#6 Hyperbolic Headlines Only Harm the Cause of Intelligent Discourse about the Environment

Another thing the Greenville and Growthton encampments share is a love hyperbolic headlines. To be fair it isn't totally their fault, sensationalism is a widely-acknowledged bias in media coverage. The newest, most counter intuitive, most highly sensational headline is the primary way media attracts readers. The MSM is in it for the dough, the more 'exposures' an outlet gets the higher their advertising rates. Smaller non-profit places like The Mud Report try to invent headlines that contain commonly searched keywords relative to the posting's content, not for the dough obviously, but for wider exposure.

Proponents and opponents of every issue know that nothing beats a sensational headline when it comes to getting wide spread exposure in the MSM. The penchant both solitudes has for using hyperbole to gain the attention of the MSM and therefor the public is mostly through fear mongering. Unfortunately the most hyperbolic headlines always end up rallying one encampment or the other at the expense of real learning or communication because both the non-zealots and the opponents of whatever sensational assertion is being made are turned off and turned away by it. So, not only are they crap, but they're worse than useless when it comes to engaging others in intelligent discourse.

Hyperbole is the use of exaggeration to evoke strong feelings. It may be used or to create a strong impression, but is not meant to be taken literally. But the billboard above, sponsored by The Heartland Institute, is an example of how a well known and well healed group uses sensationalism. But most of the Growthton opponents GWT keep their fear-mongering spinning in a tighter spiral which most often centers on the fact they've never seen a conspiracy theory they didn't embrace. Here's a list of recent hyperbolic headlines that is either funny or frightening depending on how you look at things.

IMO though, the all-around hyperbolic headline hunter champions come from Greenvile. Years ago Micheal Mann got a lotta sensationalist credit and dis-credit for his famous hockey stick graph. Then Al Gore, never one to miss an opportunity, got his inconvenient hyperbolic headlines. But none of the early Greenville sensationalists holds a candle to today's crop led by Bill McKibben and 'indisputable' champ James Hansen who's famous “essentially game over” quote about development of the Alberta Tar Sands stands head and shoulders above the rest.

Looking back at past Mud Reports it's easy to see mr. mud is not a supporter of bitumen a-tall but when Bill McKibben says the KXL pipeline represents “the fuse to biggest carbon bomb on the planet.” And when James Hansen says developing Tar Sands crud would make the climate problem unsolvable they do nothing other than bolster their base while alienating potential allies and being scoffed at by their opponents who immediately point out that: All Canadian sources, not just the Tar Sands, produce about 3% of the world's oil now and once fully ramped up could be producing 5% of the world's oil in 20 years or so, the other 95% represents more of the "game" to be over or not than anything coming out of Canada.

There is a serious GHG problem, IMO, but GHGs come from more than just oil. Coal produces many times more emissions than oil does; and coal use is growing faster than oil use. There's also natural gas which is a bit cleaner to burn than oil but the new shale gas being produced vents a whole lot of CO2 as part of its production process and many now say this 'fracked' gas actually has a larger overall GHG footprint than coal. Then there are natural emissions as well; and secondary feedback emissions like methane [100 times as bad as CO2] being released as the permafrost melts. This planet has just one atmosphere. Getting our little corner of the globe tidied up would be nice, but immaterial if the rest of the globe is demand side chaos.

The hyperbolic headline hunting by both sides is actually doing far more harm to the cause of intelligent discourse than either encampment will ever admit. It's a race to the bottom because all 'sides' lose. Nothing could further the cause of communication between the solitudes more than burying the hyperbolic headlines once and for all, mafia style, and using them as the rebar in our last set of tower foundations.

WAHOO...our communication bridge is out of the ground. From here on we'll be up in the air working on the more flexible components an intelligent discourse requires.