NYT’s Bret Stephens Changes His Mind On Climate Change, But His Mea Culpa Leaves Out The Culpa Part

Bret Stephens went to Greenland and decided he was really melting.

For those who missed it, Bret Stephens, associate editor of the Op-Ed pages of The New York Times, posted some kind of my culpa on climate change today. Without the guilty.

Previously, as recently as July 4, he was still a solid climate science denier. He hates the word because, he says, like other offended Holocaust deniers, it is an attempt to make climate “skeptics” equivalent to Holocaust deniers. That, like so much of what Stephens has said about climate change over the past 24 years at The Wall Street Journal and, since 2017, the Time, is malarkey.

From his recent trip to Greenland, however, he writes that he now accepts that climate change is real. Well, hallel-effing-ujah. But you’ll notice if you read the whole article that he still uses negationist phraseology, like “alarmist” to describe the scientists and activists whose hair is on fire about the climate crisis. (That would include my hair.) You’ll also notice that he did not apologize in the Time piece today for its decades of trashing scientists and climate activists with crapola like this extract of a piece in 2015: (my bold characters):

Again, this is also appropriate, since the substitution of reality is how modern liberalism conducts political business. What is the central liberal project of the 21st century, if not to persuade people that climate change poses an infinitely greater threat to human civilization than the barbarians – sorry, violent extremists – of Mosul and Molenbeek? Why overreact to a few hundred deaths today when hundreds of thousands will be dead in a century or two if we don’t act now? […]

Here again, the same dishonest model is at work. The semantic trick in the phrase “climate change” – allowing each climate anomaly to serve as further evidence for the overall theory. The hysteria generated by an imperceptible increase in temperature of 1.7 degrees Fahrenheit since 1880, as if the trend should continue indefinitely, or was not the product of natural variation, or could only be mitigated by drastic political interventions. The hype of fragile studies – the melting of the Himalayan glaciers; disappearance of the polar ice – to emphasize the political point. The job security and air of smugness it provides for the tens of thousands of people — EPA bureaucrats, wind turbine manufacturers, litigious climate scientists, NGO gnomes — whose livelihoods depend on a crisis climatic. The belief that even if the crisis isn’t quite what it’s supposed to be, it does us good to be more environmentally conscious.

Not everything in Stephens’ play today is awful, of course. It has some grains mixed in with the husk. He is definitely right about green NIMBYism. But the fact that he urges people to engage positively with those who disagree with them is rather hypocritical late because he failed to The Wall Street Journal to engage the scientists he not only disagreed with, but mocked and smeared. Now he’s met and interviewed a few of them and apparently read a few reports and books, and he’s changed his mind. Good. But there are books to read and experts to interview on the subject for decades. Not obscure either. But you almost feel like Stephens thinks he’s suddenly “discovered” what was hidden in plain sight. Only hidden from those wearing blinders, mate.

And he still doesn’t really understand. Market forces alone will not be enough to tackle climate change, as he claims. It is not government policies that can do it according to him. On the contrary, the advances in solar, wind and geothermal electricity supply that have been made since the 1970s would not have happened without government policies – including subsidies, tax credits, subsidies, mandates and massive amounts of research, development and commercialization funding. Germany, to cite just one non-American example, has led the shift to renewables with its Energiewende transformation, still far from complete (and, of course, not without flaws). Other countries have done the same. China, operating with a hybrid command economy, has in some respects surpassed everyone since the early 2000s.

Right now, we need government policy to accelerate transformation, because climate change that not so long ago was supposed to happen decades away has already started happening. Local politics, state politics, national politics, international politics. Hurry up. Some people think we are already at the tipping point in terms of this transformation. It may be, to some extent, but without equitable government policy, many people, in America and elsewhere, will be left out of this transformation. You know who they are. Unfettered and undirected market forces will not be their friends. The Cut Inflation Act will be, as long as it is true to its mandate of ensuring that 40% of certain funding goes to underserved communities. Not that the IRA is the last word. We need to do a lot more than that and in areas the law barely touches, if at all, like agriculture.

Look, I’m glad to see another stubborn hater about what’s going on with the climate come closer to reality. But recognizing it only takes us part of the way. Even the executives of ExxonMobil and Chevron are publicly acknowledging climate change now, after 45 years of lying about it. But now they are lying in public about how green they are while quietly pushing to keep fossil fuels burning well into the second half of this century.

More serious and accelerated actions are needed. I will pass on Stephens apology if he thoroughly reconsiders his views on how we approach climate change that his reconsideration ultimately led him to! okay is real.

Teresa H. Sadler