By Drew Johnson
In September, over 170 news outlets around the world devoted coverage to climate change.
The project, dubbed Covering Climate Now, may seem like a feel-good effort to raise awareness of sound environmental policies. But it’s actually an attempt by climate extremists to go mainstream.
The weeklong campaign was officially spearheaded by The Nation, but it’s the brainchild of Bill McKibben, a well-known climate activist who for years has worked to brand fossil fuel companies as “Public Enemy Number One.”
Covering Climate Now is McKibben’s attempt to give his activism a mainstream platform. Like the rest of McKibben’s work, this campaign sacrifices pragmatic reform in favor of radical change, and does so at the expense of vulnerable communities.
The Nation launched Covering Climate Now back in April, at a five-hour event with panels full of climate extremists. They claimed that quickly transitioning to renewable energy is our best chance at avoiding catastrophe.
After turning up the threat level, conference leaders issued their call to action: seven days of climate-focused coverage, leading up to the UN Climate Action Summit on September 23. The campaign’s organizers claimed it was not an attempt to “tell people what to write or broadcast.” That proved false from the outset.
Covering Climate Now began with an email campaign designed to bully journalists into supporting the project. The emails called on reporters to stop “underplaying the climate story.”
These emails also included sources for journalists to consult when writing their climate stories. For the most part, the emails linked to opinion pieces that relied on selective data and alarmist rhetoric.”
According to the organization’s website, journalists can even “learn the science” of climate change from Bill McKibben.”
There’s just one problem — McKibben’s writings contain more rhetoric than science.
Consider his work at 350.org, an anti-fossil fuel group he co-founded. The group likens the extraction of oil, gas, and coal reserves to the “crimes of slavery, totalitarianism, colonialism or apartheid.”
According to McKibben, the only way to end these “crimes” is to stop harnessing fossil fuels altogether. He thinks America should rely entirely on renewable energy sources, like solar and wind power.
That’s basically impossible. Renewables currently account for just 17 percent of our nation’s electricity, while fossil fuels provide over 60 percent. Generating enough renewable energy to completely replace fossil fuels would cost the average household close to $2,000 a year.
These increased costs would hit low-income Americans the hardest. On average, poor rural households spend close to 9 percent of their annual income on energy bills. That’s more than double what the median urban household spends.
Switching to renewable energy sources will force these vulnerable Americans to spend even more of their income on energy bills. Meanwhile, fossil fuels are saving Americans money. Thanks to the natural gas boom, the average U.S. household is spending nearly $3,000 less each year on energy than experts had predicted.
The folks behind Covering Climate Now are right about one thing: we need to have a balanced conversation about climate change. But doing so will require presenting the facts, not strong-arming the media into reprinting activist talking points.
Drew Johnson is a national political columnist and former opinion page editor