Alarming IPCC Report Scarcely Covered by the New York Times

Last month, an intergovernmental body of the United Nations, IPCC, released an alarming report on climate change. Among other things, the report said that human activity has raised global temperature by 1 degree Celsius.

Going forward, we are fighting to keep temperatures below 1.5 degrees from the pre-industrial levels. Even if we achieve this target, the climate situation will get worse. Storms will hit oftener, acidic levels in our oceans will rise, whole species of plants and animals will disappear, fishery catches will decline by a factor of millions of tons, and entire ecosystems will irreversibly transform.

This is if we achieve our target.

Things would inevitably get worse but our earth would remain habitable for our species. If we do not pay heed to the IPCC’s warning and continue burning fuel, global temperature could go above 2 degrees Celsius. At that point, human survival becomes difficult if not impossible.

If we do not reduce our emissions by 2030, consequences will be even direr. Our carbon emissions have to go down by 45% from 2010 levels until 2030. However, slashing emissions does not stop there. We have to keep reducing the emissions to a net-zero by 2050.

If we do not act by 2030, the climate catastrophes could be limitless. It is easy to feel overwhelmed and think the whole situation hopeless. The Trump administration tried to do just that. They came out with a 500-page environmental impact statement in which they said that a 7 degree Celsius rise in global temperature was inevitable.

Rather than underwhelm the climatic data as conservatives usually do, they exaggerated it. It was not to prompt a quick action but to do the opposite. They tried to create a narrative that no matter how much we cut down the carbon emissions it would not be enough. If you accept this premise, it becomes hard to fight for sterner fuel efficiency standards due to the futility of it all.

In the face of the existential threat facing our species, when IPPC comes out with a warning, how does the New York Times cover it? To evaluate the New York Times’ coverage of the climate change report, I will compare it to a coinciding political event.

The Methodology of the Research

For this article, I used the print version of the New York Times published for the New York audience. Thus, the headings I quote here might differ from those published in the Times’ International or National versions.

The IPPC report came out on October 8, two days after Senate confirmed Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. I went over two weeks worth of coverage of both of these issues.

I looked up the coverage on both these issues from the 1st of October to the 15th. So, I covered a week’s worth of coverage leading up to the climax and a week following it. Choosing such a timeframe allowed me to focus specifically on the issues without letting secondary consideration affect the conclusions.

New York Times Coverage on Brett Kavanaugh

First, let’s look at the amount of coverage the New York Times gave to Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation process.

October 1st, 2018: On this date, the New York Times ran three pieces covering Brett Kavanaugh.

Democrats Irked by limits placed on FBI’s inquiry’ by Michael D. Shear and Robin Pogrebin

A quiet docket may ease furor over top court’ by Adam Liptak

SNL calls on a celebrity to testify’ by Dave Itzkoff.

October 2nd, 2018: There were seven pieces on or about Brett Kavanaugh on this date along with letters to the editor.

Trump allows wider review of Kavanaugh’ by Peter Baker and Michael S. Schmidt.

Temperament and credibility become focus’ by Sheryl Gay Stolberg

At beery Yale, Curses, Fists, Glass, Blood, and a Student’ by Emily Bazelon and Ben Protess.

Trump accuses Democrats of hypocrisy and dishonesty’ by Catie Edmondson

After watching hearing, woman names politician she says raped her’ by Sarah Mervosh.

Opinion: ‘A hamstrung supreme court?’ By Laurence H. Tribe.

Biden has eye on 2020, but 1991 shadows him’ by Alexander Burns and Jonathan Martin.

The last of the articles concerning Joe Biden was not directly about Brett Kavanaugh. Nevertheless, it contains nuances to Kavanaugh in that that it brings up Biden’s comments in 1991 about the needlessness of an FBI probe into Clarence Thomas. As it says in the article, Biden’s spokesperson denied that he ever denied the value of an FBI probe into Anita Hill’s allegations.

October 3rd, 2018: New York Times ran six articles about Brett Kavanaugh and published letters from the leaders.

GOP presses to vote in days on Kavanaugh’ by Sheryl Gay Stolberg and Michael D. Shear.

Letter from 1983 offers glimpse of Nominee’s high school clique’ by Kate Kelly and David Enrich.

Bar association revised rating of Judge in 2006’ by Adam Liptak.

Kavanaugh’s fate rests with five senators’ by Catie Edmondson.

Kavanaugh hearing shows drift from decorum’ by Nicholas Fandos.

Nine arrested after sit-in at senator’s office’ by Liam Stack.

October 4th, 2018: New York Times ran three articles and an opinion piece about Brett Kavanaugh and published letters from the readers.

In risky shift, President and GOP slam accuser’ by Peter Baker.

Unfazed by protests, McConnell focuses on tilting courts’ by Carl Hulse and Jonathan Martin.

Senate Republicans ready for confirmation vote ahead of FBI review’ by Peter Baker, Nicholas Fandos, Sheryl Gay Stolberg, and Michael S. Schmidt.

(Opinion) ‘3 Questions for Judge Kavanaugh’ by Nicholas Kristoff.

October 5th, 2018: There were five articles about Brett Kavanaugh, an Editorial, and letters to the editor.

Deeply split senate enters final stage on Kavanaugh’ by Nicholas Fandos and Sheryl Gay Stolberg.

GOP strokes anger about accusations to fire up voters’ by Jeremy W. Peters and Maggie Haberman

Stories on court steps and mass arrests as capital boils’ by Elizabeth Williamson.

Early fan of nominee changes his opinion’ by Adam Liptak.

One face, among many at hearing, causes a rift at Facebook’ by Mike Issac.

A test of Mr. Kavanaugh, and America’ by the Editorial Board.

October 6th, 2018: Just a day before Brett Kavanaugh would be confirmed to the Supreme Court, New York Times ran nine pieces about him. They also published letters from the readers.

Votes secured to confirm Kavanaugh’ by Sheryl Gay Stolberg and Nicholas Fandos.

After lots of bluster, reasons to brag’ by Peter Baker.

With her regular ally absent, Collins tells how she got to yes’ by Carl Hulse.

Bitter Tenor of Senate reflects a country at odds with itself’ by Alexander Burns.

Battle to flip Nevada blue includes a wildcard (Kavanaugh)’ by Sydney Ember.

Nominee advances, but policy on sexual misconduct seems stuck’ by Emily Cochrane.

Plan for reopening the FBI review was limited from the very start’ by Michael D. Shear, Michael S. Schmidt and Adam Goldman.

Vows or a vote: Senator could run into a conflict’ by Catie Edmondson and Emily Baumgaertner.

House Democrat promises an investigation of Kavanaugh if his party wins control’ by Nicholas Fandos and Sheryl Gay Stolberg.

October 7th, 2018: Just a day after the Senate confirmed Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, the New York Times published three pieces about him.

Senate votes 50-48 to put Kavanaugh on Supreme Court’ by Sheryl Gay Stolberg.

Confirmation battle may have eroded the public trust’ by Adam Liptak.

A nomination is rescued by a display of rage and resentment’ by Peter Baker and Nicholas Fandos.

October 8th, 2018: On this date, the New York Times ran five pieces. They also published letters from the readers written in response to previous articles about Brett Kavanaugh.

Court showdown invigorates GOP in crucial races’ by Jonathan Martin.

Kavanaugh fight left Senate badly scarred’ by Carl Hulse.

With the battle over, a new justice quickly gets to work and sets a record’ by Adam Liptak.

Disputing legitimacy of the process, left eyes ways to undo new bloc’ by Charlie Savage

In ‘SNL’ sketch, Republicans celebrate’ by Dave Itzkoff.

October 9th, 2018: The New York Times published three articles about Brett Kavanaugh and an opinion piece.

Trump gambles that he can turn Kavanaugh ‘hoax’ into midterms plus’ by Peter Baker.

Manchin’s ‘Yes’ on Kavanaugh finds sympathy Among West Virginia voters’ by Catie Edmondson.

(Opinion) ‘We should not gloat about Kavanaugh’ by David Marcus.

Fact Check’ by Linda Qiu.

October 10th, 2018: There were four pieces about Brett Kavanaugh in the paper.

From the hot seat to the bench: Kavanaugh hears his first arguments’ by Adam Liptak and Noah Wieland.

Outrage over Kavanaugh becomes fuel for Republicans in midterm races’ by Jeremy W. Peters

How did people react to the Kavanaugh confirmation? 40,000 told us’ by Kelly Virella.

For the first time, more women than men’ by Emily Baumgaertner

October 11th, 2018: The New York Times only had two pieces about Brett Kavanaugh on this date.

Argument reveals the divide between the newest justices’ by Adam Liptak.

FBI chief calls review of nominee ‘standard’’ by Adam Goldman

October 12th, 2018: There was only one opinion piece about Brett Kavanaugh along with letters from the readers.

‘(Opinion) The supreme court’s outsize role’ by Barry P. MacDonald.

October 13th, 2018: I found no article written specifically about Brett Kavanaugh for this date.

October 14th, 2018: There was only one piece about Brett Kavanaugh in the paper on this date. It was not directly about Kavanaugh but talked about the healing relationship between Trump and Mitch and McConnell. It was ‘At Kentucky Rally, signs of a mended rift’ by Emily Cochrane.

 

Coverage of the IPCC Report

The IPCC report came out on October 8. I looked for any mention thereof from October 1 to the 15th, using the same timeframe as I did for coverage of Kavanaugh’s confirmation.

October 1st, 2018: No mention of the coming IPCC report or anything concerning climate change.

October 2nd, 2018: There was no article about the coming IPCC report or anything else on the subject of climate change.

October 3rd, 2018: Trip Gabriel wrote a piece titled ‘Wildfires and Floods, but Little Talk of Climate Change by Candidates’. It was not directly about the IPCC report but at least it mentioned climate change.

October 4th, 2018: No coverage of the IPCC report or climate change.

October 5th, 2018: Nothing on the subject of climate change.

October 6th, 2018: No article or opinion piece about the IPCC report or climate change.

October 7th, 2018: Auden Schendler and Andrew P. Jones co-authored an article titled ‘Stopping Climate Change Is Hopeless. Let’s Do It’. In it, they did talk about the coming IPCC report. It bears pointing out that this was the first mention of the IPCC report in that period.

Trip Gabriel’s article though highlighted the importance of making climate change a campaign issue, there was no mention of the coming IPCC report.

October 8th, 2018: On this day, the New York Times published a co-authored article by John Schwartz and Kevin Sack. They titled it ‘Ignoring Climate Science, FEMA Is Mired in Cycle of Repairs’. It was a good article but it made no mention of the IPCC report at all. The only reason I have included it here is that it at least mentioned climate change.

October 9th, 2018: On October 9, New York Times had a front-page article by Mark Landler and Coral Davenport. The title of their piece was ‘Climate Change Warning hits silent wall on Trump’s desk’. Therefore, it was not exclusively about climate change per se, they wanted to make Trump look stupid, which does not take a lot of effort.

It would have been a heck of a lot better had they ran a front-page article exclusively about the important takeaways from the IPCC report. To make matters worse, the Times did not even publish Coral Davenport’s in-depth analysis of the IPCC report in print. It was only available online.

On the same day, there was another article on climate change by Brad Plumer. Coral Davenport contributed to this piece as well. It was titled ‘UN Climate expert urges putting a price on carbon’. In that, Plumer referenced other reports and quoted an author of the IPCC report, Drew Shindell of the Duke University.

The Times also published a letter from their reader.

October 10th, 2018: Semini Sengupta published a piece titled ‘Projection on Climate Is Ominous. Now What?‘.

On top of Sengupta’s article, the Times also published an Editorial on the subject of climate change in the context of the recent IPCC report.

October 11th, 2018: There were two pieces in the Times’ print version for this date. One of them was an article by Henry Fountain titled ‘A Triple Threat from Climate Change: More Rain in Larger Storms on Rising Seas’. The second piece was an opinion piece by Nicholas Kristoff titled ‘The ‘Greatest Hoax’ strikes Florida’.

However, in the opinion piece, Nicholas Kristoff referenced the IPCC report only once and that too in the context of Trump’s indifference toward the threat that climate change poses.

October 12th, 2018: No coverage of climate change or the IPCC report.

October 13th, 2018: There was no piece concerning climate change or the IPCC report.

October 14th, 2018: Nothing in the Times’ print version about the climate change report.

October 15th, 2018: Nothing about the climate change or the IPCC report.

So to put the number of articles and opinion pieces covering Kavanaugh versus the IPCC report or the climate change as a whole, see the table below.

 

Date

Pieces about Kavanaugh

Pieces about Climate Change

01-Oct

3 0

02-Oct

7

0

03-Oct

6

1

04-Oct

4

0

05-Oct

6

0

06-Oct

9

0

07-Oct

3

1

08-Oct

5

1

09-Oct 4

2

10-Oct

4

2

11-Oct

2

2

12-Oct

1

0

13-Oct

0

0

14-Oct

1

0

15-Oct

0

0

Total 55

8

 

Seven days before and after Kavanaugh’s confirmation, the New York Times ran 55 pieces in print covering him.

While for the IPCC report or the topic of climate change, leading up the release of the report to a week that followed it, the New York Times ran only 8 pieces covering it. Even if you took the whole October coverage on the climate issues rather than just two weeks, you would still find only 22 pieces.

The small research detailed in this blog gives an insight into how the New York Times has become a partisan rag. Rather than bringing up the issues that concern us the most, it dives into the partisan politics.

Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination was an important event. However, it is petty when compared to the question of basic human survival. Giving Kavanaugh’s confirmation such a massive amount of coverage in the face of alarms sounded by the IPCC report is like fighting over the armrest while the airplane is in a nosedive.

2 Comments

  1. Excellent review- thesis confirmed. There’s a deeper point, too, that the NYT coverage is so banal, especially the cheerleading for “faith” that got Schednler’s vacuous piece published.

    Like

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