When Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos bought the Washington Post last Summer with $250 million of his own cash, there was no shortage of pessimistic predictions about how that might impact the quality of journalism at the 137-year-old newspaper. The New Republic’s Alec MacGillis wrote that “Amazon’s Jeff Bezos as the white knight provokes only slightly less shock and dolor” than if Craigslist’s Craig Newmark had bought the paper. Even Pando editor-in-chief Sarah Lacy, though ultimately optimistic about the purchase, admitted that journalism purists may be right to worry about Bezos’ predilection for short news hits.
Happily, these doom prophecies have thus far gone unfulfilled. That is, unless you ask outlets like Grist and the Daily Kos, which are outraged that the same week the Post let Ezra Klein, a blogger who understands the seriousness of climate change, slip through its fingers, it launched a partnership with a site called the Volokh Conspiracy. To hear the story through headlines, the Volokh Conspiracy, which is run by UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh, is a “climate-conspiracy blog,” a “climate confusionist blog,” and an “odious climate change denier blog.”
Has Bezos finally shown his true colors? Is his grand scheme to turn one of the nation’s greatest journalistic institutions into a conspiracy rag, trumpeting anti-science drivel and kowtowing to special interests? Is Bezos the second coming of Rupert Murdoch?
Not based on this. The Volokh Conspiracy, regardless of how you feel about its libertarian biases, is not the stronghold of climate denialism that the headlines suggest. It’s a legal blog, and unlike Ezra Klein’s Wonkblog, which explained complicated topics in plain English, Volokh actually revels in its wonkiness. Most of the writers are law professors, so this is hardly a cheap grab for pageviews from conspiracy theorists.
The blog does cover climate change from time to time, but these articles are almost solely written by Jonathan Adler, one of the few conservative voices who recognizes the seriousness of global warming. He wrote an excellent piece at the Atlantic called, “A Conservative’s Approach to Climate Change,” which sought to reframe the partisan debate surrounding the issue and bring it to the arena of sanity. The discussion between Republicans and Democrats, he writes, shouldn’t be about whether or not climate change is happening. We already know it is. Instead the debate should be about how much the federal government should do to combat it, as opposed to private investment.
I strongly disagree with Adler’s conclusion that federal oversight and regulation necessarily discourages private investment. Sustainable energy companies take a lot of cash and a long time to build, so government subsidies, tax credits, and loans can serve as an incentive for smart entrepreneurs to take on these big challenges. And yes, these companies sometimes fail, even with government help. But I see your Solyndra and raise you a Tesla.
Nevertheless, to call Adler a climate change denier is an insult to real deniers like Senator James Inhofe, who thinks global warming can’t be real, because it’s cold outside. And while some might consider Adler’s libertarian economic policies to be “odious,” to use DailyKos’ word, his understanding of the science behind climate change is better than most.
There’s no doubt that Ezra Klein’s smart, clear, and compassionate writing about climate change will be missed at the Post. His departure follows a disconcerting trend at major newspapers, which are covering climate change less and less even as the climate situation grows more dire. Indeed, the Volokh Conspiracy’s libertarianism may rub some the wrong way, and the partnership may even betray Bezos’ own politics. But the only “climate conspiracy” here is the assumption that this wonky little legal blog represents a massive shift toward a climate change denial at the Post.