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350 PPM Finally Making Waves in the US, But Lack of COP-15 Coverage Still Disturbing


Ryan Brown–Chicago, Illinois, USA

COP-15 received some local attention in the Chicago Tribune today, but the article and it’s placement in the paper underscore the lack of coverage that the conference has had here at home.

One of the hardest things about global climate change here in the United States has been how little the public knows about it. The debate on the validity of climate change that continues today is riddled with half truths, exaggerations and lies. In part this may be due to how little coverage the science behind climate change gets on a daily basis. The media instead focuses on firestorm topics like climate-gate and politics of cap and trade that distract the reader from the certainty of the science and the need for action.

As I have been reading the newspapers of my hometown Chicago, it has become obvious that the media here in the Midwest is far more interested in covering any controversy associated with climate change rather than the facts about it or the progress being made in Copenhagen over the last two weeks.

An article in today’s Chicago Tribune explains the basic facts surrounding the number 350 PPM and its importance to climate change activists. The article explains that the number is associated with 350 parts per million of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere—the level at which most climate scientists agree the earth can hold without sparking dangerous climate change effects. The article also goes on to explain that this level was surpassed in 1989. Recent studies have shown that today we are closer to 390 PPM.

The problem though is that this coverage is rather basic. It doesn’t acknowledge what specific effects this level (and levels higher) could have on our global landscape. Nor does it address the ill effects that inaction could have in the short term. It simply summarizes that this number is important to the activists who staged a large rally yesterday in Copenhagen, and that the issues facing the international negotiations are complicated.

The article wasn’t even listed on the Chicago Tribune’s front page of their website, meaning that anyone interested in COP-15 or climate change would have to look hard to find coverage. As local papers in the Midwest have focused on stories like Tiger Woods and Santa Claus, coverage on COP-15 has been virtually nonexistent.

At the bottom of the article there is an editors’ note that refers the reader to complete coverage of COP-15 on a Facebook account. Seriously.

Such abysmal coverage of one of the most important international negotiations in recent history is an embarrassment to journalism here in America. The outcome of these international talks will resonate for years to come. Instead of giving COP-15 the coverage it deserves, The Chicago Tribune—the most trusted, highest circulated newspaper in the Midwest—refers its readers to Facebook for complete coverage.

No wonder the public is so ill informed.

One Comment leave one →
  1. kkauffman permalink*
    12/14/09 6:11 am

    Hey Ryan, Thanks for the Midwest perspective. I imagine next week when Obama and the other heads of government arrive that the media spotlight will shine. Right now, it’s hard to know where the negotiations are exactly.
    p.s. Jim Rogers is here already….

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