Yale Environment 360 interviews the renowned New Yorker journalist, who blames the media and scientists alike for our staggering failure to deal with this issue. Here’s a long quotation:
e360: We’ve talked about journalists and generally the challenges in conveying this issue to the public. But what about scientists? I mean, scientists have a responsibility to get their information out to the public whether it’s through the media or through their own writings and work. How good a job do you think they have done in conveying this whole issue?
Kolbert: Oh, I don’t think they’ve done a good job. They have some of the same problems that journalists have, which is that scientists are interested in introducing something new in their work. They want new results, new information. They want to break new ground. They need to do that to get funding, really. And global warming, the fact that global warming is happening, that is really old news in scientific circles. It’s just a settled question in scientific circles. So scientists moved on to other issues having to do with climate change…
e360: But not whether it exists?
Kolbert: No, absolutely not. That would be considered — you’d just be laughed at in a scientific discussion. But that message really never reached the public, and you could argue that that’s the journalists’ fault, and I do fault journalists for that. But I also fault scientists because they sort of have just left things to the journalists. And now that we’ve sort of moved to a new stage of the debate, a policy debate, they’re not going to be involved in that either. They’re going to leave that to the economists or to the political scientists.
The public of course isn’t innocent either–and many politicians, to say nothing of the active sowers of misinformation, are deeply guilty. And that’s why the phrase “total system failure,” which Kolbert uses later in the interview, really does seem to capture it best.
You can read the full interview here.