The Vancouver Sun’s Op-ed Denying a Climate Crisis a Symbol of Wider Journalistic Malpractice

A journalist’s role is to seek truth, especially in the face of an emergency. But the media is not doing its job.

BC wildfire
‘By publishing op-eds such as this, their newspaper isn’t serving the truth. It is polluting the public square by propagating what the best science tells us are untruths about the most pressing problem of our age.’ Photo BC Wildfire Service.

Right now, Europeans are likely suffering because of the climate crisis. Sweltering heat waves have broken records across the continent, pushing temperatures into the 40s. Those temperatures have caused deaths, much disruption and misery.

So I was disappointed when that misery coincided with the Vancouver Sun’s publication of an op-ed column by University of Guelph economics professor Ross McKitrick claiming we only have a “vague inkling” that we “might” be in a climate emergency a “decade from now.”

That comment may surprise some readers of the Sun, which has a storied past and was the most-read newspaper in Western Canada according to the most recent report from News Media Canada. After all, many of them have already experienced that emergency as a result of the climate change-fuelled wildfires which devastated British Columbia in 2017 and 2018, cloaking the Lower Mainland in smoke. It may also surprise readers who have seen this summer’s satellite images of the Arctic on fire.

And it would almost certainly surprise the scientists who authored three major peer-reviewed studies on climate change that were published a day after McKitrick’s column. Commenting on those studies for the CBC, climatologist Gavin Schmidt said they underline the fact the global heating we are seeing is “unusual in a multi-centennial context” and that we are to blame for it.

In fact, we have much more than a “vague inkling” that there is a climate emergency given the voluminous scientific research and observable evidence supporting that conclusion.

For example, in October 2018, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned our carbon emissions must be about 45 per cent of what they were in 2010 by 2030 to avoid increasing the risk of extreme heat and drought in the future. Seven months later, another United Nations group warned a million species are threatened with extinction due to human activity, including climate change.

And according to a 429-page report that the British Columbia government quietly released last week, climate change could have catastrophic consequences for the province.

Yet McKitrick seems to ignore this kind of research and evidence in his 655-word commentary, which was published online on July 23 beneath a headline that included the words “Reality check” and made it into print the following day.

Instead, the Fraser Institute senior fellow alleges those alarmed about the climate emergency make their case by rattling off “unsubstantiated slogans about the weather getting worse and more extreme.” Moreover, he appears to believe that because a handful of local conditions don’t indicate a climate emergency, the effects of global heating won’t be felt by all of us. This is the same as saying there isn’t an epidemic because your household hasn’t been infected yet.

McKitrick’s arguments benefit the corporate and political interests who have frustrated and continue to forestall attempts to take climate action.

And by publishing this op-ed and others like it, newspapers such as the Sun are creating a journalistic crisis.

Our principal responsibility is to find and tell the truth. Indeed, democracy hinges on us doing that because without the truth it’s impossible for the public to make the informed, rational and empathetic decisions expected of us in a democracy. And, in the coming months and years, no decision will be more important than how we decide to respond to climate change, both individually and collectively. MORE

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He used to work for a site that promoted racists — now he edits a Canadian news outlet


Before Cosmin Dzsurdza worked for The Post Millennial, he worked for a pro-Kremlin site called Russia Insider and a blog that promoted racists. Illustration by Emma McIntosh, photos from Free Bird Media and screenshots

Cosmin Dzsurdzsa is an editor at what has quickly become one of the most widely shared right-wing news websites in Canada.

According to the About Us page on The Post Millennial’s website, the University of Waterloo graduate used to be a “researcher on The Oxford English Dictionary.” The dictionary’s publisher, Oxford University Press, said in an email that it has “no record” of Dzsurdzsa working for the company, but that he appears to have worked on an unaffiliated research project examining the text.

But that short biography leaves out a few steps. Before Dzsurdzsa was hired at the Post Millennial, he also worked for websites that promoted racism and peddled pro-Kremlin content.

While he was a creative director and correspondent at Free Bird Media, the blog promoted Richard Spencer, who has been identified by the Southern Poverty Law Center in the U.S. as a “professional racist” and white supremacist. It did the same for Faith Goldy, who praised white nationalists at the deadly Charlottesville neo-Nazi protest, said a neo-Nazi slogan on a podcast for the neo-Nazi site the Daily Stormer and added that she “doesn’t see that as controversial,” advocated to “return” Canada to a population that is “96 per cent Euro Canadian” and said she wants “launch the next Crusade” to “reclaim Bethlehem.” (Neo-Nazi ideology is driven by a hatred of Jewish people, along with other minority groups and the LGBTQ community, says the Southern Poverty Law Center.)

Free Bird Media also gave a friendly platform to Kevin J. Johnston, who has advocated for physical violence against Muslims and lost a major defamation case for online hate speech directed at a Mississauga restaurateur. The judge in that case said Johnston’s words were a “loathsome example of hate speech at its worst.”

And for Russia Insider, a pro-Kremlin site that BBC and Newsweek have called “propaganda” — “Russia’s Arctic Military Drills Are Truly Massive,” reads one 2015 headline from the site — Dzsurdzsa once advocated for Canada to drop trade sanctions against Russia.

This editor used to work for a site that promoted racists and a Russian propaganda site. Now he works for The Post Millennial, a rising star in Canada’s conservative media scene.

The Post Millennial is seeking a larger presence in Canada’s media ecosystem ahead of the October federal election, planning to build a six-figure video studio and conduct its own polls. Its online following has grown quickly since it was founded in 2017.

But the outlet’s willingness to hire someone with a background working for sites that promoted hate is “disturbing,” said Barbara Perry, director of the Centre on Hate, Bias and Extremism at Ontario Tech University.

“Editors shape the climate and culture of the newsroom,” Perry said. “What does that say in terms of the kinds of stories (Dzsurdzsa is) assigning to whom, or not assigning?”  MORE

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