In an Op-Ed in Wednesday’s Washington Post, David Ingatius muses whether, in the press’s collective posture on global warming, “we are all but ignoring the biggest story in the history of humankind.”
Setting aside for the moment issues such as his overly generous — and blame-diluting — usage of the royal we, and the question of why someone as well-placed as he is doesn’t decide to do something about it, I’d like to muse a little myself about the best way of writing about global warming.
Many have blamed politicians’ failure to take global warming seriously on scientists’ techno-prose and reluctance to make unequivocal conclusions concerning their highly complex research. A failure to communicate, if you will.
Ignatius deems Elizabeth Kolbert the best reporter on the subject, and I can’t argue with that conclusion on the whole, except to say that in her latest article in the Jan. 9 edition of the New Yorker, titled "Butterfly Lessons," readers are treated to two pages of butterfly trivia, including no less than eight Latin names, before giving the reader any indication that the article is really about global warming, how it’s killing butterflies, and how we’re next.
Frankly, I’d like to see a page taken from the Bush Administration’s 9/11 discourse: In every newspaper, a quote a day from a top scientist saying: "We’re scared as shit. And you should be too."