Global warming gets a bit of local newspaper coverage

April 8, 2007 | By | 3 Replies More

How important is it that the United Nations just issued an apocalyptic report on global warning? 

Serious stories on global warming have been rare in my local paper, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.  I was thus happy to see that the Post-Dispatch placed a punchy graphic about global warming on the front page of yesterday’s paper—2,500 scientists say it’s going to happen and it’s going to ruin the planet.  To get the story, though, one had to turn to page 25A.  There, one learns about

more than a billion people in need of water, extreme food shortages in Africa, a planetary landscape ravaged by floods and millions of species sentenced to extinction.

This report was so incredibly important that the Post-Dispatch dedicated 21 column-inches of text to the story. It’s about the same amount of space the PD gave to yesterday’s front page story about “bratzels” (bratwurst wrapped in pretzels) a new food featured at Cardinal baseball games.  Who would have thought that “bratzels” were almost as important as global warming?

That this story on global warming appeared in a local paper at all is important.   Most people get most of their news from local TV and newspapers.  If global warming hadn’t appeared in the P-D, many people in my city might have assumed that it was all a hoax or that someone figured out what to do about it.

Setting aside the graphics of the global warming story, the PD provided three thin columns of 7-inches each to describe the coming environmental disaster. That made me wonder:  Based on the amount of space the PD gave to global warming, could it be possible that any other stories merit a comparable or greater number of newspaper coverage? 

I got out a ruler and did some simple measuring. The answer surprised me.  Twenty-one stories merited equal or greater space than the text devoted to the U.N.’s monumental report on global warming.  Here are the headlines of those equally (or more) important stories, along with the space the P-D allocated to each of them (in column-inches).

  • University of Missouri tuition being raised – 22”
  • Two concrete plants stuck by vandalism. 21”
  • Mentor of Local opera theater dies of heart attack – 33”
  • Local Library branch expansion – 33”
  • State takeover of St. Louis City Schools  22”
  • St. Louis Cardinals color commentary – 29”
  • St. Louis Cardinals beat the Astros – 55”
  • Creighton basketball coach doesn’t move to Arkansas after all – 33”
  • Outfielder Jim Edmonds is surprised he wasn’t in the opening lineup – 22”
  • Local television broadcast of Cardinal game had glitches.  27”
  • St. Louis Blues hockey club hopes for better year next year.  37”
  • Boston College hockey team does well this year.  33”
  • Summaries for soap operas this week.  37”
  • Michigan State will play Boston College for hockey title.  33”
  • College hockey player wins award.  44”
  • Local golf player misses the cut at Augusta National.  32”
  • Report from the Augusta golf tournament.  55”
  • Local girls soccer team loses a game.   33”
  • Report on bass fishing – 22’
  • Local college baseball report.  22”
  •  New playoff rules for local high school football teams.  33”

Is it any wonder that most people would rather go watch a sports event (or a soap opera) than to take real action in response to this massive global threat?  

Decisions to go amuse ourselves rather than to deal with an immense environmental problem could only occur in a media-driven world where there is no call to action directed to individual citizens.  How else could you explain how people who claim to be dedicated parents would so readily steal a liveable planet from their own children.  

Just as with the case of Iraq, the media informs us that huge problems just happen.  Shit happens.  There’s no hint that the only way we can address this disaster (one that looms bigger than 1,000,000 New Orleans) is to make substantial individual changes in the way we produce and consume energy. There’s no suggestion anywhere in that meager 21 inches of text that the problem is . . . well, go look in the mirror.  Just maybe, buying a huge motor vehicle (the kind advertised throughout the paper) is not responsible.

Not that we’ll see any local follow-up on this global warming story, at least for a long time.  The Post-Dispatch has already covered that.  Now it’s time to get even more serious about the baseball season . . .


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About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

Comments (3)

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  1. Tim Hogan says:

    Erich, please see that I get credentialed to do a study for DI on the impact of global warming on the baseball season. As the climate continues to change and the games go later into the year, we're going to see more early season and World Series rain and snow-outs. We've seen some of this already in the past several years.

    I'll posit that the weather has caused more and more problems with games recently than in the past, do a comparison based upon historical weather data. However, with expansion some of the data will be more recent and perhaps less credible. I'll talk to Sam Able at Saint Louis University who just retired from KWMU (St. Louis' NPR affiliate) last month as their forecaster after a 35 year career, and continues on the faculty at Parks College at SLU. We'll figure out an appropriate control for the lesser amount of data since expansion, if necessary.

    If we tie the climate changes to the symbols which reach everyday people, maybe the message will get through. Or, they'll just dome over all the stadiums. And ask the public to pay for it. Maybe with higher gas taxes.

  2. Tim Hogan says:

    Sorry, its "Ben" Able, and apparently is still on the air at KWMU as I heard him on the way to court this morning.

  3. Ben says:

    New reports in from the International Panel on Climate Change:

    -Global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions have grown since pre-industrial times, with an increase of 70% between 1970 and 2004 (high agreement, much evidence)

    -Since pre-industrial times, increasing emissions of GHGs due to human activities have led to a marked increase in atmospheric GHG concentrations

    -Between 1970 and 2004, global emissions of CO2, CH4, N2O, HFCs, PFCs and SF6, weighted by their global warming potential (GWP), have increased by 70% (24% between 1990 and 2004), from 28.7 to 49 Gigatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalents

    -The emissions of these gases have increased at different rates. CO2

    emissions have grown between 1970 and 2004 by about 80% (28% between 1990 and 2004) and represented 77% of total anthropogenic GHG emissions in 2004.

    -The largest growth in global GHG emissions between 1970 and 2004 has come from the energy supply sector (an increase of 145%). The growth in direct emissions3 in this period from transport was 120%, industry 65% and land use, land use change, and forestry 40% Between 1970 and 1990 direct emissions from agriculture grew by 27%

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