Posted By Marc Morano – 2:57 PM ET – Marc_Morano@EPW.Senate.Gov
Is the Media’s Environmental Reporting Improving?
USA Today and the Los Angeles Times provided hope today that the media may be turning away from hyping alarmism and platitudes on environmental issues and instead offering the public fair and balanced information. The first hopeful report is from USA Today on the science and politics of listing polar bears under the Endangered Species Act, and the second is an editorial from the Los Angeles Times stripping bare the rhetoric and reality about cap-and-trade legislation.
First, the article in the USA Today presents a very accurate picture of the polar bear and its possible listing on the Endangered Species Act. Reporter Oren Dorell commendably lays out the latest science, politics and cultural impact surrounding the polar bear controversy.
Below are a few excerpts from the USA Today article titled “Polar bears caught in a heated eco-debate.” (LINK):
USA Today Excerpt: Eskimos in Alaska and Canada have joined to stop polar bears from being designated as an endangered species, saying the move threatens their culture and livelihoods by relying on sketchy science for animals that are thriving. Although they say sea ice has melted, some Natives question the accuracy of the most dire predictions of a warming climate in the Northern Hemisphere, and members of the Inuit Circumpolar Council seek evidence that a change would seriously harm the bears. Their stance has put them at loggerheads with a usual ally: environmentalists who say the bears need protection now to survive a warmer climate in the future… The [Endangered Species Act] petition marks the first time a healthy species would be considered at risk under the Endangered Species Act and the first time global warming would be officially labeled a species' main threat. Polar bears have increased from a population of 5,000 in 1972 to between 20,000 and 25,000 today.
This article follows a Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing on polar bears on January 30, 2008, where witnesses included Alaskan Arctic ice Geologist and native Alaskan Inupiaq Richard Glenn, who was mentioned in the USA Today article. Read Glenn’s testimony here and see video here. For more information about polar bears, be sure to check out the Senate Minority report on the bears here and see this follow-up report here.
The USA Today article concluded:
Willie Soon, an astrophysicist at the Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, said far too few data were used to make predictions about both climate change and polar bear behavior and populations. "We looked at historical studies. The first thing you notice is the whole climatic system undergoes huge fluctuation," Soon said. Over the possibly 200,000 years the polar bear has existed as a species, it has survived "very harsh conditions" of extreme cold, such as ice ages, and warmth, such as the last interglacial period, 100,000 to 110,000 years ago, Soon said. - To read complete USA Today article see here.
In an editorial titled “California's cap-and-trade won't work,” the paper noted that California “has committed to cut its greenhouse gases 25% by 2020, and electricity generation is the state's second-biggest source of greenhouse emissions after the transportation sector.”
The paper then bluntly describes the potential impact of these efforts.
To spur the needed changes, regulators are designing a cap-and-trade program, in which carbon emissions are capped and power generators can trade carbon credits -- permits to pollute -- among themselves. This is a staggeringly complex undertaking that will once again create opportunities for dishonest traders to manipulate the market. In other words, unless the cap-and-trade program is designed extraordinarily well, we could be looking at deregulation déjá vu. And the consequences won't just be higher power bills. If California, which leads the country in addressing the threat of global warming, gets this program wrong, it could discredit efforts to fight the problem nationwide, if not worldwide. [...] To sum up: Carbon-trading markets are easy to manipulate and produce volatile energy prices, and the political influence of business and other lobbies can skew the system to produce unfair outcomes.
The paper further declared that cap-and-trade legislation:
“won't work in California, because from 22% to 32% of our power is generated out of state, and California can't regulate plants outside its borders. Moreover, those out-of-state plants tend to be much dirtier than local ones.”
The editorial concluded:
Carbon taxes are a simpler, harder to manipulate and less economically damaging way to make polluters pay the costs of their environmental damage than cap and trade. Yet because taxes have so little political support, California regulators are charging ahead with a far riskier strategy, which has never been tested. Cap and trade stands a decent chance of working at the national level, where individual power plants could be regulated regardless of which state they're in, but California will be asking for trouble if it imposes a statewide program.
To read complete editorial see here.
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