A quick action to fight climate denial

The Ann Arbor News / MLive posted a blatantly misleading editorial on “climate alarmism” — write them a letter to tell them how you feel.
Washtenaw Climate Reality

Did you see the December 17th print edition of the Ann Arbor News? It includes an editorial page on “the climate change debate,” along with an editorial entitled, “Biden should have the courage to rebuke climate alarmism.” Today’s post presents an action you can take to let the A2 News / MLive know your opinion of their irresponsible choice to publish that piece. In a future post, we’ll look more broadly at how we can rebut specific arguments made by climate deniers.

More info on the piece

This editorial was written by James Taylor of the Heartland Institute, a conservative “think tank” with a long and checkered history of climate denial. We couldn’t find a digital link to it on the A2 News / MLive site, so it looks like it was only in the print edition. But it did appear in numerous other media outlets, so you can read a digital version here or Google the title to find another one if you prefer.

Taylor’s piece tells a comforting no-worry story: maybe the climate is warming a little, but hey, that could be a good thing. Plus, wind turbines have huge problems. We don’t need to change a thing.

How to take action

It’s disturbing that MLive would publish this misleading piece about such an important and existential issue. Over the weekend, several of us wrote letters to the editor, John Hiner, to let him know how we feel.

If you’d like to join us, send an email to John Hiner at jhiner@mlive.com.

Below I’ve included a couple of sample letters to get you started: one short and one longer. Make a few edits to make it your own, then send it out! Then post a comment below to let us know that you did it.

A short letter example

Dear Mr. Hiner,
I was shocked when you published an article on Dec. 17th by James Taylor, a paid fossil-fuel spokesperson who does everything possible to discredit science!

The data and the science are clear – we are in a desperate situation and need to do everything possible to reduce our carbon footprint!

Over the last few years we’ve given those with no credibility “equal” coverage. It’s time to abandon those who misinform and call out their lies – to me that is what responsible journalism is all about!

A longer letter example

Here’s a longer one that I wrote, in case you want to mine this for some additional points.

Dear Mr. Hiner,

I’m writing to express my deep concerns about your Dec 17 editorial page on “the climate debate” and particularly your choice to publish the piece by James Taylor, entitled “Biden should have the courage to rebuke climate alarmism.”

Publishing this piece is irresponsible and poor journalism, encouraging dangerous complacency about the climate crisis at a time when urgent action is needed.

Source and content are deeply flawed
The biased source of this piece should have been enough to keep MLive from amplifying its message. The Heartland Institute is a well-known “merchant of doubt” about the climate crisis. They’ve been funded by fossil fuel companies and others who benefit from their no-problem message, and have stooped to associating the Unabomber and other terrorists with those who “believe” in global warming.

Even if you didn’t take the time to vet the messenger, the content of the message should have been enough to keep it off your pages. Some of it is outright incorrect, such as the assertion that it would require wind towers across 1/3 of the U.S. to provide the electricity we need. Actually, credible estimates suggest that an area the size of Rhode Island would be sufficient, or 0.03% of U.S. land area. So Taylor is about 1000x off on this one.

Some of it uses partial truths to draw misleading conclusions. For example, consider Taylor’s statement that “It is only by comparing present temperatures to the unprecedented cold of the Little Ice Age, and declaring that the start of the temperature ‘record’ began just over a century ago – that climate activists can claim ‘record’ present heat.” In reality, climate science goes well beyond thermometer records from 1850 to present (as alarming as those are), to include measurements of sea level change, glacial and ice sheet melting, ice sheet core samples, ocean heat content, tree-line changes, just to name a few.

Further rebuttal of the content is beyond the scope of this letter, but these arguments have been refuted many times before, e.g., see https://skepticalscience.com/argument.php.

Please explain this editorial decision
What I’d like to know is why MLive saw fit to publish this piece. Was it a rushed page, copied-and-pasted from InsideSources without any review? Or was it a lack of interest by those responsible for putting together the page? Or was it perhaps intentional, to willingly participate in sowing doubt about the need for urgent climate action?

I’d like to see this addressed in a Letters from the Editor or in a future editorial, as I’m sure other readers are also interested. Your response will help me decide whether to continue or cancel my paid subscription.


Heidi Koester

Keep us posted!

If you do write a letter, let us know: post a comment below or send a message to the WCR group at washtenawclimatereality@umich.edu. Thanks for taking action!

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