The biggie is the new one released this month, the first comprehensive U.N. update to the state of climate science in eight full years, since before the Paris accords. Following the signing of that agreement in 2016, more carbon has been added to the atmosphere than in the entire history of humanity through the end of World War II. This means the possible paths of decarbonization that would allow the temperature rise to stay below 1.5 degrees, which looked almost impossibly demanding in 2016, are now about twice as steep.
Although the situation appears, in that sense, grimmer, the quiet response to the new report is a sign that the moment of climate alarm may have passed, giving way to an era defined by two somewhat paradoxical trends.
According to Wallace-Wells, the new report is less gloomy than the interim "special report" from 2018. At the same time, things seem substantially worse than they did in 2016, when the Paris accords were signed.
Is "the world" ignoring this new report? You'll have to read Wallace-Wells' report to see what he means by that sweeping assessment.
That said, we'll guess that you haven't seen much treatment of this new report if you watch "cable news." For better or worse, cable news is largely all Ukraine, all around the clock.
This focus may be understandable, but it has led us to a certain type of musing about our 24-hour news coverage. Our question would be this:
Wouldn't we all be better off if we didn't have 24-hour "news channels?"
These channels create the illusion that BREAKING NEWS is being delivered on an around-the-clock basis. In the nonstop coverage of Ukraine, it's plain that this just isn't true.
As a general natter, what's being delivered in non-stop treatment of various "human interest" aspects of this international disaster. The coverage is ever-changing, but highly repetitive. We ask if the following might not be true:
Might we not be better off if our "cable news" channels delivered carefully constructed, hour-long broadcasts at 6 AM, 12 noon, 5 PM and 11 PM—with those hour-long broadcasts repeated in the intervening hours?
These channels could assign those of their employees who are actually competent to the production of four (4) quality news hours per day. Those news hours could devote substantial coverage to the leading event of the day—in this case, to the disaster in Ukraine. But they could also include coverage of other major news events and topics.
Simply put, there isn't enough actual news from Ukraine to justify the rating-based illusion of 24-hour, round-the-clock focus. Meanwhile, the apparent need to stay with all-Ukraine, all-the-time leads to an unending series of repetitive human interest interviews, with no time left over for discussion of such piddling topics as the climate disasters foreseen by the U.N. report.
The simple truth is this:
The people at our cable news channels have very few actual interests. To appearances, there are no topics they actually want to cover.
They want to fight for eyeballs and ratings. In large part, they're happy to spend every minute on Ukraine for the simple reason that there is absolutely nothing else they actually acre about reporting or discussing.
Climate change? Crime? Public schools? The southern border? Homelessness/inequality? Our major newspapers barely bother with such topics. Cable news almost never does, nor is it clear that our cable channels, as currently constituted, would have any idea how to do so.
The war in Ukraine is a major disaster—a vast reversion in the evolution of acceptable international norms of behavior. That said, it isn't the only major event taking place in the world, and people at our cable channels aren't likely to be able to do justice to the larger disaster implied by what has occurred in Ukraine.
Wouldn't we all be better off if we returned to the norms of an earlier day—to a time when corporate news orgs didn't pretend that we were being handed unbroken, round-the-clock, "up-to-the-minute" news?
In closing, what does that U.N. report really say? Have you seen that question discussed in any way at all at the sites you go to for "news?"
We're going to guess that the answer is no. In truth, it's much too late to "fix" our utterly broken national culture. But how about it:
To what extent did you even know that some such report had appeared?