Multiple scientists and climate change advocates are calling for a boycott of The New York Times after an op-ed that they felt pushed anti-climate change agendas.
The Friday column, the first written by Bret Stephens for the publication, uses the argument that data doesn’t always convey reality to make the point that climate change isn’t definite, despite evidence that supports the claim.
He refers partially to Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential run, chronicled in the recent book “Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton’s Doomed Campaign.” Authors Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes wrote that the campaign relied too much on data, one of the many things that led to its downfall.
The crux of Stephens’ piece is that normal citizens shouldn’t accept the evidence released by scientists and political activists, and that’s why the current debate is a struggle.
“None of this is to deny climate change or the possible severity of its consequences,” Stephens wrote. “But ordinary citizens also have a right to be skeptical of an overweening scientism. They know — as all environmentalists should — that history is littered with the human wreckage of scientific errors married to political power.”
Stephens’ hiring — announced on April 12 — has been a point of contention for many Times readers thanks to his long history of writing insulting phrases in his columns in regards to Islamophobia, sexual assault and, of course, climate change.
Stephens came over from the Wall Street Journal, where he was a conservative columnist who mostly wrote about foreign policy. However, he would on occasion write about climate change, often iterating that activists can manipulate evidence to support their claims.
In a 2009 WSJ article no longer on the official website, Stephens said: “climate alarmists have become brilliantly adept at changing their terms to suit their convenience.”
In 2011, he wrote that climate change is a “religion without God […] presided over by a caste of spectacularly unattractive people pretending to an obscure form of knowledge.”
He’s also been criticized for what what appear to be Islamophobic views, often relying on stereotypes to talk about other cultures. The evidence is pretty damning in support of that assumption.
In a 2016 piece for the Wall Street Journal, for example, he commented on the conflict between Arabs and Israel by referring to “the disease of the Arab mind.”
“So long as an Arab athlete can’t pay his Israeli opposite the courtesy of a handshake, the disease of the Arab mind and the misfortunes of its world will continue,” he wrote.
In a Vox interview posted shortly after his hiring, in which he attempted to defend many of his more controversial claims, he said that while he does believe the core temperature of the Earth has risen, he doesn’t believe in relying solely on statistics. He also made some assumptions about climate change activists.
“A guy I know just had a baby and he’s a big global warming, climate change activist. If he thinks in 20 years we’ll be heading toward unsustainable climates … then presumably he wouldn’t be having children,” he said.
In response to all these complaints, the New York Times public editor Liz Spayd came to Stephens’ defense, adding that the hiring is part of a goal to convey all political perspectives, not just “liberal” ones.
Stefan Rahmstorf, head of Earth System Analysis at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact research, posted his letter to The New York Times editor on why he was canceling his subscription.
“The Times has denounced the critics of its decision as ‘left-leaning,'” he wrote in part. “There is no left-leaning or right-leaning climate science, just as there is no Republican or Democrat theory of gravity. I have several good climate scientist friends who are lifelong republicans. Their understanding of climate change does not differ from mine, because it is informed by evidence.”
Michael E. Mann, a climate scientist at Penn State, also said he canceled his subscription, while also encouraging others to do the same.
— Prof Michael E. Mann (@MichaelEMann) April 25, 2017
Other advocates have weighed in on the issue.
— Tom Steyer (@TomSteyer) April 28, 2017
Composing my letter to the editor today and canceling @nytimes. "Balance" means a VALID alternative opinion, not pseudoscience. I'm so sad
— Dr. Adriana Heguy (@AdrianaHeguy) April 28, 2017
A petition with more than 25,000 signatures at the time of this writing hopes to encourage the paper to fire Stephens because, as it states, his views are dangerous.
“The issue is not that climate denial makes New York Times readers uncomfortable. The issue is that climate denial relies on a foundation of lies. To present lies as if they were reasoned opinion compromises the impartiality, accuracy, and integrity of The New York Times,” it states.
Stephens commented on the controversy.