Bret Stephens, the New York Times' newest opinion writer, clearly needs to get out and experience the world. In his previous gig at the Wall Street Journal, Stephens' writing suggested he's rarely, if ever, hung out with anyone who isn't white, wealthy, or Christian. He has argued that the "Arab mind" is predisposed to anti-Semitism and that the "campus-rape epidemic" among collegiate women is a myth. Both of those opinions fall apart if you simply hang out with women and Arabic people for more than 10 minutes.
So after Stephens enraged the scientific world last week by penning a factually dubious, anti-climate-change screed, Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine formally offered to help Stephens get out of his bubble.
In a statement released today, Levine wrote that he "would ask Mr. Stephens to take his own advice: don't just listen to the data; come and experience the effects firsthand. I guarantee that if Mr. Stephens takes a trip down here to Miami Beach during king tides, we can baptize him as a climate change believer in no time!"
Last week in his first Times column, Stephens argued that the scientific world has not reached a consensus about climate change and that global warming might not be the world-altering catastrophe that 97 percent of climate scientists believe it is. Stephens claimed that though, yes, the Earth is warming, "the human influence on that warming" isn't scientifically proven. He wrote that he was not trying "to deny climate change or the possible severity of its consequences," but otherwise spent the article casting doubt on the idea that humans are warming the globe.
In response, Times subscribers have reportedly been canceling their subscriptions in droves.
"Claiming total certainty about the science traduces the spirit of science and creates openings for doubt whenever a climate claim proves wrong," Stephens wanted to remind readers for some reason. "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."
Taken in a vacuum, Stephens' piece might seem sort of innocuous. But the climate-science world, and the journalists who've spent time within that world, immediately pounced on Stephens' work. Most called it a joke and an act of intentional blindness masquerading as intellectualism.
"I wrote a book chapter on uncertainty in climate models," FiveThirtyEight reporter Nate Silver tweeted. "That Stephens/NYT column is sophistry passing itself off as reasoned skepticism."
I wrote a book chapter on uncertainty in climate models. That Stephens/NYT column is sophistry passing itself off as reasoned skepticism. https://t.co/WBKMkA4Tzn— Nate Silver (@NateSilver538) April 28, 2017
Though Silver is a nonscientist, multiple scientists also called the column a stream of unfettered bullshit.
“Reasonable people can disagree about the best way to avoid the dangers,” Naomi Oreskes, professor of earth and planetary sciences at Harvard University, told Gizmodo. “We can also disagree about exactly how bad things are going to get. But there is no substantive, reasonable, evidence-based argument that climate change is not a substantial danger. To suggest otherwise is to misrepresent the current state of knowledge.”
Gizmodo spoke to eight climate scientists at major scientific institutions or universities, including Orestes, who all agreed the evidence shows climate change is a true threat to mankind. Though some scientists did agree that the climate community can do a better job of explaining why and how some scientists disagree about global warming, all agreed the risk to human life is extremely real.
Gavin Schmidt, the director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, said the column was "an embarrassment to the standards of ‘intellectual depth,’ ‘bravery,’ or ‘honesty’ that [the New York Times' editors set] for themselves. And that NYT opinion editors James Bennet and Jonathan Weisman are defending this in the name of ‘diversity’ and ‘free speech’ makes a mockery of both concepts.”
Mayor Levine, in his statement today, argues that if Stephens were able to see the already-visible effects of climate change in Miami Beach, he might change his mind. (In fact, even Miami's Republican politicians, such as Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez, say they believe in global warming because they've seen Miami's flooding problems firsthand.)
"In Miami Beach and in coastal cities around the world, we have been facing our own upswell — sea level rise," Levine wrote in an open letter to the op-ed writer. "It is eroding our beaches, surging onto our streets with sunny day flooding, destroying cars and homes. Regardless of what data you follow, or which reports you choose to believe, the climate is changing and sea levels are rising."
Keep Miami New Times Free... Since we started Miami New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Miami, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Miami with no paywalls.