In his first column for the Times, Bret Stephens said advocates for climate policy can take a lesson from Hillary Clinton’s failed presidential campaign and her reliance on data to predict the election.
“We live in a world in which data convey authority. But authority has a way of descending to certitude, and certitude begets hubris,” Stephens wrote. “Claiming total certainty about the science traduces the spirit of science and creates openings for doubt whenever a climate claim proves wrong.”
The column angered scores of environmentalists and climate change activists. Many took to social media with promises to cancel their subscriptions.
I’m on hold with the @nytimes trying to cancel. They told me they’re slammed with people canceling subscriptions because of Bret Stephens.
— Sean Kent (@seankent) April 29, 2017
— ClimateCommunication (@ClimateComms) April 30, 2017
Scientists also joined the fray. Stefan Rahmstorf, a climatologist and professor of physics at Potsdam University in Germany, posted a letter he wrote to the Times that said Stephens’ views “run counter to all evidence.”
“He is simply repeating falsehoods spread by various ‘think tanks’ funded by the fossil fuel industry,” Rahmstorf said.
— Stefan Rahmstorf (@rahmstorf) April 27, 2017
Stephens, the former deputy editorial page editor for the Wall Street Journal and a Pulitzer Prize winner, shot back at his critics Sunday.
He told CNNMoney that one point of the column was “to help the climate-advocacy community improve the quality of its persuasion.”
“I am by no means an expert in climate science, and I take it as fact that the earth is warming, perhaps dangerously so. Nor am I infallible: Human fallibility was my very point,” he said. “That said, I have reasonably good credentials in writing and reading. Clearly some of my critics need remedial education in these basic subjects.”
And Dean Baquet, the newspaper’s executive editor, said Sunday on CNN’s “Reliable Sources” that Stephens was brought on because of his opinions.
“Didn’t we learn from this past election that our goal should be to understand different views?” Baquet said.
Baquet also noted that the paper’s editorial page is separate from its newsroom, and that he does not supervise Stephens. He added that the Times has 10 reporters dedicated to covering climate change.