Monday, December 12, 2005

Both LAT and NYT Delving More Into Global Warming

Global warming is becoming a more prominent subject in the news media, as the Bush Administration tries to fight off pressure from many other countries to do something about it.

One trouble is that the Administration blindly refuses to admit that it exists.

Yet it is fair to say that through the rest of the political world, it is widely presumed it does exist, and scientific measurements certainly indicate the world has, on the average, been heating up. Projections show that in the next century, global warming could threaten many countries.

Three major stories over the last week have dealt with the subject. First, were meetings in Montreal that once again examined, over the objections of the U.S., cutting back the hydrocarbons believed by most scientists to be a primary cause. Little concrete was accomplished, because of the objections of the U.S. delegates, the principal at one point actually walking out, because he didn't like the character of the proceedings. Former U.S. President Bill Clinton spoke to this meeting, gently suggesting that the Bush Administration shouldn't be such obstructionists, to no avail.

Second was an excellent story by Robert Lee Hotz, a LAT science writer, looking at how the Netherlands and Italians in Venice are trying to safeguard noted low lying areas from a slow rise of the sea. Hotz reported, for instance, that Venice is now flooded by tidewaters 100 times a year, much more than it was in the last century.

And third was the New Orleans story. In an editorial Sunday, "Death of An American City," the New York Times declared, notably, "We are about to lose New Orleans. Whether it is a conscious plan to let the city rot until no one is willing to move back or honest paralysis over difficult questions, the moment is upon us when a major American city will die, leaving nothing but a few shells for tourists to visit like a museum."

The NYT identified an unwillingness by the Bush Administration and Congress to live up to past assurances of aid, and an unwillingness to face up to the need to repair the levee system as the main causes of the lack of progress. "At this moment the reconstruction is a rudderless ship," it said.

The NBC Nightly News, under Brian Williams, has repeatedly reported much the same. NBC created a New Orleans bureau to follow the post-Katrina cleanup, but it has become a very sad story.

It may be that fixing the levees, as the seas slowly rise due to global warming, is beyond the resources of the U.S. But if it is, it is time to admit it and undertake to rebuild New Orleans somewhere else, further inland, not to mention evacuating Florida. In all likelihood, it would prove cheaper to do something to stem global warming.

The L.A. Times too has had many stories on the subject, but, it's my impression, fewer editorials. Under the Chicago-toadying new publisher, Jeff Johnson, the paper's editorial pages have moved toward the right and toward blandness.

However, the editor of the LAT, Dean Baquet, is from New Orleans, is interested in what happens to it, and proud of Times coverage of Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath.

Perhaps Baquet might take a leaf from Peter Ueberroth's book when he was directing the Los Angeles Olympic Organizing Committee. When Ueberroth was dissatisfied with how an employee was doing, sometimes he would see to it that when the man got back from lunch, everything that had been in his office was piled up outside his door. It was a signal he had been fired.

The same thing might be done at the office of Jeff Johnson. Since it's quite evident he works only for the Tribune Co., and not for the wellbeing of the L.A. Times, it's time for his belongings to be packed up and placed outside his door. A little like the famous Boston Tea Party, Californians need to show forcefully that the Tribune Co. must sell out and get out. Baquet could help advance this process, even though he might, frankly, lose his own job in the process.

And a powerful political message must be sent to the Bush Administration by those who care for the future of the Planet: Start cooperating with efforts to do something about global warming -- NOW!

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