The Furor Over Bret Stephens First Article At the New York Times

Bret Stephens has initiated a huge storm on the Left as journalists and other Leftwing luminaries have fallen over themselves to make sure everyone understands how evil and absolutely unacceptable Stephens' article is.  A good example is probably "This New York Times Article on Climate Change Is So F***ing Bad".  I don't know where and how these things are announced, but apparently virtue-signaling on the Left offcially requires that everyone denounce the article as the most evil thing ever written (actually reading it is apparently optional).

But you will almost never see much of Stephens article quoted.  Here is the entirety of the article that discusses climate.  This is all there is (there are other discussions that are meant to be a parable somewhat relevant to the climate debate, but below is the entirety of what Stephens writes directly about climate:

Let’s turn to climate change.

Last October, the Pew Research Center published a survey on the politics of climate change. Among its findings: Just 36 percent of Americans care “a great deal” about the subject. Despite 30 years of efforts by scientists, politicians and activists to raise the alarm, nearly two-thirds of Americans are either indifferent to or only somewhat bothered by the prospect of planetary calamity.

Why? The science is settled. The threat is clear. Isn’t this one instance, at least, where 100 percent of the truth resides on one side of the argument?

Well, not entirely. As Andrew Revkin wrote last year about his storied career as an environmental reporter at The Times, “I saw a widening gap between what scientists had been learning about global warming and what advocates were claiming as they pushed ever harder to pass climate legislation.” The science was generally scrupulous. The boosters who claimed its authority weren’t.

Anyone who has read the 2014 report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change knows that, while the modest (0.85 degrees Celsius, or about 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit) warming of the Northern Hemisphere since 1880 is indisputable, as is the human influence on that warming, much else that passes as accepted fact is really a matter of probabilities. That’s especially true of the sophisticated but fallible models and simulations by which scientists attempt to peer into the climate future. To say this isn’t to deny science. It’s to acknowledge it honestly.

By now I can almost hear the heads exploding. They shouldn’t, because there’s another lesson here — this one for anyone who wants to advance the cause of good climate policy. As Revkin wisely noted, hyperbole about climate “not only didn’t fit the science at the time but could even be counterproductive if the hope was to engage a distracted public.”

Let me put it another way. Claiming total certainty about the science traduces the spirit of science and creates openings for doubt whenever a climate claim proves wrong. Demanding abrupt and expensive changes in public policy raises fair questions about ideological intentions. Censoriously asserting one’s moral superiority and treating skeptics as imbeciles and deplorables wins few converts.

None of this is to deny climate change or the possible severity of its consequences. 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.

Ten years ago I would have thought this so milquetoast as to be uncontroversial to anyone -- almost unpublishable as an editorial due its shear lack of controversy.  He acknowledges warming, acknowledges some is man-made, states that some activists have gone beyond the science in their claims, and that climate action folks tend to be hostile to anything but ardent agreement (an attitude not really consistent with "science").  In response, ironically, virtually the entire Left has responded to this mildest of mild criticisms by treating Stephens as the next incarnation of Joseph Goebbels.  Apparently he was spot-on about the lack of tolerance for any debate or disagreement.

This reminds me when my speech on global warming was banned from a conference by representatives of the City of Los Angeles.  I remember writing to them:

Apparently, several folks on this board were calling me a climate denier and a flat Earther.  Now, it seems kind of amazing that a presentation that calls for a carbon tax and acknowledges 1-1.5 degrees C of man-made warming per century could be called an extremist denier presentation.  But here is the key to understand -- my bet is that not one of you in opposition has ever bothered to see it.  This despite the fact that I sent your organization both a copy of the CMC video linked above as well as this very short 4-page summary from Forbes.  But everyone involved seems more willing to spend hours and hours arguing that I am a child of Satan than they were willing to spend 5-minutes acquainting themselves with what I actually say.  (By the way, at this point you probably should not look at this material, as all it will do is embarrass you because I am positive that it is nothing like what you expected)

In fact, I would be willing to bet that the folks who were most vociferous in their opposition to this talk have never actually read anything from a lukewarmer or a skeptic.  It is a hallmark of modern public discourse that people frequently don't know the other side's argument from the other side itself, but rather from its own side.   This is roughly equivalent to knowing about Hillary Clinton's policy positions solely from listening to Rush Limbaugh.  It is a terrible way to be an informed adult participating in public discourse, but unfortunately it seems to be a practice that is increasingly common, and in fact encouraged by most universities, which have become echo chambers of conventional thought rather than real institutions of learning.

And here is the video of the speech in question:

 

  • Richard Harrington

    Have you noticed that the missives about projected rises in sea level never mention the actual rises? There are some mild reasons for the measurements to be off - mostly subsidence or erosion. However, it is a relatively simple measurement. And yet, articles never mention it. Is it because the numbers have been hovering around 1-2mm/year for the past 150 years?

  • JOe - the non scientist

    Skeptical Science is likewise condemning Stepens for being a heretic. Yet in the SS article condemning Stephens, they include this passage.

    "In the red ‘burn lots of fossil fuels’ (RCP8.5) scenario, we’ll see a further 3.0–5.5°C warming between now and 2100. In the blue ‘take immediate serious climate action’ (RCP2.6) scenario, we’ll see a further 0.5–1.5°C global warming by 2100. "

    From the IPCC, the above is really just an update of Hansen's scenerio A & C. Yet SS is unable to recognize that the probability of RCP8.5 having a rate of warming 4x-6x the current rate of warming is zero. The lower range of .5-1.5c warming is probable, since the current rate is in the 0.8c to 1.0C range (so .1.0C x 80 years/100 years.

    Now ask the SS folks who are the science deniers.

  • ErikTheRed

    The Ministry of Truth has deemed his column plus plus ungood.

  • Heresiarch

    A piece by Oren Cass at National Review just came out making many of the same points.

  • Dances With Felines

    I am all for climate change again. Make Greenland wineries great again.

  • SamWah

    The panic is setting in on them, against which they must fight lest they go stark raving bonkers.

  • Dave Boz

    The three great religions of our time are Islam, Climate Change, and Diversity. You dare not speak in any way that may be interpreted as denying the absolutes of the faiths; if you do, you will be ostracized (at best), ruined, or killed. And it is not just Islam that wishes to murder nonbelievers - do a search for "climate deniers should be killed." The more tolerant among the believers merely want to jail you.

    We have returned to the Middle Ages.

  • Dave Boz

    And to make the whole scene even more macabre, the ones called "deniers" are those who actually think the scientific method should be applied to climate science. If you don't abandon your "scientific method" nonsense, sonny, you can't be one of us "scientists."

  • When you've lost a child who writes for a website no one has ever heard of...

    No doubt the definitive voice will be Shane Ryan at Paste Magazine.

  • JTW

    and negative in many places... Most if not all long term "sea level rise" IS subsidence, not the sea levels rising at all. It's measured on coral atols, highly unstable structures that tend to disappear beneath the waves eventually because of it.

  • Thruppennybit

    Too late

  • StillAnOptimist

    Apologies if this has been posted - http://www.claremont.org/crb/article/the-church-of-environmentalism/ and this quote from Julian Simon "Julian Simon, the economist who was legendarily skeptical about environmental doom, once posed a question at an environmental forum: “How many people here believe that the earth is increasingly polluted and that our natural resources are being exhausted?” Almost every hand shot up. He then said, “Is there any evidence that could dissuade you?” There was no response, so he asked again, “Is there any evidence I could give you—anything at all—that would lead you to reconsider these assumptions?” Again, no response. Simon concluded, “Well, excuse me. I’m not dressed for church.” (IT IS Religion - and they are fanatics - some may even be ready to kill anyone who dares question their religion)

  • Orion Henderson

    Make Greenland green again.

  • Zachriel

    JOe - the non scientist: The lower range of .5-1.5c warming is probable, since the current rate
    is in the 0.8c to 1.0C range (so .1.0C x 80 years/100 years.

    The rate of warming since 1970 is about 0.17°C/decade. The rate of warming is expected to accelerate due to various positive feedbacks, such as the melting of Arctic sea ice.

  • Zachriel

    Coyote: Anyone who has read the 2014 report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change knows that, while the modest (0.85 degrees Celsius, or about 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit) warming of the Northern Hemisphere since 1880 is indisputable, as is the human influence on that warming, much else that passes as accepted fact is really a matter of probabilities.

    The 0.85°C warming is also a matter of probability. Just about everything we know is a matter of probability, but not everything is equally probable.

  • Zachriel

    Satellite measurements show a sea-level rise of about 2.6 ± 0.4 millimeters per year, accelerating at a rate of +0.041 ± 0.058 millimeters per year per year. This is consistent with melt estimates of 2.8 ± 0.5 millimeters per year. See Watson et al., Unabated global mean sea-level rise over the satellite altimeter era, Nature Climate Change 2015.

  • J_W_W

    Prediction: in twenty years either those who refuse to acknowledge catastrophic climate change will be jailed or catastrophic climate change will be disproven, or maybe both of those things will happen.

  • J_W_W

    Yes, the magical massive positive feedback unicorn will show up any day now!!!

    They've been waiting for this massive positive feedback for 20 years, and it still has yet to show up.

    This is why the fact that the rate of increase of the temperature increases has been freaking them out so much in the past decade or so. The hand waving condemnations like "stupid deniers the temperature is still increasing ,there is no pause" are meant to throw us off of the fact that the massive feedback necessary for their models to be correct just is not there.

  • J_W_W

    Exactly, but "a 20 foot rise by 2100!!!!" that does not make....

  • J_W_W

    damn....

  • Joe - the realist

    Cherry picked data
    A) the 1970 starting point was the end of the amo/pdo cooling period, along with the end point of 2016 which has had a warming spike due to el nino, so you have overweighted the warming phase.

    B) Please explain the scientific theory that the "positive feedbacks" will manifest themselves due to the "human induced warming" when the "positive feedbacks " have remained dormant during all the prior warming periods in the earth's history.

  • Joe

    Zach How reliable is that study - regarding acceleration

    https://books.google.com/books?id=tYkDDQAAQBAJ&pg=PA31&lpg=PA31&dq=Watson+et+al.,+Unabated+global+mean+sea-level+rise+over+the+satellite+altimeter+era,+Nature+Climate+Change+2015.&source=bl&ots=X70KQKy7c6&sig=3OAiplbENcoAxmIMw17bkp6dPA4&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjt3P-wxNHTAhWD8YMKHdgBCsMQ6AEIOzAE#v=onepage&q=Watson%20et%20al.%2C%20Unabated%20global%20mean%20sea-level%20rise%20over%20the%20satellite%20altimeter%20era%2C%20Nature%20Climate%20Change%202015.&f=false

  • ErikTheRed

    Eh, the whole Age of Enlightenment thing seems nice, but just wait until the progress we'll see in the Age of Muh Feelz!!!

  • Richard Harrington

    My point is that these sites focus on the top-line numbers like, "In 2014, global sea level was 2.6 inches (67 mm) above the 1993 average—the highest annual average in the satellite record."

    Roughly half of that 67 mm increase can easily be attributed to the long-term average increase in sea level. Just eye-balling the numbers, that increase can't be that many standard deviations from normal variability.

    As another example, news stories frequently mention the 5, 6, or 7 tropical islands that have sunk under the waves. Anybody have a list of the specific islands that did sink, and how much of that drop was based on subsidence and erosion vs. sea level rise?

    Choosing 1993-2008 as their baseline (https://www.climate.gov/news-features/understanding-climate/climate-change-global-sea-level) is a bit suspicious. It is clear that 1993 was a local minimum ('93=-28.71 vs '92 at -16 and '96 at 0.12 - couldn't get the '94 from that funky graph).

  • joe

    "As another example, news stories frequently mention the 5, 6, or 7 tropical islands that have sunk under the waves. Anybody have a list of the specific islands that did sink, and how much of that drop was based on subsidence and erosion vs. sea level rise?"

    Just a note - a lot of the coral bleaching occuring through out the tropical pacific is due to sea level drops, more coral exposed at low tide.

  • Pinebluff

    Never will understand why people actually believe a computer model proves an hypothesis.

  • Zachriel

    Joe - the realist: Cherry picked data A) the 1970 starting point

    The rate of warming since 1990 is about 0.17 °C/decade. The point is that you used the average warming since 1880, but the rate of warming over the last several decades is faster than over the entire period.

    Joe - the realist: B) Please explain the scientific theory that the "positive feedbacks"
    will manifest themselves due to the "human induced warming"

    We already point to one positive feedback, the melting of Arctic sea ice, which lowers the Earth's albedo.

    Joe - the realist: when the "positive feedbacks " have remained dormant during all the prior warming periods in the earth's history

    In fact, the history of Earth's climate cycles cannot be explained without including the albedo effects of ice, changes in greenhouse gases in the Earth's atmosphere, along with other mechanisms, such as orbital variations.

  • Zachriel

    J_W_W: They've been waiting for this massive positive feedback for 20 years, and it still has yet to show up.

    Actually, Arctic sea ice has been in retreat. The feedback due to melting ice is expected to lag by several decades. That's why the transient climate response is distinct from equilibrium climate sensitivity.

  • Zachriel

    Joe: How reliable is that study

    The determination of the rate of sea level rise is robust. The detection of acceleration is at the limits of the available means, as is clear from the error bars.

  • joe

    A) is your starting date 1970 or 1990 - pick one - they are not interchangable

    B) positive feedbacks - " The rate of warming is expected to accelerate due to various positive feedbacks, such as the melting of Arctic sea ice."
    Please explain the scientific theory that the "positive feedbacks" will manifest themselves due to the "human induced warming" when the "positive feedbacks " have remained dormant during all the prior warming periods in the earth's history.
    Answer the question that was asked.

  • Zachriel

    joe: A) is your starting date 1970 or 1990

    Joe - the realist objected to 1970.

    joe: Please explain the scientific theory that the "positive feedbacks" will
    manifest themselves due to the "human induced warming" when the
    "positive feedbacks " have remained dormant during all the prior warming
    periods in the earth's history.

    We answered the question already. The positive feedbacks have not been dormant during prior warming periods in the Earth's history. It is necessary to account for feedback from the albedo of ice (along with other mechanisms) in order to explain previous warming periods.

    The positive feedback from ice is one reason the Earth appears to seesaw between ice ages and ice-free ages. A small change in incident radiation such as due to orbital variations is amplified by the role of ice. Once the ice starts to melt, the Earth's albedo is reduced, causing more warming and more melting ice. Conversely, once the ice starts to form, the Earth's albedo is increased, causing more cooling and more ice formation.

  • Jesse Nelson

    The debate is constantly framed in the most binary terms possible, with no possible middle ground. You either believe *it's happening* and therefore must sign on to whatever expensive, intrusive government interventions someone dreams up, or you are a traitor to the human race. Any questions about exactly what is happening, the probabilities, the costs associated with intervention (this is always summarily dismissed as of no concern whatsoever) or even the possibility that some measure of warming could even be, on net, beneficial to humanity overall, are impermissible. Even inserting that some measure of warming may be chalked up to natural causes is enough to get branded as a heretic denier.

    But then, since these people (to include various mainstream media reporters and authors) don't actually know what the scientists are actually agreeing upon when claiming the authority of the "97% consensus", we can't expect much else. Trying to even educate them is met with derision and automatic dismissal. I feel like they don't want to be educated on the subject because it may undermine their own certainty.

  • Zachriel

    Richard Harrington: Roughly half of that 67 mm increase can easily be attributed to the long-term average increase in sea level.

    Climate scientists are quite aware of natural variations, which is presumably why you know about them.

    Ice can lag global temperatures by decades. This creates a significant problem for humans because they are not good at planning decades ahead, as can be seen in the climate debate. A certain amount of ice melt is baked-in due to past human activity, and scientists who study the issue believe that the amount is significant.

  • marque2

    That since 1990s rate of 0.17 per decade is all the more amazing since the three big temp trackers Hadset shows no warming since 1997, RSS no warming since 1994, and UAH since 1993. Which means in the 27 years average of 0.17 as you say means the temps in the first half of the 1990s must have gone up 1/2 degree C. Amazing.

  • marque2

    Article ice has been growing for about 5 years now, due to the start of yet another natural 30 year, ebb and flow cycle.

  • marque2

    And these Satellites under best conditions (measuring relatively static land)line have error rate of 2cm, how the figure to 1/10 of cm ocean rise with Satellites is beyond me

  • Zachriel

    marque2: Hadset shows no warming since 1997

    1998-present
    HadCRUT4: 0.133 ±0.101 °C/decade

  • Zachriel

    Um, no.

    In any case, short term variations generally won't change the longer term trend.

  • marque2

    I call BS. There hasn't been warming for 20 year now, and certainly not 0.26 degrees.

    If you told me a few hundreths I would have granted it to you.

  • Richard Harrington

    It's all about context, or the lack thereof.

    Scientific articles need to include verifiable facts like long-term averages and standard deviations, the names of the islands supposedly drowning, and possible other causes for the effects.

  • Zachriel

    Feel free to wave your hands, but it doesn't change the data.

    https://crudata.uea.ac.uk/cru/data/temperature/HadCRUT4.png

  • J_W_W

    The magnitude and impact of increased albedo in the arctic is an estimate and not a known quantity. My guess is that models overestimate that value.

  • J_W_W

    Robust. Not as robust as believed. Al Gore predicted an ice free Arctic by 2013 and was quite wrong... Yet another large overestimate.

    Zachriel, I am not actually arguing against you, I just do not estimate the magnitude of warming to be as high as you (and all the other catastrophic warming delivers) do.

  • DanSmith

    Similar to the outrage expressed about the recently passed health care, which, according to the zealots, has declared rape to be a pre-existing condition. Among other gross untruths that have come right out of the Democrat talking point machine. I'm sure there is a lot to criticize about the bill, but inventing stuff about it isn't helping the progressive cause.