Grist's coverage of Copenhagen climate talks

Today’s Politico headline from Copenhagen is: “Climategate distracts at Copenhagen.” This seems based on a very low bar for what constitutes a distraction.

Is the international summit torn now between resolutions saying global warming is a moral imperative or a dastardly hoax perpetrated by the sinister scientist conspiracy? Hardly.

Is there one country that previously was open to a climate agreement, and now is suddenly abandoning it? Nope.

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Is there one U.S. Senator changing his or her position on a cap-and-trade bill after the ginned up right-wing hysteria? Not a one. Politico‘s basis for the headline is: “‘Climategate’ has muddied the good green message that was supposed to come out of the United Nations climate change talks here, forcing leaders to spend time justifying the science behind global warming when they want to focus on ending it.”

That’s evidence for summit participants being distracted by bored reporters waiting for real news to materialize as negotiators do their work. Much like the “Swift Boat” attack against Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), even after the Climategate allegations have been debunked, much of the media still keeps recycling the charges in unprofessional he-said-she-said style.

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But I don’t want to malign the media too broadly. Most the news coverage out of Copenhagen I’m seeing is about the jockeying between the countries. “Climategate” is, literally, a sideshow. The criminals who stole the emails and the right-wingers who then blatantly took the contents out of context have had a good media run the past few weeks — many reporters are suckers for right-wing bait. But the Right has little to show for it.

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Conservatives have not derailed the possibility of international agreement. If negotiators do come up short it will be because of aid to poor nations, not because of sudden doubts about climate science.

Conservatives have not derailed by the possibility of American legislative action following Copenhagen. Rare conservative realist Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) is still working on legislation with President Obama and Sen. Kerry.

And American public opinion polls still show strong majorities in favor of a carbon cap. There is a bump in global warming denial, but that happened before the climate scientists’ emails were stolen, and it only reflects a consolidation of opinion among the right-wing minority.

The “Climategate” cranks will surely be an annoyance throughout Copenhagen, but they have yet to become a substantive distraction. A better headline from Politico would have been: “Debunked Psuedo-Scandal Sputters Out At Copenhagen.”

(Originally posted at

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