On Superlatives: The New York Times’ Climate Change & National Security article
Today, in the Times lead article, “Climate Change Seen as Threat to U.S. Security,” a superlative is embedded in the second graf, which threw me for a loop:
Such climate-induced crises could topple governments, feed terrorist movements or destabilize entire regions, say the analysts, experts at the Pentagon and intelligence agencies who for the first time are taking a serious look at the national security implications of climate change.
Why did that statement throw me for a loop? Look no farther than the article itself. After the jump and nearly at the end of the piece, the Times reveals:
The National Intelligence Council, which produces government-wide intelligence analyses, finished the first assessment of the national security implications of climate change just last year.
It’s hard to reconcile these two statements, unless you’re willing to say that the widely-reported NIC assessment last year was not a “serious look.” Don’t take it from me, check out NIC chairman Thomas Fingar’s testimony (pdf) before the House intelligence committee last year.
I think the national security implications of climate change are definitely newsworthy, but why pump up the originality of the current studies when they’re not groundbreaking at all? One motivation could be an attempt to make the article and the subject it covers seem more significant. Whatever the reason, it’s sloppy to be so internally inconsistent.
Based on the article, it seems that it’s not that these issues are getting their first serious look (i.e. an assessment), but are being taking seriously in planning and could affect the Pentagon and State Department’s once-in-four-year reviews for the first time. In other words, the assessments are getting taken seriously. Finally (I hope).