After seeing U.S. President-elect Donald Trump fool the New York Times in a face-to-face meeting last week, veteran climate hawk Joe Romm of the Center for American Progress is urging the country’s media to judge the new administration by what it does, not by what it says.
“Donald Trump spouted incoherent, anti-scientific nonsense on climate change at length with New York Times reporters and editors Tuesday — and they totally fell for it,” Romm writes. Trump claimed he has an “open mind” on climate, all the while spouting false uncertainties that would hit the mainstream at any gathering of climate deniers.
“It’s a very complex subject,” Trump said, according to the New York Times transcript of the meeting. “I’m not sure anybody is ever going to really know…. they say they have science on one side but then they also have those horrible emails that were sent between the scientists….Terrible. Where they got caught, you know, so you see that and you say, what’s this all about. I absolutely have an open mind.”
(The “horrible” emails where the authors allegedly “got caught” refers to a decade-old, manufactured attack in which climate deniers stole, then misinterpreted entirely legitimate private emails between climate scientists—as seven independent inquiries went to the trouble of establishing.)
But that still matters more than the climate denial Trump has moved to entrench in staffing his administration.
“Pay no attention,” Romm writes, “to the hardcore climate denier that Trump named his chief White House strategist, the hardcore climate denier Trump put in charge of the EPA transition (and who is on the shortlist to run the EPA), the climate action opponent Trump named as his Chief of Staff, the fossil fuel executives and lobbyists overseeing his transition for the departments of Energy and Interior, and the conservative Supreme Court judge he can name who would be the fifth vote to block the EPA’s modest domestic climate plan.”
Unfortunately, the Times may have missed the opportunity to up its game on climate change reporting. After the paper advertised for a new Climate Editor—and after a succession of friends and colleagues urged him to respond—futurist Alex Steffen threw his hat in the ring for the job.
Applicants were asked what they would do to revitalize paper’s climate reporting. Steffen responded by urging the Times to “seek out new audiences, new voices, and new methodologies that all work together to enable powerful storytelling about complex and fast-changing systems.” That would have meant engaging more deeply at the risk of narrowing the audience for climate coverage, making climate reporting more complex in the hope of making the issue easier to understand, and making the coverage more exploratory to give it more vitality and exploratory.
“They’re going to hire someone else. I think I’m still right,” Steffen writes on Medium.