Eric Pooley, former managing editor of Fortune and a writer for Time magazine spent his fall semester at Harvard. The result is an eminently readable report on "How Much Would You Pay to Save the Planet? The American Press and the Economics of Climate Change."
1. The press misrepresented the economic debate over cap and trade. It failed to recognize the emerging consensus among economists that cap and trade would have a marginal effect on economic growth and gave doomsday forecasts coequal status with nonpartisan ones. In other words…The press allowed opponents of climate action to replicate the false debate over climate science in the realm of climate economics.
2. The press failed to perform the basic service of making climate policy and its economic impact understandable to the reader and allowed opponents of climate action to set the terms of the cost debate. The argument centered on the short-term costs of taking action — i.e., higher electricity and gasoline prices — and sometimes assumed that doing nothing about climate change carried no cost. In fact, economists overwhelmingly agree that business as usual will lead to greatly increased societal costs as the impacts of climate change set in. These costs were often left out of the story.
3. Editors failed to devote sufficient resources to the climate story. In general, global warming is still being shoved into the “environment” pigeonhole, along with the spotted owls and delta smelt, when it is clearly to society’s detriment to think about the subject that way. It is time for editors to treat climate policy as a permanent, important beat: tracking a mobilization for the moral equivalent of war.
The report's well worth a read, not least because it heavily features the Environmental Defense Fund and our comprehensive report on the cost of climate action.