[Update: Curtis has written a second piece criticizing the American news media for continuing to ignore the IPCC controversy. It is especially important for American journalists to "start paying attention to this story," he writes, not just to get to the bottom of what happened but also to help insure that good science is not thrown out with the bad.]
“Glaciergate” broke in the U.K. in December, with revelations that the IPCC incorrectly stated that all glaciers in the Himalayas would vanish by 2035 with continued warming. There were also the charges that Rajendra Pachauri used his position as the head of the IPCC to benefit himself financially. Then came criticisms that the IPCC incorrectly linked warming to monetary damages from natural disasters like hurricanes. (Full disclosure: My friend and colleague Roger Pielke, Jr. is in the middle of that dustup.)
As Brainard points out, along with Charlie Petit at the Knight Science Journalism Tracker, these issues are making headlines in Europe. But aside from a handful of stories in the New York Times, Washington Post, Christian Science Monitor, AP and Bloomberg, there has been almost no coverage.
Meanwhile, outlets in the U.K., India, and Australia have been eating the American media’s lunch, churning out reams of commentary and analysis. Journalists in the U.S. should take immediate steps to redress that oversight.
[UPDATE: The Guardian and the Independent in the U.K. are reporting that Phil Jones, one of the climate scientists at the center of the hacked email controversy, is have to face new charges that he tried to hide problems with key climate data. (For excerpts of the story, go here.) Here in the U.S., though, there continues to be very little coverage in the news media.
I agree with Curtis Brainard that it’s time for American journalists to start following the story, wherever it leads.
It does not matter that claims of a collapse of anthropogenic global are simply not supported by multiple streams of scientific evidence, from physics to paleoclimatology to modeling of the climate system. In the past week or so, I’ve been writing about what nature seems to be telling us about our changing planet (see here, here, here and here, among other places.). And I’m going to continue to do that in the days to come. But showing how the climate is actually changing does not obviate going wherever the full story leads. It is our duty as journalists to shed light and hold power to account.
Perhaps American news media aren’t keeping up with their colleagues overseas because there are so few environmental specialists left. About one out of five American journalists lost their jobs between 2001 and the start of last year, and environmental journalists have been particularly hard hit. I sincerely hope that is the explanation — and not fear of undermining policy action on global warming. That is certainly a legitimate private concern, but not a legitimate journalistic one. Our concern is the truth.