By: Brian McNicoll
It was 46 years ago, almost to the day, that the Washington Post ran a story on how man’s behavior was affecting his environment.
“In the next 50 years fine dust that humans discharge into the atmosphere by burning fossil fuel will screen out so much of the sun’s rays that the Earth’s average temperature could fall by six degrees,” the Post reported. “Sustained emissions over five to 10 years could be sufficient to trigger an ice age.”
But long before the shelf life of the Post’s prediction began to run out with no Ice Age in sight, the newspaper changed course and decided burning fossil fuel would make the weather hotter, not colder. It makes one wonder – Is the Post trying to deliver serious scientific information? Or does it just view pot shots at the energy industry as a way to sell papers?
The question came up again on Monday, when the Post carried a story in its Metro section entitled, “Timeline of sea-rise impacts is predicted.”
The story devotes more than 1,000 words to a report released last week by the Union of Concerned Scientists entitled, “When Rising Seas Hit Home: Hard Choices Ahead for Hundreds of U.S. Coastal Communities.”
The Post story begins, “On Maryland’s Eastern Shore, rising seawater levels and chronic flooding threaten to disrupt daily life, damage homes and businesses, and swallow land in the relatively near future, according to a new study. For some parts of the Eastern Shore, there soon may be no more there there.”
The Eastern Shore is the part of Maryland on the eastern side of the Chesapeake Bay, across from Baltimore, Annapolis and the rest of the state. It is flat and exposed and always and forever subject to periodic flooding and storms – as are all areas near the sea.
The Union of Concerned Scientists’ ploy with this report was to attempt to put a date on when various calamities would occur or begin to unfold. “What is different in this report is the estimates of how soon this could happen,” the Post intones. “In 20 years, the landscape will be noticeably different. In 80 years, dramatically so.”
By 2035, it said about 170 communities could “face chronic inundation,” which it defines as 26 or more days of flooding per year. That’s twice the current total, the report says. By 2060, that total would climb to 270 and by 2100, it would stand at 490 communities.
The town of Crisfield, Md., could lose half its landscape in the next 20 years, the report says, and Ocean City could find itself facing a similar fate by 2060.
The Post story then outlines a number of ways Maryland already is spending public money to combat this. “Sea level rise is what the state has been preparing for,” Catherine McCall, director of coastal planning in the state’s Department of Natural Resources office, said.
Only sea level rise is one area climate scientists have traditionally outkicked their coverage. Sea levels have risen about 8 inches since reliable records began to be kept in the 1880s and even worst-case scenarios from the areas thought most to be in the crosshairs predict only a 15-inch increase by the end of this century.
The Post report uncritically presents every conclusion of the Union of Concerned Scientists analysis as fact. The organization uses that term – analysis – because the alternatives are not quite accurate. This is no study – the Union of Concerned Scientists doesn’t do much in the way of original studies. It’s certainly no experiment.
What it is is a survey of literature by others similarly conflicted by receiving grants from people who want to control the lives and livelihoods of others by invoking “science” and scare tactics about future environmental “disasters.”
Like a lot of things on the left, the Union of Concerned Scientists benefits a lot from its name. One pictures white lab coats hung side-by-side as far as the eye can see at its conventions. But anyone with $25 can become a member of the union and a concerned scientist. It is nothing but another left-wing advocacy group – that began by protesting the U.S. research community was doing too much to help the military.
It has railed against nuclear power, President Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative and the Vietnam War. Its luminaries have included Noam Chomsky and Carl Sagan. It unleashed a pressure campaign against General Electric when the company donated $325 to the libertarian Reason magazine as part of a program in which it matched funds its employees donated to charity. It did this even though General Electric donated more than $497,000 that year to environmentally conscious organizations.
It also has been a leader in efforts by state attorneys general in New York and elsewhere to attempt to use the RICO Law, which was intended to catch drug kingpins, against ExxonMobil for what it claims is a campaign of deception by the energy company concerning global warming.
The organization is funded by reliably left foundations. It pursues a reliably leftist bent in its policy initiatives. It publishes “analyses” based on the writings of reliably left political apparatchiks so long as those writings hew the company line.
Left-wing policy organizations are, of course, free to operate as they choose and advocate for what they want. But when a newspaper that purports to report on truth as opposed to political spin presents that report as truth on which public spending decisions should be made, it forfeits its role as an advocate for the public and embraces one as an advocate for left-wing politics as usual.
Who pays the price? The taxpayers who, based on these “analyses” and media’s uncritical acceptance of their conclusions, are forced to spend enormous sums of money defeating a problem that may well not even exist.