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NYT Magazine's #LosingEarth Receives Scathing Reviews From Climate Action Movement


NYT Magazine's #LosingEarth Receives Scathing Reviews From Climate Action Movement

Jessica Corbett, staff writer

Experts and activists on Wednesday are responding to The New York Times Magazine's full-issue article on the global climate crisis with a combination of fury and frustration, arguing that the piece "suppresses important facts, covering up how organized climate denial created our current predicament."

"This piece falls short in holding the companies and executives responsible for climate destruction accountable in the present day."
—May Boeve, 350.org


Anybody who’s surprised that the NYT—yet again!—put the interests of its advertisers above those of its readership, raise your hands.

(crickets chirping)


There are almost endless reasons why the climate crisis has not been adequately addressed. The NY Times should be looking forward with articles on solutions and it actually is. Just the other day there was an interesting story about plans to use the Hoover Dam as a giant battery to store energy to advance the use of renewable energy. The Times also provides a weekly e-mail newsletter on climate change and it contains some really good stuff (today with regard to the fires in California it says “Dr. Hall [UCLA climate scientist] cautioned that no one had yet analyzed the sustained heat in California for the fingerprints of climate change. But he said he had no doubt that such a study would find that global warming made it more likely.”). It sounds to me that this long article never should have been written and it is not worth reading. It seem like this article is a bad idea that came to fruition. Probably the Times blew this one but overall their coverage of climate is very good including stories form around the world about how climate change is affecting people now. Because of this article I will lower the Times grade on climate change reporting from an A to A- and hope they are back on track tomorrow with better articles on climate change.


The Koch brothers hired a troll factory to pollute this forum. (ignore)

I’m still waiting for the climate action organizations to get quite specific on climate actions. We’re not just encouraging our Congresspeople to write more letters to themselves and calling that action.

In general, the actions that we need are as follows:

  1. Every significant use of fossil fuels needs an energy-displacing and affordable alternative. The big three (for me) are nighttime generation of electricity, winter heating of buildings by the sunlight falling on their roofs, and transit. We need practical R&D. Furthermore, we don’t give zillions of dollars to Harvard and Stanford, where most of the answers aren’t, and we disburse the R&D money entirely on the merits of people’s ideas, sending the money where the answers actually sit. No silly paper games reminiscent of what Alabama required in the 1950s for black people to register to vote. If you see an honest answer, pay for the answer in honest dollars and don’t be thorough crooks about it. Then maybe your grandchildren won’t go hungry.

  2. Inhibit the Arctic meltdown. Don’t say you can’t do it, rear up on your hind legs and try for once.

  3. Save millions of species from permanent extinction.


Normally, I heartily concur with your views but I read the article, and largely disagree with the critics.

I agree for instance, with the author’s assertion that human nature in the form of an inability to place as much emphasis on future consequences as it does on present and near-term consequences is the biggest barrier to climate action. I mean, if citizens aren’t clamoring for climate action as the damage begins to accumulate around them as we speak, how can I blame politicians for sitting idly by?

The article notes that carbon emissions have risen more than 60% since 1990, the year the article leaves off at. It also notes that emissions have gone up in every country that signed onto one treaty after another. So maybe it makes people feel good to sign meaningless treaties and claim that we still have time to avert climate disaster, but I call bullshit.


I generally agree with your post, I would note:

With respect to the electric grid, the cost of not solving this problem is so great, it really doesn’t much matter what the cost of solving it is, especially when we know the costs of those alternatives are already cost-competitive or very close.

Wind, in most locations, is already a nighttime generator, although it should be noted that nighttime demand for electricity is at its lowest on a daily basis. The real challenge is riding out the “shoulder” period from late afternoon to mid-evening. In addition, there are a variety of strategies, already identified and workable, to manage night time and shoulder loads. These including storing energy in water heaters during the day (overheating the water) and then not heating it at night and other load-shifting strategies and aggressive deployment of energy efficiency.

We have lots of practical R&D that is done by our national laboratories and which is actually being deployed. This R&D is being done by, among others, the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. In addition, electric system operators such PJM and California ISO, as well as other organizations such as the New England Demand Response Initiative and the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative , working with non-profits such as the Regulatory Assistance Project (one of the premier non-profits which is granted funded and gives away its services to regulators, consumer groups and other stakeholders, and is staffed with real experts with deep regulatory experience and knowledge) and (yes) public utilities have made great strides in integrating renewable energy into the electric grid (not an easy task, as loads and resources must constantly be in balance).


Not only did the NYT article about the political climate “tragedy in two acts” get the climate facts wrong. He got the dramatic facts wrong, too.

The dramatic facts of Tragedy he left out that apply to the drama of global warming:

Dramatic Fact One: Hubris. The specific form of “pride” called “hubris” in ancient Greece was wanton, reckless, blind denial of a tragic fate and tragic reality. Dramatically speaking, any and all forms of climate denial are not – NOT – “human nature.” They are the ‘nature’ of hubristic humans. Hubristic humans deny climate change – not “humans.”

Dramatic Fact Two: In the actual tragic, dramatic plot, the tragic protagonist, who is always a figure of power, denies they have a tragic fate, and blindly, recklessly, hubristically, drives himself toward catastrophe – the plot point. Originally, the word “catastrophe” was a formal dramatic term for the final [cata] turn [strophe] in the tragic plot that blind, willful, hubristic, empowered actors drive themselves to. It was a totalizing, ‘catastrophic’ loss of the tragic protagonist’s power to act to avert their tragic fate – that they have denied. As a result, they go down in a tragic fall out of power that hurts, and hurts bad.

In light of these dramatic facts, an accurate frame of climate change as a ‘tragedy in two acts’ would be:
Act One: Reckless, hubristic, climate deniers and the fossil fuel industry refuse to accept their tragic fate that the era of fossil fuels must come to an end for the sake of all life on earth, their lives and their children’s and grandchildren’s lives very much included.
Act Two: They go down in a big, bad, tragic fall.

The big question is: What is Act Three?


Why no mention of Barack “All of the above” Obama, Jerry Brown, Justin Trudeau or any of the other “climate heroes” who played “good cop” to arrest any truly potent policies to stave off the abyss?

The answer to that question ironically may justify Rich’s proclaimed pessimism. It’s up to us to prove him mistaken, but we can’t do so by ignoring the sins of our “allies”.


The irony of these green groups is astounding. While so many of these groups are quick to point out the flaws by NYT Magazine, I would like to ask why these organizations have produced zero articles discussing the calamity that is coming due to early decommissioned nuclear. Even worse many of these same groups have actually supported the closure of the 10 nuclear plants facing decommission in support of using small amounts of renewables and largely transitional natural gas.

While you are busy editing a NYT Magazine article, the USA is scheduled to lose more Low CO2 energy than ALL OF SOLAR ENERGY COMBINED! The decommissioning of Duane Arnold, Indian Point, Diablo Canyon, Perry, Davis Besse, Three Mile Island, Oyster Creek, Palisades, Beaver Valley, Three Mile Island, and Pilgrim Nuclear Plants will be a loss of 93,440 GWh. The entire solar industry in 2017 generated 52,958 GWh. This loss of energy would completely wipe out all of the progress made by solar over the last 20 years!

Due to the location of these plants and the availability of cheap natural gas it is estimated that over 50% of this loss in generation will be replaced by natural gas. This is bad- as in catastrophically horrendous if you believe that the emission of CO2 is really a problem.

According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory Lifecycle Harmonization Assessment Nuclear Energy emits on average about 461g CO2/KWh less than natural gas. At this rate the increase of emissions upon replacement by 2025 is:

93,440 x 50% x 461 x 1,000,000 / 2000 = 10,768,960,000 Metric Tons of CO2. This increase in emissions is nearly double the entire emissions for the USA including all industries combined.

And yet all of these organizations that claim to be for the environment have been unequivocally silent about this issue…


You can agree or disagree with anything, however the SCIENTIFIC CONSENSUS on Homo sapiens is that we were not only completely sustainable on Earth but actually helped it be more rich and diverse.
For 99% of time as a species on this planet almost all humans were sustainable. 100% of our indigenous cultures knew and cared about long term sustaibility. They lived lightly in their own niche and knew intimately how much they could take and how much to return to Earth.
It was only when a few became civilized did we stray from this and and cause all the harm you see now.


Is there enough water behind Hoover Dam to be able to play that game?


There are many works of literature that feature hubris, my favorite, “Ozymandias,” alas, does not bode well for Act 3.

Perhaps a better model is out there. What are your ideas for Act 3.


I would agree that what most people I have heard or seen mean, when they say ‘human nature,’ is merely generalizing what ots of people they know or have heard about are doing. This, however, can only be from modern human experience, which completely ignores the hundred thousand plus years before the start of agricultural settlements and subsequent recorded history. That position is a self-fulfilling example of the claim of short-term focus.


I agree, this is precisely where the MSM always goes bad. They tell the public only the facts that they want the public to hear. This is lying by deliberate omission. It’s never too late to try to do whatever we can to stop hurting our only home, this planet earth, the time is now, as it has always been so. These people are also, in their own way doing all that they can to protect the fossil fuel industry from whom many of these media companies get their revenue. The need for money and greed beyond belief is what is destroying us. The Native Americans lived here for 30,000 years and kept the environment intact, and we have been here less than 500 years and we have trashed the place. Now who are the civilized ones? We are techno savages, they were the civilized ones all along. It’s past time to learn the lesson and get with it and get off fossil fuels any way we can!


The problem with nuclear energy is that of massive amounts of radioactive waste waste that is deadly for long periods of time. Our waste problem is unsustainable and extremely dangerous in this country. We already have enough plutonium waste, that is toxic for 24,000 years, that we can kill all life off the planet, including our own, many times over. Most nuclear plants are in flood zones near oceans and rivers as they require lots of cooling water. Global climate change will cause sea level rise and flooding. Remember what happens to flooded nuclear plants, as in Fukushima? We have about 110 aging nuclear power plants in America well past their lifespans. It’s time to let nuclear energy go as the drawbacks are worse with it than without it. I’d rather go without electricity whatsoever. Nuclear energy is insane and unsustainable.

We have enough wind capacity in America to produce five times more energy than we produce right now. Therefore, we need to get those guys in Janesville back to work right away to make windmills! I’ll take one in my backyard anytime!


The NYT has a denialist on its editorial board and defends his BS with no pushback whatsoever. They have no one on their editorial board who writes actual fact based science about global warming. This episode is in the same vein and just reveals what the thinking is at management of the NYT and why calling them a reputable news source is a bit of a stretch.


One of the problems is that very few of us are willing to look at what we actually do with the energy that is generated that is destroying us. Turn on your air conditioner recently? Drive an internal combustion vehicle? Buy a piece of crap that was not absolutely essential to sustaining life? Get another piece of food or drink that was individually wrapped and/or bottled into single-serving portions and transported to a store near you?

We’ll keep going down the same suicidal path until enough of us realize that virtually everything about our lifestyle is unsustainable.

Fucking everything.

Including this computer that I’m typing on.


This is where the war was lost, but what you say is what we have to do if we plan on staying on this planet, We have to find our niches and learn to live in symbiotic relations with all the life that makes a living in that ecosystem. Learn to do no harm in the way we live. We learn to grow our souls in those places as we learn how it all works and appreciate how complex something simple really is. We live for connections rather than individualism. After we get ecologically literate, we change paradigms, off the western culture paradigm and onto the ecological paradigm. It’s like a dark room suddenly brightly lit. I’ve seen people make that change, the aha! moment, and suddenly there’s a lot of wonderful stuff to befriend. Ecological literacy is sometimes a hard thing to carry in a culture that is averse to accepting being a plain member of the life system. Being the exception is a sorry excuse for the truth, and, when it’s not hurting our souls to see another place destroyed for a strip mall, the wonders of nature lift our souls so we can get back to the work of reclaiming the future. If it’s not done in our time, it will be too late. It’s hard to know that and watch how stupid people still live. There can’t be too much of teaching ecological literacy. The ecologically literate know that the economy is contained in nature, not the way it is seen now by too many, where nature is a part of the economy and humans are just below the angels on the great chain of life.


Climate change begins with humans. The increasing human population is unsustainable. We are approaching 8 billion with projections of 10 billion within a lifetime and all demanding a better life. The future looks bleak.


Well, it would be nice to deal with humans from the era where their life expectancy was much lower and their child mortality was much higher and they had lots more tooth decay. But that ship sailed.

And when it did, the human population became an outbreak. The population of humans, for example, tripled in my grandmother’s lifetime. All those humans are burning carbon, man. And according to current polling, climate change was not a big priority for voters: