After Nordicity has spent a week on the op-ed page of the Yukon News, it appears on the paper’s website, where readers are offered the opportunity to comment. Yukoners are a busy lot, and it’s not every week that anyone troubles to respond. Much depends on the topic.
Local issues tend to inspire more replies, as do certain key subjects. Chickens, cats, and proportional representation usually strike a spark, and breasts, religion, and marijuana seldom miss, while columns about politics often receive several “recommends” but very seldom any actual response. There is only one subject guaranteed a reaction, and that is global warming.
Climate change deniers are not shy, nor are they tormented by doubts. The International Panel on Climate Change may be 95 per cent certain that humanity is on a collision course with anthropogenic climate change, but deniers are 100 per cent sure that it’s all a hoax designed to cow the masses and rake in a fortune selling solar panels to the deluded.
Somewhere, they know, on some grassy knoll, a secret team of greenwashing pseudo-scientists concocts fake studies which, through the machinations of a giant conspiracy, pass the rigours of scientific peer-review and become one with the mass delusion. The rest of us, those who rely on the word of climate scientists for our information on the subject, are lefties, fools, and sheep.
Comments are often peppered with links to websites where we can discover the real science. The London tabloid The Daily Mail is presented as a source of the real dope on the myth of global warming, as is the web-based Canada Free Press, whose masthead motto is “Because without America there is no Free World.” So far, no offers of links to peer-reviewed scientific journals where I might become properly enlightened on the great climate change hoax.
I don’t mean to suggest that the web page is overwhelmed by these responses: I get one, two, maybe four or five at best. It’s not as though deniers are desperate for a place to air their views. For those who wish to refute the Great Hoax, there are a host of hosts for their opinions.
In the world of climate change denial, Nordicity is small cheese, but my numbers may be about to go up, because this week there’s one fewer high profile venue in which to expose the conspiracy: Paul Thornton, letters page editor of the LA Times, has revealed that he no longer accepts letters claiming that anthropogenic climate change does not exist.
The statement was, in fact, an aside in a piece about the Tea Party’s shut-down of the U.S. government. Mr. Thornton was explaining that he will not publish letters alleging that Congress exempted itself from the health care law, because the allegation is false, and the paper does not print letters which present untruths. He offered as an example letters “that say there’s no sign humans have caused climate change.”
This is a most unfortunate policy. One of the keys to a good newspaper is a lively letters section, and there is nothing like an obsession with the facts to take the wind out of a good argument. Having a fact checker on the letters page is like putting a soccer referee in charge of a hockey game. By the second period, he’s red-carded all the tough guys out of the game, and the stands are rapidly emptying.
If a newspaper doesn’t get your blood boiling at least once in a thorough reading, you’ve missed an important part of the experience. What’s a Saturday morning behind the paper if you don’t get it shaking in outrage at some point? And while you can always take exception to the view expressed in a column or an editorial there’s nothing that quite gets the caffeine pumping like a total departure from the known facts.
Another experience your newspaper should provide is a good laugh, and again, there’s nothing like an unrestrained letters section or comments page. And since one of the best gags going is somebody failing to see what’s staring them in the face, the LA Times is doing its readers a great disservice by blacking out the climate change deniers and other fact-changers.
So please, if you believe that climate change is a religion, that Al Gore made it all up so he could get rich trading carbon credits, or that the Daily Mail is a better source of accurate science than the journal Nature, don’t hold back. Our readers need you to complete the newspaper experience. Give us both barrels, every time the subject of global warming comes up. And there will be no shortage of opportunity. With the glaciers melting and the waters rising, rest assured, it will come up.
Al Pope won the Canadian Community Newspaper Award for best columnist in 2013. He also won the Ma Murray Award for Best Columnist in B.C./Yukon in 2010 and 2002.