For several years as the tone and timber of climate change alarmism have increased in the media, I’ve wondered how newspapers, magazines, TV networks and websites will disengage if the predictions of doom don’t come true. How many tipping points will come and go before someone, somewhere in editorial authority, realizes their hunting dogs have been barking up an empty tree, that the raccoon was never there in the first place?
Today’s blaring headlines create a for-the-record chronology of what might become the word’s largest case study of global media delusion. It takes only a single report, study or speculation to start a cascade of related climate change stories on the Internet. And the further from the tree the fruit falls, the more the facts are stretched.
Take, for instance, this one from Britain’s The Guardian: “Climate change and resource scarcity may wipe out pensions industry.” The article is about the failure of actuaries to factor the effects of global warming in their pension planning financials.
“Millions of people in the UK alone will lose their entire nest egg,” the article claims. The blogosphere picked up the headline and ran with it. “Climate change could wipe out pensions in 30 years” declared an atheist online forum. Apparently, if you don’t believe in God, you at least need to have a diversified retirement portfolio.
An Australian renewable energy site one-upped the atheists with this headline: “Swan dive on climate as study warns of disappearing pensions.” And so it goes whenever so-called links are purported to exist between global warming and a malady, shortage, calamity or disaster.
“Climate change may increase volcanic eruptions” was another recent tooth-grinding example. The inane article, which is still bouncing around on the Internet, included this quote by a researcher: “We predict there’s a time lag of about 2,500 years, so even if we change the climate, you wouldn’t really expect anything to happen in the next few thousand years.”
Another corker: “Climate change and obesity.” In this one, a medical doctor posits that by reducing the carbon intensity of our diet, we would prevent global catastrophe and become skinny.
I’m frankly tired of reading about how climate change will hurt the coffee bean crop, French wines, fine chocolate, truffles, the fishing industry and polar bears. So in the tradition of current climate change journalism, I have created some headlines of my own, tongue-in-cheek, of course. I wonder if any of the following satirical treatments would take on lives of their own if I posted them?
“New York Times lays off reporters, blaming climate change and obesity…”
“Study finds global warming a threat to woolen sock industry…”
“Climate change will cause Long Islanders to speak with a Southern drawl…”
“Department of Interior leases foreheads of Mt. Rushmore presidents for solar arrays…”
“Climate models developed by ancient Mayans showed tipping point occurred December 21, 2012…”
“New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg orders climate skeptics to wear signs announcing ‘The end is near’ and stand on street corners.”
“Global warming predicted to result in bonanza for underarm deodorant makers; insulated underwear manufacturers not so optimistic.”
“In response to Department of Transportation’s concern that electric cars pose danger to pedestrians by being too silent, new models will quack like ducks and smell of lemon…”
“Global warming necessitates naming all extreme weather events: ‘Fuzzy’ is first named zero-visibility fog of year.”
“Hermit stranded on deserted island declares himself a nation and seeks global warming reparation funds from U.S.”
“Green NASCAR to equip racers with sails.”
“Gary Larson comes out of retirement to revive ‘Far Side’ comic, saying climate change humor possibilities too great to ignore.”
And finally: “Climate change could turn humans into hobbit-like creatures.” This one, I confess, is not made up. It actually appeared in a British newspaper, The Telegraph, earlier in January and proves a point made by Abraham Lincoln: “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.”
■ Steve Oden is an award-winning columnist and former newspaper editor in Tennessee and Alabama.