The latest episode of CNN’s “Reliable Sources” included a guest, who claimed that the burning of fossil fuels kills ten million people a year and compared it to being “on the scale of the Holocaust.”
On Sunday, CNN anchor Brian Stelter brought on two climate reporters, New York Magazine editor-at-large David Wallace-Wells and writer of the “Heated” newsletter Emily Atkin to discuss how the ne news is covering climate change. Stelter opened his segment by bemoaning how journalists are running out of ways to stress the effects from climate change.
“Meteorologists and reporters are running out of words,” Stelter explained. “They are running out of words to describe the impacts of climate change. ‘Unprecedented’ just doesn’t cut it anymore.”
He asked his guests how the news should “cover a permanent emergency?”
Wallace-Wells acknowledged that media must remain in “a state of alarmism” in reporting the impact of climate disasters.
“We can’t shy away from scary projections about the future or the scary facts as we’re living them today,” Wallace-Wells said. “I think we also need to start thinking a little harder, be a little clearer in our story-telling, that learning to live in this new future, which will continue to get worse—probably considerably worse from here—is not just going to require decarbonizing, although that’s very hard.”
He went so far as to compare the current climate issues with the Holocaust in terms of deaths.
Wallace-Wells explained that estimates “suggest the burning of fossil fuels kills about 10 million people every year, which is dying on the scale of the Holocaust—in fact, larger than the Holocaust—every single year. And yet we don’t see many public health stories, we don’t see many moral crises stories addressed to that issue.”
This number came from a Science Direct study that suggested pollution from fossil fuels caused ten million global excess deaths in 2012. A further Harvard study eventually decreased that number to approximately eight million people per year in 2018.
Energy expert Alex Epstein, however, had previously debunked this study, stating that the findings wildly overstated fossil fuel side-effects while underplaying benefits.
“Since 1980, India’s fossil fuel use has increased by 700% and China’s has increased by 600%. Did this lead to many more premature deaths given ‘fossil fuels cause 1 in 5 deaths’? No, India’s life expectancy increased by almost 16 years and China’s increased by almost 10,” Epstein wrote.
“Any study about fossil fuels’ side-effects must prominently mention their life-extending benefits. But modern studies, funded by governments with anti-fossil fuel agendas, systematically ignore fossil fuels’ benefits and wildly overstate side-effects,” Epstein continued.
Nevertheless, Atkin was also insistent on wildly overstating the threat of climate change as well as blaming fossil fuels for the damage.
“Yeah, it’s not an excuse that you need to talk to a climate scientist anymore to include something in your story that says this extreme heat event was made more likely by climate change, and it’s a part of our climate change future,” Atkin stated. “And what I would also argue is that you should probably have a sentence in there saying climate change is caused by fossil fuels because climate change is not something that’s happening to us—it’s something that’s being done to us.”
In the past, experts, reporters, and politicians predicted environmental doomsday for humans with all the predictions turning out wrong. A New York Times article from 1995 falsely warned “[a]t the most likely rate of rise, some experts say, most of the beaches on the East Coast of the United States would be gone in 25 years.”