The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Maybe we should talk about climate change?

It’s just a thought:

The level of the most important heat-trapping gas in the atmosphere, carbon dioxide, has passed a long-feared milestone, scientists reported on Friday, reaching a concentration not seen on the earth for millions of years.
Scientific monitors reported that the gas had reached an average daily level that surpassed 400 parts per million — just an odometer moment in one sense, but also a sobering reminder that decades of efforts to bring human-produced emissions under control are faltering.
The best available evidence suggests the amount of the gas in the air has not been this high for at least three million years, before humans evolved, and scientists believe the rise portends large changes in the climate and the level of the sea.

Media Matters recently launched a campaign to pressure news organizations to focus more attention on climate change, noting that the three major networks had devoted a grand total of 12 segments to the issue in 2012. Perhaps today’s news will help a bit.

Indeed, what this underscores again is something Jonathan Bernstein pointed out recently: Our public officials, and especially the president, need to talk about climate change more. And it’s on us to make it happen. While it’s unclear how much the rhetoric of public officials can move opinion, it can lead to media focus on an issue. And if voters tell public officials they view something as a high priority, they are more likely to talk about it — leading to more media coverage.

Of course, we’re stuck in a situation where one of the two major political parties appears to be beholden to a base that is alarmingly prone to climate denialism. So there is little chance that Republican officials will talk about climate change anytime soon, except perhaps to mock the concept by talking about how silly Al Gore is or (as leading climate “skeptic” Jim Inhofe has been known to do) by building igloos outside the Capitol.

But Democratic, liberal, independent, and moderate Republican voters can pressure public officials to talk more about climate change, in hopes that major news orgs will do the same.

At any rate, it’s quite dispiriting that the two arguably most pressing crises facing us right now — climate change and mass unemployment — are among the ones that are least discussed.

Tune in tonight for wall to wall coverage of Benghazi!