Last Thursday, President George Bush unveiled a new climate change initiative, and this was further elaborated upon in a press conference by Jim Connaughton, Chairman of the Council on Environmental Quality (all of this, interestingly enough, as NASA Administrator Michael Griffin bizarrely proclaims that global warming isn’t really a big deal after all). Although the Bush plan was given quite a bit of attention in the media, it’s not a major departure from administration policy, as it continues to flout the tried and true international process led by the UN and does not insist on mandatory emissions caps.
Dan Froomkin of the Washington Post describes this surprisingly credulous media reaction and comments on the differences between the responses of the American and international media. For example, check out the headlines from the major U.S. news sources. On 31 May, the Washington Post reports that “Bush Proposes Talks on Warming” and on 1 June, The New York Times reports that “Bush Proposes Goals on Greenhouse Gas Emissions” and the Los Angeles Times reports that “Bush offers to take climate lead”. In contrast, the Guardian reports on 1 June that “Bush kills off hopes for G8 climate change plan” and called “Bush’s emission plan ‘a delaying tactic’.” Although The New York Times published a fairly skeptical editorial entitled “Playing to the Crowd: Talk About Warming,” it is nothing compared to the commentary in The Independent entitled “Bush sidesteps G8’s climate change agenda.”
To be fair, even the stories in the American media are fairly nuanced and give a decent amount of coverage to the obvious downsides of Bush’s climate change plan. However, these objections are generally buried deep in the articles, and they are not apparent at all from the headlines. What may be even more telling, though, is the striking difference between the headlines released by the Associated Press (AP) and by its UK counterpart, Reuters.
- 2 June: Bush Previews European Trip Initiatives
- 1 June: U.N. Welcomes New US Climate Change Move
- 31 May: Bush Calls for Global Emissions Goals
- 3 June: Cracks on Climate as G8 Leaders Meet In Germany
- 1 June:
Bush climate plan “the classic U.S. line”: EU
- 1 June: Pelosi says Bush “in denial” on warming
- 1 June:
Europeans cool to Bush plan on climate change
- 31 May: Bush wants global meeting on climate change
- 31 May: Bush unveils climate strategy ahead of G8
Although a lot of this can probably be attributed to differing media cultures between the US and the UK, it is disappointing to see that the American media continues to give undue credence to the current president, at the expense of direct reporting on such an important issue as global warming.