Guest Columnist

Covering climate change deniers is bad policy

Demonstrators carry signs during the Peoples’ Climate March at the White House in Washington, D.C. in April 2017. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters Archive)
Demonstrators carry signs during the Peoples’ Climate March at the White House in Washington, D.C. in April 2017. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters Archive)

Earlier this month, NBC’s “Meet the Press” proclaimed that it would no longer host guests who dispute the rock-solid science of human-caused climate change. It’s time for all responsible media to follow suit. To do otherwise is to propagate ignorance of the most life-threatening kind and help further impede the world’s response to the climate crisis.

No doubt climate deniers will cite freedom of speech to reject my position. But, before I address that accusation, let me make one thing perfectly clear: Human-forced global warming and the resultant disruption of our climate are scientifically proven facts. Over 200 scientific organizations worldwide, including NASA and NOAA, have concluded that our use of fossil fuels is rapidly and dangerously disrupting our climate. Not a single such prestigious organization disagrees.

Now let’s address the inevitable accusation that my view conflicts with freedom of speech.

No responsible citizen, Republican or Democrat, would support the media publishing anti-science letters claiming that methamphetamine use is safe for children, or that wearing seat belts increases the risk of death in accidents, or that there is no risk in letting high blood pressure go untreated.

The constitutionally guaranteed right to express our opinions in no way obligates media to cover them. In fact, there is another important right guaranteed by our constitution, Freedom of the Press; a right that affords media the freedom and the responsibility to decide what opinions deserve to be published.

And to any climate denier who would try to dismiss my call as “leftist,” I say this: Politics has nothing to do with my call to end coverage of climate change denial. No responsible citizen, Republican or Democrat, would support the media publishing anti-science letters claiming that methamphetamine use is safe for children, or that wearing seat belts increases the risk of death in accidents, or that there is no risk in letting high blood pressure go untreated. Why? Because science has rendered these opinions ridiculous, and because they are patently dangerous.

The reality and imminent dangers of human-forced climate change are no less established by science. In fact, the 97% scientific consensus on climate change is equivalent to the percent of scientists who agree that smoking causes lung cancer.

And though the stakes of smoking, using meth, not wearing seat belt, or failing to take blood pressure medication can be deadly, these risks pale in comparison to the catastrophic impacts that will result if we fail to take immediate and aggressive action to combat climate change.

It is worth noting that a 2014 Duke University study found that the reason people dispute the reality of problems like climate change has nothing to do with facts or science at all. Instead, the study found that climate change denial is rooted in ideological aversion to the any problem that requires significant government involvement to solve.

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Bottom line: I support the constitutional right of climate change deniers to express their anti-science myths whenever they choose. But it’s time for The Gazette and other responsible media to join Meet The Press in committing not to provide coverage of this misinformation. To do otherwise is to propagate ignorance of the most life-threatening kind and to further impede the world’s response to the climate crisis.

• Jonas Magram is a member of Climate Action Iowa.

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