Talk Is Cheap

All talk and not enough action on climate change? Maybe. On the other hand, having the bark come before the bite might be a hallmark of a healthy democratic debate on an important policy. Again … maybe.

Talk is cheap.

Except when it isn’t.

Talk in the absence of subsequent action — best when informed by that previous and ongoing talk (read communication and information sharing) — can be expensive indeed. Or, rather, very costly.

Yet in our democratic system, talk and consideration and reconsideration, such as has been going on concerning human-caused climate change, in the end is a virtue, an essential precursor to any eventual serious societal response to a challenge.

With its emphasis on providing increased quantity and volume, not necessarily matched in quality, the blogosphere and all that term has come to represent provides infinite examples. But for our purposes here, we can focus solely on those dealing with energy, with natural resources, with public health, and with climate change. Or is that brief listing in itself redundant?

One of the important lessons journalists are taught, but too often may forget, deals with what is not actually printed, broadcast, posted, or blogged. As important as commissions are to effective journalism, equally important can be omissions, that which goes unreported for lack of sufficient relevancy, immediacy, or verification.

Those are points seemingly too readily ignored, or perhaps never learned, in the clamor of blogs, tweets, listserves, what-have-you.

One could spend a lifetime ogling hundreds of different online resources elucidating this or that “truth” on an issue as vast as climate change science and policy. It indeed can be time well spent, as there is no denying that there is real gold in them there hills for those willing and able to mine and detect it and distinguish it from the fool’s gold.

While atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide and other important greenhouse gases mount, mind you, so do the bits and bytes of online climate change chatter. But perhaps more important is that the volume, in both senses of the word, of climate change blunderbuss and bloviating also increases. And usually geometrically.

It’s not enough to point out that the charges and counter-charges primarily flow to and from those with diametrically opposing perspectives on the issues and already thoroughly engaged — one might say immersed — on the subject matter.

Truth is, one can tire of the incessant blather — often seemingly in lieu of actual action — one encounters online on all-things climate change. At those times, it pays to be mindful that the only thing more concerning than so many people, so many venues, talking so much about climate change … would be the opposite: If no one were even talking any more about the issue.

In that case, the silence would be far more concerning than the bloviating, pontificating, and finger-pointing. Combined. Fortunately, we’re not likely to see that kind of situation any time soon. So keep up the dialog. So long as it soon enough leads to constructive action going beyond words alone.

Bud Ward

Bud Ward is editor of The Yale Forum (E-mail: bud@yaleclimatemediaforum.org).
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