A tale of two Amazons

Yesterday, I read an article on the MIT Technology Review website, “We aren’t terrified enough about losing the Amazon,” and I made it the top story of the day. A person whose political and ideological views are 180 degrees opposite from mine sent me a link to an article on the Forbes website, “Why Everything They Say About The Amazon, Including That It’s The ‘Lungs Of The World,’ Is Wrong.

I received hundreds of emails yesterday telling me that the media was misreporting the issue in the Amazon, and thousands of emails supporting the reporting in the MIT article.

First, I apologize for not thoroughly researching the MIT Technology Review story. On scientific issues, I consider MIT a trusted source. I made the assumption that, as I do with my own essays, they fact-checked their work. At least in this case, my trust was misplaced, as it is now clear that the burning rainforest stories are a hot mess of facts, editorials, and agenda-serving factoids.

Here’s the sad part. The sensationalistic bullshit used to sell ad placements on for-profit media outlets (mainstream or other) has truly muddied the already murky waters of “climate change” (the politically correct way to say “global warming”). (BTW, I don’t sell ads in my newsletter or on my site or anywhere, for that matter; my only agenda is to curate news I think is important to my readers and to write a weekly essay designed to inspire Socratic debate.)

Many people asked me about climate change yesterday. Many sent me emails quoting partisan tropes for and against the scientific theory and the observable evidence. Here is NASA’s evidence for global warming. The cause is known as “The Greenhouse Effect,” defined as the warming of the Earth’s atmosphere as it traps heat that had previously been radiating from Earth into space.

There are many competing theories about what is causing global warming, but NASA cites strong consensus in the scientific community that the most likely cause is increased levels of greenhouse gasses, such as water vapor, CO2, methane, nitrous oxide, and chlorofluorocarbons (CRCs). The greenhouse effect will cause the average temperature on Earth to rise (as it does on Venus and everywhere else in the observable universe).

There is also strong scientific consensus as to what will happen when average temperatures rise past a certain point.

From my perspective, it doesn’t matter if the causes are 100 percent man-made, partially man-made, or totally natural; if we have the technology to prevent or forestall the destructive transformation that global warming will impose on humanity, it deserves our total attention.

Importantly, humans are not wired to react to threats at long time scales. If a tiger showed up in your living room, you’d run for your life. If I told you that Earth’s oceans are absorbing 90 percent of the extra heat trapped by increasing greenhouse gases and that hurricanes that hit the east coast of the U.S. will steadily increase in intensity and destructive power over the next 100 years, you’d nod your head and say something like, “We ought to do something about that.”

I’m disappointed in MIT Technology Review’s one-sided, un-fact-checked reporting, but I have no one to blame for yesterday’s Think About This… email but myself. I will try to do better when curating news from others, but I’m sure I will remain an imperfect filter.

That said, I stand with the scientific consensus that climate change (global warming) is real. I believe in the scientific method and, whether you admit it or not, so do you. Your doctors rely on it, the chemists who discovered your medications rely on it, the engineers who build everything in our modern world rely on it… even the chefs that prepare your meals in restaurants rely on it.

So, as I said yesterday. “Get scared. Get angry. Get educated. Get involved!”

Author’s note: This is not a sponsored post. I am the author of this article and it expresses my own opinions. I am not, nor is my company, receiving compensation for it.

About Shelly Palmer

Shelly Palmer is the Professor of Advanced Media in Residence at Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications and CEO of The Palmer Group, a consulting practice that helps Fortune 500 companies with technology, media and marketing. Named LinkedIn’s “Top Voice in Technology,” he covers tech and business for Good Day New York, is a regular commentator on CNN and writes a popular daily business blog. He's a bestselling author, and the creator of the popular, free online course, Generative AI for Execs. Follow @shellypalmer or visit shellypalmer.com.


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