With environmental reporting, it’s about the commission

I’ve seen this happen on the news and now I’ve seen it in the press. And, I’ve probably even done it myself. What is it? Write an article and fail to include key information. That this happens, that’s got to be a journalist’s greatest fear. In that regard, we can thank our lucky stars for the “editing” process.

Can’t afford to miss a beat

Hey, we’re all human. Mistakes happen.

But, in the case of omissions, they’re the results of oversights. Maybe it’s a case of explanatory information that needed to be included, but wasn’t. It by no means means all is lost. Such missing info. can always get added at a later date, which could take the form of an update. Again, that’s the beauty of editing in the digital space. You may have witnessed that here on the Air Quality Matters blog before. And, it should go without saying that such action is taken in an effort to ensure that all content is accurate as well as complete.

Regardless of why or how an omission occurred, the important point to remember here is there seems to be a fix for every individual circumstance encountered.

But, bigger story here by far is what information gets left out. Leaving a void and an audience in the lurch, can be quite problematic. Many times readers will home in on the problem area and, in response, will bring such knowledge to the attention of the person who was responsible for the omission. Most times I would say, though not always, the article’s or post’s creator will be grateful for being alerted to the mistake and for the added help.

So, it’s instructive to have a for-instance that can be referenced. And, that definitive example???

In this case, I pulled one from The Daily Kos. The site’s own Alan Singer, from his post “Naming Climate Villains,” wrote:

“… Historically, between 1750 and 2021, the United States produced 421.9 billion tons of CO2 emissions, about 35% of the world’s total.” And, if I may add, “from fossil fuel production.”

And, he went further by pointing out comparable cumulative CO2 output totals between the same two years for nine other countries, plus those of the U.S.’s.

“1. United States, 421.9 billion tons
2. China, 249.4 billion tons
3. Russia 117.5 billion tons
4. Germany, 93.3 billion tons
5. United Kingdom, 78.5 billion tons
6. Japan, 66.7 billion tons
7. India, 57.1 billion tons
8. France, 39.1 billion tons
9. Canada, 34.1 billion tons
10. Ukraine, 30.8 billion tons”.

Meanwhile in another location, in the same article, Singer provided other similar data.

He states: “China is the highest fossil fuel polluter today producing 10 million tons of CO2 or about 30% of the total emissions. The United States is second producing 5.4 million tons of CO2 or about 14% of the total. …”

I can only surmise that the totals presented are over a year. And, compared to the listed numbered numerical data depicted below, the two figures above are off by a factor of a thousand. So, that’s another thing.

Then The Daily Kos contributor goes on to expand upon that, by, here again, presenting in numerically itemized form, the world’s current top 10, “fossil-fuel” emitters (Full disclosure: these emissions were human-activity prompted).

1. China, 10,065 million tons of CO2, 30%.
2. United States, 5,416 million tons of CO2, 14%
3. India, 2,654 million tons of CO2, 8%
4. Russia, 1,711 million tons of CO2, 5%
5. Japan, 1,162 million tons of CO2, 3%
6. Germany, 759 million tons of CO2, 2.5%
7. Iran, 720 million tons of CO2, 2%
8. South Korea, 659 million tons of CO2, 2%
9. Saudi Arabia, 621 million tons of CO2, 2%
10. Indonesia, 615 million tons of CO2, 2%”.

Do you see what I’m saying?

The timeframe specification is noticeably absent. Which, in my mind’s eye, leaves one to guess over what duration these amounts were emitted.

Okay, so to put things in perspective, it should be noted that annually emitted human-generated CO2, is at roughly 38 billion tons or about 38 gigatonnes.

Supplying the timeframe info., for me, is tantamount to putting icing on the cake if you know what I mean.

Without attaching specific clarifying data, as it is often said, it’s all relative or academic. Six of one, half-a-dozen of the other, right?!

⁃ Alan Kandel

Copyrighted material.

Corresponding, connected home-page-featured image: AndrewHorne via Wikimedia Commons