The long-awaited United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP 21) in Paris has brought together 120 world leaders, with 170 government regulatory carbon reducing action plans submitted. Notably, corporate owners from 10 countries, including Bill Gates, have pledged billions in green technology research. The Obama Administration has long-prepared for the climate negotiations in the hope of bringing a thorough carbon reduction policy stateside. However such a treaty would require Congressional approval, which the Republican majority in Congress has already procured votes to prevent.
The articles documenting President Obama’s trip to Paris have focused on American domestic policy rather than international concerns. Two articles, from the Austin American-Statesman and the New York Times, feature different forms of bias, both diminishing the negotiations by focusing on domestic disagreement. Missing detail and comprehensiveness within the articles, COP 21’s significance is reduced. While the politics surrounding the conference are important, as it is the determining factor in whether regulatory outcomes of the negotiations are passed and implemented, noting the global importance of the negotiations using an international perspective is needed in order to explain the issue comprehensively.
The Austin American-Statesman article, “Obama Prods World on Climate Change, Faces Pushback at Home” written by Nancy Benac of the Associated Press, features bias through omission. While it provides background information regarding the talks generally, it focuses on President Obama’s lack of support within the context of little to no new information regarding the negotiations so far. In fact, the article has no primary source but uses accessible sources including the President’s Facebook posts and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s Wall Street Journal opinion piece published last week, accusing the President of “prioritizing symbolism over substance.” Ample information is given on congressional attitudes of the negotiations but nothing is mentioned about the attitudes of the conference attendees. Instead, a great deal of the article is devoted to the possibility of President Obama’s efforts being undone by his successor, as a quotation from Sen. McConnell states, “Congress has voted to reject [a carbon reduction plan] his successor could do away with it in a few months time.” No further information is provided that is not relative to President Obama’s role as a single player against a resistant partisan government.
The New York Times article while not biased because of missing sources as the Austin American-Statesman article, does feature a game frame. The article, as its title alludes, also discusses the climate talks in relation to President Obama’s ability to have a treaty approved by Congress. Like the Austin American-Statesman article, the New York Times provides little information about the negotiations but provides ample coverage of domestic political issues. Such discrepancies allow the talks to diminish in significance, turning them into a partisan ploy. The beginning of the article focuses on the President’s quest for climate change regulations as a singular effort to procure his legacy. Instead of noting climate change’s impact on the country, the article makes it a singular concern for the President himself. The article’s sources, Presidential Historian Douglas Brinkley and President Obama’s chief campaign strategist David Axelrod, emphasize President Obama’s efforts to address climate change for the first time in American history. Likewise, President Obama’s relationship to the issue is shrouded by the article’s claim his lack of record with environmental protection provides little credibility or leverage. Axelrod stating, environmental concerns have been strategically left out of the President’s talking points “due to the issue’s poor polling.” For the reader, this reduces the trust they may place in the President’s ability to strive for environmental protection. Ultimately, the article concludes the President’s optimism for a deal is short-sighted in a losing political climate.
Essentially, neither article mention details of the proposed regulations, why they have been met with contestation from Congressional Republicans, or the substance of the negotiations globally. Framing the event as the President’s legacy-building strategy diminishes the significance of the issue. Not only do the biases present support the political conflict they address, but leave the reader without substantial information regarding carbon reduction policies.