A brilliant essay that captures how the ethics of journalism and the time-honored practices of choosing stories for their perceived newsworthiness and how we tell them – can really, really hurt us all.
Supporters of fossil fuel and deniers of climate change love to trade in stories like the one about Ivanpah, individual tales that make renewable energy seem counterproductive, perverse. Stories cannot so readily capture the far larger avian death toll from coal, gas and nuclear power generation. Benjamin Sovacool, an energy-policy expert, looked into the deaths of birds at wind farms (where the blades can chop them down) and concluded that per gigawatt hour, nuclear power plants kill more than twice as many birds and fossil-fuel plants kill more than 30 times as many. He noted that over the course of a year fossil-fuel plants in the United States actually kill about 24 million birds, compared to 46,000 by wind farms. His calculations factor in climate change as part of their deadly impact.
Over all, climate change tends to be reported as abstract explanations about general tendencies and possible outcomes. It’s a difficult subject to tell and to take in. The scientific side is complicated. Understanding it requires the ultimate in systems thinking: the cumulative effect of all of us burning coal and oil impacts things far away and yet to come. A lot of it is hard to see. If you didn’t pay attention to a species beforehand, you won’t have noticed its decline. There’s no direct, tangible way for you to know the ocean is 30 percent more acidic than it used to be, or that it is expected to rise several feet in this century and then keep rising.