New York Times columnist Bret Stephens said Sunday that climate scientists risk sounding incompetent when making predictions about the future effects of global warming.
Stephens, who formerly worked with the Wall Street Journal, told CNN’s Fareed Zakaria that climatologists should dial back their dire predictions about the effects of global warming or risk looking foolish when those predictions turn out to be false. He also reiterated that he is not a climate skeptic.
Stephens faced backlash last month for writing in his first NYT column that “if there was less certitude about our climate future, more Americans would be more interested in having a reasoned conversation.”
He explicitly stated in the piece that he doesn’t refuse the idea of climate change, and reiterated Sunday to Zakaria that he doesn’t deny climate change or “that we need to address it.”
“The point of the article was to say that there is a risk in any predictive science of hubris,” Stephens said, referring to a U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s report in 2007 claiming a very high likelihood that Himalayan glaciers would melt by 2035 — the prognostication was later discredited. “I think that’s a distinction that I’m afraid was lost in some of more intemperate criticism,” he added. “But people who read the column carefully can see I said nothing outrageous or beyond the pale of normal discussion.”
Climate scientists and activists threatened to unsubscribe from the NYT for hiring a person they consider a climate “denialist.”
Climatologists Michael Mann and Stefan Rahmstorf urged other left-leaning academics to follow their lead to send a signal to The Gray Lady that climate skepticism is intolerable.
Rahmstorf, a researcher at Potsdam Institute for Climate Impacts Research in Germany, accused The NYT of “unbearable hypocrisy” for hiring Stephens while holding itself up as a beacon of “truth.”
Mann, a climate academic at Pennsylvania State University, mirrored much of his colleague’s concerns earlier this month.
“I’m now convinced that the NY Times is part of the problem,” he told reporters at the time. He also said that it “it really is time for people to cancel their subscriptions.”
The NYT has continued to defend Stephens’ pedigree.
“The crux of the question is whether his work belongs inside our boundaries for intelligent debate, and I have no doubt that it does,” James Bennett, the paper’s editorial director, said April 22. “I have no doubt he crosses our bar for intellectual honesty and fairness.”
An online petition urging the paper to fire Stephens has now gathered more than 30,000 signatures in the last seven days.
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