Emitting Signals, Part II

Perhaps climate hawks with the financial ability to build a “green noise machine” to explain to the American people how urgent the climate crisis is won’t grasp the need to do so until, as widely rumored, Chris Hayes is removed from MSNBC’s airwaves.

For the past few years–all the way back to his guest appearances on the network in the late-2000s–Hayes has done flawless work in terms of explaining the multiple risks to humanity posed by carbon pollution. His analysis of the climate crisis on Up (2011-2013) and All In (2013-present) has been exemplary. I still remember being moved by his monologue the weekend after Superstorm Sandy, where he declared that Americans could no longer ignore the depravity of the fossil-fuel industry:

It’s true that Sandy was a freak storm, a bad-luck confluence of a number of low probability events that could conceivably have happened in some alternate climate that wasn’t warming. But this climate, our climate, is warming, and as it does, low probability events like this will become more probable, and more intense.

Carbon emissions are trapping extra energy in our atmosphere, and with extra energy come more extremes: higher sea levels, dryer droughts, hotter heat waves, and heavier, wetter storms.

We need a crash program in this country right now to re-engineer the nation’s infrastructure to cope with and prepare for the climate disruptions that we have already ensured with the carbon we’ve already put into the atmosphere, as well as an immediate, aggressive transformation of our energy production, economy and society to reduce the amount of carbon we’ll put into the atmosphere in the future.

This is as fundamental, as elemental as human endeavors get. The story of civilization is the long tale of crusaders for order battling the unceasing reality of chaos. And it is a kind of miracle that we have succeeded as much as we have, that airplanes fly through the air, and roads plunge beneath the water and the entire teeming latticework of human life exists in the manifold improbable places it does. But it is the grand irony that in imposing this improbable order on the world, we’ve released millions of years of stored up carbon into the atmosphere, which is now altering the climate and threatening the very monuments of civilization that we so cherish.

We absolutely have it within us, collectively, to beat back the forces of chaos once again. But we must choose to do so. And the time for choosing is now. You are either on the side of your fellow citizens and residents of this planet, or you are on the side of the storms as yet unnamed.

You cannot be neutral.

Which side are you on?

Hayes has delivered day-in and day-out, despite an obvious lack of promotion relative to other stars on MSNBC. If he’s forced out, such a decision will be every bit as repugnant and immoral as the network’s decision to get rid of Phil Donahue in 2003 and Keith Olbermann in 2011. However, such a ghastly decision could be the only thing that shocks the conscience of climate hawks with financial resources–shocks them enough to start building a real green media infrastructure in this country.

It was thirty-five years ago this month–on April 3, 1980 to be precise–that the late Walter Cronkite alerted viewers of the CBS Evening News to the rising climate crisis:

As Peter Dykstra of the Daily Climate notes, Cronkite’s climate courage is hard to find in the corridors of corporate media today:

Despite thirty-five years of accumulating evidence, national TV news can’t much be bothered with covering it. CNN boss Jeff Zucker candidly said last year that climate change “deserves more attention,” but there’s “a tremendous lack of interest on the audience’s part.”

In all likelihood, the no-nonsense, avuncular Cronkite or Nelson Benton couldn’t get past the first job interview today. And the top-rated anchorman doesn’t get called “The Most Trusted Man in America” anymore. For the past several years, the top-rated anchor has been Brian Williams, and neither he nor his rivals or successors would air a prime time editorial to change hearts and minds on climate change.

Thirty-five years after Cronkite connected the climate dotsand less than a year after the premiere of Showtime’s Years of Living Dangerously documentary miniseries–it’s clear that the only sustained coverage of the climate crisis will have to come from climate hawks–the ones with the means and the motivation to tell this story without fear or favor. We need an anti-Fox, an anti-Rush, an anti-Breitbart (well, the Grim Reaper was the anti-Breitbart, but still…) We need a communications apparatus that will allow climate scientists and climate activists to explain to the American public what’s at stake. We need a “green noise machine”–and, like a solution to the climate crisis, we need it now more than ever.

D.R. Tucker

D. R. Tucker is a Massachusetts-based journalist who has served as the weekend contributor for the Washington Monthly since May 2014. He has also written for the Huffington Post, the Washington Spectator, the Metrowest Daily News, investigative journalist Brad Friedman's Brad Blog and environmental journalist Peter Sinclair's Climate Crocks.